Imagine a lazy Saturday afternoon. Rain is falling outside, every season of Dawson’s Creek on Netflix is calling your name, and you have absolutely nothing else on your agenda. The only thing that could possibly make this day any better is a warm piece of banana bread, so, being the domestic god/goddess you are, you head to the kitchen to whip up a loaf. When you open you fridge, however, your stomach sinks with a horrible realization: you’re all out of sour cream, a key moistening ingredient in many baked goods. But don’t sulk back to your big comfy couch just yet. You can still bake your bread, and eat it too. Here are some easy (and in some cases, cheaper and/or healthier) substitutions for sour cream and other ingredients that may not have made it into your grocery basket.
Original Ingredient: Sour Cream or Buttermilk
Substitute: 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar mixed with enough cream (or regular milk for buttermilk) to equal 1 cup can be swapped in for 1 cup of sour cream or buttermilk. If you don’t have these ingredients on hand either, 1 cup of plain yogurt will do the trick.
Original Ingredient: Agave Nectar
Substitute: More and more recipes have been calling for this exotic-sounding sweetener, but it’s really just another member of the unrefined, plant-based sweeteners, like honey or maple syrup. One cup of agave is equal to 1 cup of honey or maple syrup. The final sweetness and color of your food will depend on what kind of honey or syrup you use instead of agave, which is relatively mild and light.
Original Ingredient: Allspice
Substitute: Contrary to popular belief, this spice doesn’t actually contain all of the spices, but it can be replaced by a precise mixture of cinnamon, ginger and cloves when you’re attempting to recreate Mom’s pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving. One teaspoon of allspice is equal to 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of ginger and 1/4 teaspoon of cloves.
Original Ingredient: Vegetable Oil
Substitute: Full disclosure, I don’t start feeling guilty about making (or eating) double-chocolate brownies until the recipe forces me to mix in an entire cup of vegetable oil. Avoid the guilty feelings and unnecessary calories by subbing the same amount of applesauce or other fruit puree in place of the oil. The result will be lighter, healthier and arguably even sweeter.
Original Ingredient: Baking Powder
Substitute: Although baking powder and baking soda aren’t exactly interchangeable (as evidenced by my heart-breaking Red Velvet Cupcake Disaster of 2011), if you have baking soda, with a little tweaking you can also have baking powder. Ah, the wonders of culinary science! One teaspoon of baking powder is equivalent to 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar; it’s infinitely more difficult to substitute for baking soda in a recipe, so be sure to keep an adequate stock of bicarb (as the Brits call it) on hand at all times.