Your Ultimate Guide to Baking Substitutions

LAST UPDATED: Apr 04, 2020 | PUBLISHED: Apr 04, 2020 | By: Julie Blanner

Struggling with a specific baking substitution? Here’s your answer! This list of baking substitutes covers everything from a substitute for vegetable oil, to a honey substitute, and even clever ideas for cream cheese substitutions. You’ll find EVERYTHING you need right here in one post, so bookmark this one and pin for later! 

cream kitchen with sugar jars next to french range

Without question, these are some of the strangest and most surreal days any of us have ever experienced. And in the midst of all of the uncertainty, it seems (based on what I have been hearing from readers) that many of us are also struggling with keeping a stocked pantry. 

Often, items will be missing from store shelves and then gone for days. When you want (or need) to bake something, this can be a struggle.

It’s confusing to know how to make baking substitutions, so I thought it would be a great time to create a list of the most commonly requested baking substitutes. 

measuring spoons

Baking Substitutions

I’ve created baking-related printables for you in the past, including this measurement conversion guide, and even an essential baking supply guide!

I’ve always loved creating my own seasoning and spice blends because it allows me to have more control over the ingredients and quantities – plus, it’s so flexible when you need to get creative. That’s why I’ve shared my pumpkin pie spice blend and allspice seasoning. 

I grew up in the kitchen with my grandmother, who was an expert at simply making do. Don’t have an ingredient? Make it work! I’m going to show you some of the best baking substitutions to have in your repertoire. 

measuring cups

Flour Substitutions

These basic substitutions for many of your baking requirements will be helpful when your pantry is lacking! 

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (double-acting) = 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar + 1/4 teaspoon baking soda + ¼ teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda = 1 teaspoon baking powder (any acidic ingredients in the recipe will have a more assertive, tangier flavor)
  • large pinch to 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar = 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • cornstarch = an equal amount of all purpose flour, arrowroot or potato starch.
  • 1 cup cake flour = 1 cup MINUS 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour. Add 2 tablespoons cornstarch to make your cup of cake flour.
  • 1 cup self-rising flour = 1 cup all-purpose flour + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder + 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast = 2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
    • OR 1 envelope active dry yeast = 2¼ teaspoons rapid-rise yeast
    • OR equal parts baking soda to lemon juice or buttermilk. (equal parts baking soda and acid: if your recipe requires two tablespoons of yeast, use one tablespoon baking soda and one lemon juice.) No need to let the dough rise.
bottle of vanilla

Baking Additives

  • vanilla beans– 1 vanilla bean = 2 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • vanilla extract – 1 teaspoon = 1 teaspoon bourbon or rum (Psst… if you make my homemade vanilla extract you’ll never run out!)
vanilla beans with gold scissors

Chocolate Substitutions

The thing about chocolate when it comes to baking, is that there’s just nothing that replaces the flavor of cocoa. You’ll need cocoa powder of some kind for all of the best chocolate substitutes.

  • 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate = 3 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, vegetable oil or shortening
  • 1 ounce Semisweet Chocolate = 3 tablespoons cocoa powder + 3 tablespoons granulated sugar + 1 tablespoon oil or melted butter
    • OR 1 ounce = 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate + ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
chocolate chips overflowing out of a measuring cup

Cocoa Powder

  • 3 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder = 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate + reduce fat in recipe by 1 tablespoon
  • 3 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder = 3 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder + ⅛ teaspoon baking soda
  • Natural Cocoa Powder: 1/2 cup = 1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa + replace the baking soda in the recipe with twice the amount of baking powder
kitchen organization

Sugar and Sweetener Substitutions

While you might simply be out of white sugar, you could also need to replace a variety of sugars for health benefits. 

  • 1 cup corn syrup = 1 1/4 cup white sugar plus 1/3 cup water 
  • 1 cup molasses = Mix 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar = 1 cup granulated sugar + 2 tablespoons molasses 
    • or 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar = 1 cup granulated sugar + 1 tablespoon molasses 
    • or 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar = 1 cup brown sugar 
    • OR 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar 
    • OR 3/4 cup honey 
    • OR 3/4 cup corn syrup
    • OR 2/3 cup of agave 
  • 1 cup powdered sugar = 1 cup granulated sugar blended in a food processor until powdery smooth

QUICK TIP: if you replace a cup of granulated sugar with a liquid, you’ll also want to reduce the liquids in the recipe by 4 tablespoons and reduce oven temp just a little.

A stick of wrapped salted butter on a marble surface.

Butter and Oil Substitutions: Vegetable Oil Substitutes etc

Butter Alternatives

  • 1 cup salted butter = 1 cup margarine
  • 1 cup salted butter = 1 cup vegetable shortening + ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup salted butter = 7/8 cup lard + ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter = 1 cup salted butter 
    • OR 1 cup vegetable shortening 
    • OR 1 cup lard *minus* ½ teaspoon salt from recipe
  • 1 cup unsalted or unsalted butter = ¾ cup olive oil

Vegetable Oil Substitutions

  • 1 cup vegetable oil = 1 cup applesauce (baking only)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil = 1 ⅓ cup melted butter
    • OR for any vegetable oil requirement, you can also substitute with canola oil, avocado oil, and even coconut oil (melted down)

Vegetable Shortening

  • 1 cup vegetable shortening = 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening = 1 cup margarine

You can learn how to soften butter here.

closeup on buttermilk in glass container

Dairy Substitutions: Buttermilk, Whole Milk, Evaporated Milk Substitutions and Beyond

Dairy requirements for baking are some of the most commonly required substitutions. Whether you’re looking for an exchange for regular milk, a substitute for evaporated milk, or a substitute for cream, this list should cover them all! 

  • 1 cup whole milk = 1 cup skim or low-fat milk + 2 tablespoons melted butter
    • OR one cup almond milk
  • 1 cup buttermilk = 1 cup yogurt (not Greek) OR: 1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice; let the mixture sit until curdled before using, 5-10 minutes
  • 1 cup evaporated milk = 1 cup light cream
  • 1 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk = 3/4 cup white sugar mixed with 1/2 cup water and 1 1/8 cups dry powdered milk: Bring to a boil and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 20 minutes
  • 1 cup sour cream = 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup yogurt = 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup half-and-half = 1/2 cup whole milk + 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup heavy cream = 1 cup whole milk + 1 tablespoon melted butter
Marble surface with an unwrapped package of cream cheese.

Cream Cheese Substitutions

Cream cheese alternatives can be a little difficult. Sometimes there’s just not anything that can really take the place of that soft, smooth combination of creamy goodness. 

However, there are options when you’re truly in a pinch. Check out these ideas for cream cheese replacements in your baking. Oh and P.S… don’t miss all my best tips for how to soften cream cheese, which can come in so handy! 

  • 1 cup of cream cheese = Equal parts of cottage cheese, drained, blended with half-and-half or cream + a little butter
  • 1 cup of cream cheese – 8 oz lower fat cottage cheese plus 1/4 cup margarine
  • 1 cup of cream cheese – Equal amounts of lower fat (Neufchatel) cream cheese. This option is of course the most similar in taste and texture… but in my eyes if you don’t have cream cheese you’re unlikely to have (or find!) neufchatel either..
  • 1 cup of cream cheese – Equal parts of ricotta cheese plus plain, full-fat yogurt

Substitutions for Eggs 

These egg substitutes can be helpful in a variety of ways. Sure, you very simply might not have eggs when you need them (or given our current climate perhaps you can’t even find them at the store). 

But, what about when your vegan friend is coming to visit and you still need to whip up something delicious? These egg substitutes will be brilliant on those occasions as well!  

  • 1 egg = 3 tablespoons mayonnaise 
  • 1 egg = ¼ cup applesauce
  • 1 egg = 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed + 3 tablespoons water; let sit 5 minutes before using. Do not substitute for whipped egg whites.
  • 1 egg = ½ banana mashed with ½ teaspoon baking powder
honey in honey jar on brunch table setting

Honey Substitutes

  • 1 cup honey = 1 cup corn syrup
  • 1 cup honey = 1 cup molasses
  • 1 cup honey = 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup honey = 1 cup agave nectar
White surface with four glass spice jars, open, and measuring spoons and empty bowl to the side.

Salt and Seasoning Substitutions

  • iodized salt – 1/2 teaspoon = 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • kosher salt – 1/2 teaspoon = 1/4 teaspoon iodized salt
  • pumpkin pie spice – 1 teaspoon = 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon + 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger + 1/8 teaspoon ground clove + 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • allspice – equal parts ground nutmeg, ground cloves, ground cinnamon.
miniature lemon bread loaves

Citrus Substitutions: Zest Substitutes, Lemon Juice Substitutes and More

  • lemon juice – 1 tablespoon = 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • lemon zest – 1 teaspoon = 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract 
    • OR 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • lime juice – 1 teaspoon = 1 teaspoon vinegar 
    • OR 1 teaspoon white wine 
    • OR 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • lime zest – 1 teaspoon = 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • orange zest – 1 teaspoon = 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
    • 2 teaspoons concentrated orange juice
    • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract

Get the printable Guide to Baking Substitutions – it’s perfect to nestle in your favorite cookbook, tape inside the door of your baking cabinet or next to your range for reference.

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