Baking ingredient substitutions

Sometimes we get emails from people who are trying to follow a recipe but can’t because their country uses different ingredients. We’ve compiled this list of baking substitutions to help with that. If we missed one or you have any questions please leave a comment or reach out through our Contact Form and we’ll try to help.

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Buttermilk substitutions

What is buttermilk?

Buttermilk is leftover liquid from churning cream into butter. If you whip cream then keeping going, you will get some butter and some buttermilk. This is a lot of effort, so we always buy our buttermilk in the store! And these days, that sort of buttermilk is cultured like yoghurt, so it’s not quite the same as it used to be either.

What can I use instead of buttermilk?

To make 1 cup of buttermilk start with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or plain distilled vinegar in a measuring cup then add milk to get 1 cup total, stirring well. This works by making your milk more sour and acidic. This is one of the simplest baking substitutions and one that we have used many times in a pinch.

There are other options that work for flavour like using a sour cream or yoghurt and milk mixture, but when baking we think it’s best to keep it simple with a similar texture.

How can I use buttermilk?

Buttermilk is used when acidity or sourness are important for the flavour or chemistry of a recipe. For example, the acidity can help activate baking soda which can then be used in lower quantities than baking powder. Outside of baking it’s great for making fluffy pancakes or tender fried chicken.

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Self-raising flour substitutions

What is self-raising flour?

Self-raising flour is plain flour that already has baking powder added. It can be different to the self-rising flour that is found in the US which often has salt added too. If you have access to that you can use it if you check the salt content and adjust the recipe.

What can I use instead of self-raising flour?

If you only have access to regular flour you can substitute one cup of baking flour with one cup of flour plus 1.5 teaspoons of baking powder. Ensure you mix thoroughly with a whisk to distribute it evenly.

How can I use self-raising flour?

Having self-raising flour is simpler if it’s readily available because it’s already mixed well for you. One other thing to keep in mind is that self-raising flour and baking powder can both expire (they won’t be dangerous, but they won’t work as well as they used to) so if your cakes don’t rise fully it can be a good idea to try new flour.

Eggs, yolks, and egg whites

What are eggs, yolks, and egg whites?

Eggs are very useful for baking, and they have two important parts – the yellow yolk and the egg white. Whole eggs are often used but some recipes ask for just yolks or whites. We tend to buy eggs that are marked “large” in Australia, which are around 58 grams on average (a pack of 12 is 700g).

If baking by weight or adjusting a recipe so that it then asks for amounts like half an egg, we recommend separately weighing the white and yolk so you can work it out by weight with a calculator. This is the easiest way and is also great if you will have any leftover whites or yolks, so you can store them and use them later in another recipe. Generally around 30% of the weight of an egg is the white, and 60% is the yolk, and the rest is the shell and membrane which you discard. So for our example eggs, this means our whites are 35g and yolks are 17g.

What can I use instead of eggs?

For whole eggs, commercial egg replacements exist which you can buy in a store. We recommend you try some out to see what works best for you, because it’s not something we commonly do and brands will vary around the world.

Otherwise, if you are looking for a recipe without eggs it might be best to search specifically for that. We have even seen a chocolate cake recipe that uses avocados instead of eggs and after testing it, we have made it more than once and it was great and is definitely one of our favourite baking substitutions that we’ve had the chance to test.

For egg yolks, we aren’t aware of a great substitute so leave us a comment if you have a favourite. We have seen some ideas online but haven’t tried them so can’t recommend them yet.

For egg whites, we’ve tested some recipes (including meringues) with aquafaba, which is the leftover water from tinned chickpeas and beans. We tried making meringue with some from a tin of chickpeas and it worked great. You can also apparently buy it alone (without the chickpeas) in some places but it’s not in our local stores. Use around 3 tablespoons to replace the egg white from one egg.

How can I use eggs?

The main use of eggs in baking is to provide structure with their protein, moistness with their liquid, and richness with the fattier yolk. The whites provide structure and liquid as you can see in meringue. The yolks have a richer, creamy flavour which is why they are great for custards. Cake recipes often use whole eggs because they benefit from both parts, but some recipes such as a lighter chiffon cake might separate them first to prepare them separately before combining.

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Baking powder substitution

What is baking powder?

Baking powder is baking soda with a dry acid already added. Since both parts are dry, they won’t react quickly until they get wet. There is usually a buffer added too, to separate them (like corn starch). However, the ingredients will still react and lose potency slowly over time due to natural chemistry and humidity.

What can I use instead of baking powder?

You can substitute baking powder with one part baking soda to two parts cream of tartar. For example (since it divides by 3 nicely) one tablespoon (15ml) of baking powder can be replaced by 1 teaspoon (5ml) of baking soda and 2 teaspoons (10ml) of cream of tartar. All these ingredients are widely available, so this is mostly useful if you ran out of baking powder at the wrong time and don’t want to go to the store!

The reverse is also somewhat true. You can substitute baking powder for baking soda by adding 3 times as much however the taste of your recipe might be impacted by the larger amount so be careful with this. You may also need to reduce the amount of acid in the recipe (for example, omit vinegar or replace buttermilk with normal milk). Generally, we’d suggest avoiding this and getting baking soda since it lasts a long time anyway. It can work in a pinch but unless you are trying to develop your own recipes, this is a baking substitution where it is just easier to buy the powder so you have plenty available.

How can I use baking powder?

Baking powder and baking soda are both used as rising agents in cooking. They create gas and make cakes lighter and fluffier. Many recipes use baking powder for convenience, but if the recipe already has some acidic ingredients then baking soda can make more sense. Some recipes use both, the main reason for this is that baking soda needs enough acid to react fully or you get leftover baking soda which doesn’t taste good. So if a recipe doesn’t have much acid then maybe you can only add a little baking soda, and it makes sense to add baking powder to make up the rest.

Baking powder also has many other uses including cleaning and home remedies so it’s great to keep some in the pantry if you can.

Baking powder can lose effectiveness as it gets older. To test how active it is, add a teaspoon of baking powder to a heatproof dish and pour a quarter cup (60ml) of hot water over it. It should bubble violently. For baking soda, a very small amount (quarter teaspoon) and a few drops of acid (vinegar or lemon juice) should bubble a lot.

There are also various types of baking powder using different types of acid. Some are labelled as double acting which means they rise again when they reach a certain temperature, which leads to more consistent results.

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Thickened cream substitutions

What is thickened cream?

Thickened cream is common in Australia. It is simply normal 35% fat cream and a thickener (such as xanthan gum). This makes it feel a little thicker and creamier when eating but without increasing the fat content.

What can I use instead of thickened cream?

To replace thickened cream just use pouring or whipping cream as long as the fat content is 35%. We’ve used these instead of thickened cream for our ganache recipes and there is no difference.

How can I use thickened cream?

Thickened cream exists so it pours more nicely and whips more easily, since it’s already thicker to start. There is not a big difference though and you can use it just like regular cream.

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