Whether you're cooking something new or a dinnertime staple, at some point you've probably opened the kitchen cabinet only to find you're out of an essential ingredient. If you rarely use this ingredient, it may not be worth the money to buy another whole container of it. Additionally, when you consider the environmental impact of packaging and shipping spices and other food items, you can help minimize your environmental footprint by substituting that ingredient with something you already have within your pantry. You will also save yourself the hassle of a trip to the grocery store. Here are six easy substitutes for items you may not keep stocked at home.
Allspice: Also known as Jamaica pepper and pimento, allspice is a dried unripe fruit native to Central America. It is a key ingredient in Caribbean cuisine and gained its name from the English who thought it was a mixture of several spices. An effective substitute for 1 teaspoon of allspice is ½ teaspoon of cinnamon and ½ teaspoon of ground cloves.
Baking powder: Baking powder is an ingredient used for increasing the volume and lightening the texture of a variety of baked goods. Remember, baking powder and baking soda are different products, so be sure to not confuse the two while baking. However, baking soda is a key component to substituting baking powder. Baking soda reacts with acidic components to create a similar effect as baking powder. Some common acidic compounds include cream of tartar, lemon juice, yogurt, buttermilk and vinegar. To substitute 1 teaspoon of baking powder, use 1/3 teaspoon of baking soda and ½ teaspoon of cream of tartar or ¼ teaspoon of baking soda and ½ cup of buttermilk, yogurt, lemon juice or vinegar. If you choose to add buttermilk, yogurt, lemon juice or vinegar, be sure to decrease the amount of liquid the recipe calls for by ½ cup.
Cream: Cream can be used for any number of recipes, but like milk it needs to be used within a short timeframe so it doesn't spoil. Whether you're looking to substitute heavy cream or half and half, milk and unsalted butter combine to make the best replacement. For one cup of heavy cream, use 2/3 cup whole milk and 1/3 cup melted butter. For a cup of half and half, use 7/8 cup whole milk with 2 tablespoons of melted butter.
Hot pepper sauce: Hot sauce can be a perfect complement to a savory meal, but for those who don't frequently eat spicy foods it may not be an item kept in the household. The common trait between hot sauces is that they use some sort of chili pepper. For a teaspoon of generic hot sauce, combine ¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper with a teaspoon of vinegar. For extra kick, consider adding mustard seeds or a different chili pepper.
Shortening: If you're baking a pastry, you will probably see shortening on the ingredient list. Shortening is broadly defined as any fat that is solid at room temperature. To replace one cup of solid shortening, you can use one cup of butter, but unless you use unsalted butter be sure to remove some salt from the rest of the recipe. If you are using melted shortening, an equal amount of cooking oil can also be used.
Sour cream: As you may have gotten from its name, sour cream is a fermented cream that contains cultures which make the cream thicker and slightly sour. Whether you're looking for a healthier topping to your baked potato or Tex-Mex dish or an in-house substitute for another recipe, an equal serving of plain yogurt will get the job done. To more closely replicate the creamy texture and get a little extra protein, consider using Greek yogurt.
Using substitutes rather than buying rarely used food items is a great way to limit your spending and reduce the environmental footprint of your cooking and baking. There are numerous other options for substituting ingredients that we didn't mention; the key is to take into account differences in moisture content, texture and weight of the intended ingredient and your replacement. Now that you've saved some money and environmental resources, enjoy cooking or baking your next masterpiece!