Kitchen & Cooking

11 Easy Substitutes for Common Recipe Ingredients

You probably don't own liquid smoke, but that's okay!

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We've all been there: You're trying out a new recipe and it calls for some ingredient you thought you had had buried deep in your pantry, but as it turns out, you don't even know what liquid smoke is—let alone own it.

This is a frustratingly common occurrence, and you shouldn't have to run to the store every time it happens. A better strategy would be to learn about other ingredients you can use as a substitute for what you're missing. While no two ingredients are quite the same, a little ingenuity can go a long way toward making the most of your meals

What's a good substitute for... ?

Cutting Vegetables

Cutting Up Vegetables


Buttermilk is used in a lot desserts and baked goods, but it often requires you to buy a huge jug of the stuff when you only need a half cup or so. How annoying! One way to get around this is by substituting 1 cup of buttermilk with a mixture of milk and either lemon juice or vinegar. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln's food blog recommends using 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar for 1 cup of buttermilk, and filling the rest with milk.

Another option, suggested by Allrecipes, is to substitute 1 cup of buttermilk with 1 cup of yogurt.

Corn Starch

This probably isn't a surprise, but the easiest replacement for corn starch is flour. However, the UNL food blog suggests using double the amount of flour, especially if you're using it as a thickening agent. So 2 tablespoons of flour should suffice for any recipe calling for 1 tablespoon of corn starch,

Fish Sauce

Ah, fish sauce. One of those bizarre and gross sauces that, when added to recipes, makes a world of difference. If you're all out of the stuff, What's Cooking America? recommends using an equal amount of either Worcestershire sauce or a light soy sauce with salt.

Heavy Cream

Just like buttermilk, heavy cream is often needed in small quantities, but usually comes packaged in half-pint cartons. Thankfully, you can replace 1 cup of heavy cream with either 3/4 cup of milk and 1/3 cup of butter or 1 cup of evaporated milk.

Lemon Juice

While even the bottled stuff would do, there are a couple alternatives for lemon juice. Allrecipes notes that 1 teaspoon of lemon juice can be replaced by 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar, 1 teaspoon of white wine, or even just a teaspoon of lime juice, if you have it.

RELATED: Substitute This! Cooking For Guests With Food Allergies

Liquid Smoke

By far one of the coolest sounding ingredients in existence, liquid smoke, at least the real stuff, is exactly what is sounds like: smoke that has been liquified. Since it gives food a smokey flavor, there isn't much that can replace it. But Gourmet Sleuth writes that chipotle powder can still give your dish some of that essential smoky flavor.


Not to be confused with the similar-sounding butter alternative, marjoram is an herb that is not very popular, but still seems to comes into play a lot. If you don't have any marjoram tucked away in your spice rack, Hollygrove Market suggests replacing it with basil, thyme, or savory.


This thick dark goop can be used in both sweet and savory dishes, but if you don't have any, Allrecipes recommends replacing 1 cup of molasses with 3/4 cup of brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar.


The great thing about shortening is that the stuff lasts forever. The bad thing about shortening is that, unless you do a lot of baking, you will hardly ever use it. To make matters worse, you often have to buy shortening in giant canisters.

Allrecipes writes that you can replace 1 cup of shortening with 1 cup of butter or 1 cup of margarine. Just be sure to subtract a 1/2 teaspoon of salt from the recipe if you're using margarine, as it's very salty.

What's Cooking America? adds that you could also replace 1 cup of shortening with 14 tablespoons of lard. Yum.


Whether it's chicken, beef, or pork, the easiest alternative to real liquid stock is bouillon cubes. Just read the bouillon's packaging for instructions on how many cubes to use for the amount of stock you need. Another option is to replace 1 cup of stock with 1 cup of water with a tablespoon of butter or olive oil.

Worcestershire Sauce

We wouldn't recommend making your own Worcestershire sauce from scratch, as the process is very involved, but if you need a quick substitute, there is a better alternative than steak sauce. Campbell's recommends replacing 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire with a mixture of 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon of sugar, and a dash of hot sauce.