Egg substitutes and other easy cooking ingredient swaps

Any seasoned home cook knows the frustration of getting halfway through preparing a recipe before reaching for an ingredient, only to realise it’s not there. Meanwhile, another major source of annoyance is shopping for recipe ingredients and finding the store you’re in is missing just one key ingredient. 

Recipe-specific ingredients can also lead to food waste, especially for perishables. Buying a four-pack of garlic bulbs or a carton of buttermilk to use a small amount is likely to see the remainder eventually wind up in the bin. That’s why I refuse to buy ingredients such as butter, lemongrass, cooking wine and tomato paste, as I know my tastes won’t see me use it all up. 

For the vegans among us, I’ve tried to include at least one plant-based option for each ingredient substitute. There’s plenty of easy vegan ingredient swaps that make your favourite meals more ethical, healthier and better for the environment.

Luckily, many cooking ingredients can be substituted with simple household items you likely already have or a clever combo:

Easy cooking ingredient substitutions and swaps

Key:

  • Tbsp = 1 tablespoon (15mL/0.5fl oz)
  • tsp = 1 teaspoon (5mL) 
Egg substitutes and other cooking ingredient swaps. They're also vegan, healthy and plant-based!

Substitute butter for olive oil or apple sauce. 

Substitute canned chickpeas for dried chickpeas. 

Substitute breadcrumbs for toast.
Breadcrumbs

Switch 1 cup breadcrumbs for 2-3 pieces of toasted stale bread blitzed in a food processor (or torn into fine pieces) OR 1 cup rolled oats OR 1 cup crushed plain crackers 

Broth or stock

Substitute 1 cup of chicken or beef stock for 1 Tbsp soy sauce + 1 cup water

Butter

Swap 1 cup butter for 7/8 cup vegetable oil OR 7/8 cup olive oil OR 1 cup apple puree OR 1 cup greek yoghurt 

Buttermilk

Switch 1 cup buttermilk for 1 cup natural yoghurt OR 1 cup of cows milk + 1 Tbsp vinegar OR 1 cup soy milk + 1 Tbsp lemon juice

Cornstarch 

Substitute 1 Tbsp cornstarch for 2 Tbsp wheat flour OR 2 Tbsp oat flour

Grated cheese

Swap 1 cup grated cheese for 3/4 cup nutritional yeast 

Canned butterbeans 

Switch 1 can butterbeans (400g/14oz) for 3/4 cup dried butterbeans, soaked overnight then boiled 

Canned chickpeas

Substitute 1 can chickpeas (400g/14oz) for 3/4 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight then boiled 

Canned kidney beans

Swap 1 can kidney beans (400g/14oz) for 3/4 cup dried kidney beans, soaked overnight then boiled 

Canned lentils 

Switch 1 can lentils (400g/14oz) for 3/4 cup dried lentils, soaked overnight then boiled 

Chocolate chips 

Substitute 1 cup chocolate chips or buttons for 1 cup of roughly chopped chocolate bar OR 1 cup chopped nuts OR 1 cup dried fruit

Cooking wine

Swap 1 cup wine for 1 cup of stock OR 1 cup of unsweetened fruit juice + 1 Tbsp vinegar 

Cows milk

Switch 1 cup cows milk for 1 cup soy milk OR 1 cup homemade oat milk OR 1 cup almond milk 

Egg substitutes

Substitute 1 medium egg for 1/4 cup silken tofu, blended OR 1 Tbsp chia seeds + 2.5 Tbsp water OR 1 Tbsp ground flaxseeds + 3 Tbsp water OR 1/2 medium banana, mashed + 1/2 tsp baking powder OR 1/4 cup apple puree 

Garlic 

Swap 1 garlic clove for 1/2 tsp ground garlic

READ: My sustainable weekly routine

Gelatin

Switch 1 Tbsp gelatine powder for 2 tsp agar agar powder

Ginger 

Substitute 1 tsp minced ginger for 1/2 tsp ground ginger

Flour

Swap 1 cup wheat flour for 1.75 cups of oats, blitzed in a food processor (or blender) into oat flour OR 1 cup oat flour OR 1 cup almond flour

Fresh Herbs 

Switch 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, mint, thyme, rosemary, oregano or sage for 2 tsp dried versions 

Green onions

Substitute 1/2 cup chopped green onions for 1 brown onion, chopped 

Honey

Swap 1 cup honey for 1 cup white sugar + 1/4 cup hot water, stir vigorously until combined 

Ketchup

Switch 3 Tbsp ketchup for 3 Tbsp passata (tomato sauce) + 1 tsp sugar + 1 tsp white vinegar 

Lemongrass

Substitute 1 Tbsp chopped lemongrass for 1 Tbsp lemon zest

Lemon Juice

Swap 1 Tbsp lemon juice for 2 tsp vinegar 

Minced or ground beef

Switch 500g/1lb of minced or ground beef for 1 can lentils OR 1 can red kidney beans

Parmesan cheese

Sub 1/2 cup parmesan for 1/2 cup nutritional yeast + 1 tsp dijon mustard + salt and pepper

Ricotta cheese

Swap 1 cup ricotta cheese for 1 cup cottage cheese OR 1 cup of silken tofu

Saffron

Switch 1 pinch saffron for 1/4 tsp ground turmeric 

READ: 99 things I no longer buy since becoming a minimalist

Self-raising flour

Sub 1 cup self-raising flour for 1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1.5 tsp baking powder

Shallots 

Swap 1/2 cup chopped shallots for 1 medium white onion, chopped 

Shortening

Switch 1 cup shortening for 1 cup butter OR 1 cup coconut oil 

Soy sauce

Sub 1/4 cup soy sauce for 1/3 cup coconut aminos OR 3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce + 1 Tbsp water 

Sweetened condensed milk

Swap 1 can condensed milk (400mL/14fl oz) for 2 cups cows milk or 1 can coconut milk + 2/3 cup white sugar, mixed then gently simmered for 40 mins

Tomato paste 

Switch 1 Tbsp tomato paste for 3 Tbsp passata/tomato sauce OR 3 Tbsp crushed/chopped tomatoes *consider adding less liquid to the recipe or cooking with the lid off to reduce

Vanilla essence 

Substitute 1 tsp vanilla essence for 2 tsp maple syrup 

Worcestershire sauce

Swap 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce for 1. 5 Tbsp soy sauce

Many of the substitutions above will depend on the recipe you’re making. Switching out butter for apple sauce works wonderfully when baking, but not so much for a béchamel (try olive oil there!). Meanwhile, nutritional yeast might not cut it if you’re after a cheesy pizza but it’s fantastic in mac and cheese. 

To confirm whether an ingredient substitution will work in your recipe, it’s helpful to Google your recipe and the substitute ingredient you’re planning to swap it for. You will usually find recipes with the substitute ingredient that can guide you on how much to use. 

Egg substitutes are just the beginning. Don’t let one ingredient stop you from making delicious recipes at home. Instead, reduce food waste and save money by substituting recipe-specific ingredients for those that you likely already have in your cupboard. 

Lastly, make sure you pin or bookmark this for later so you don’t get caught out by a missing ingredient ever again! 

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