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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Feature: Ingredient Substitutions

Simply because a recipe calls for a specific ingredient doesn't mean that you must use that ingredient. Whether you're lactose or gluten intolerant or on a special diet or just looking to reduce the fat and sugar or increase fibre and protein, the ingredients in your favourite recipes can often be easily modified to make them more nutritious, without losing out on flavour or texture.

Here's an idea of what you can do just by switching up your ingredients a bit.

Fat, Dairy, and Eggs

Instead of Try
Shortening, butter, margarine, or solid fat Substitute solid fat with a liquid oil: Reduce by 1/4 or, for melted shortening, butter, etc., use an equal amount of liquid oil. Coconut oil (virgin or expeller-pressed) can also be used (use the same amount you would of solid or liquid fat as in the recipe).
Shortening, butter, or oil in baking Substitute fruit purée for half of the butter, shortening, or oil called for. Baking time may need to be reduced by 25%. Coconut oil (virgin or expeller-pressed) can also be used (use the same amount you would of solid or liquid fat as in the recipe).

Vegan substitutions (butter): Use the same amount of vegan butter or shortening (e.g. Earth Balance) -- be sure to read the ingredients, as not all brands are free from dairy products and by-products -- or nut or seed butter.
Whole milk, half and half, or evaporated milk Use skim milk, 1% milk, evaporated skim milk, fat-free half and half, or plain fortified soy or another non-dairy (almond, coconut, rice, hemp, etc.) milk. In baking or where creaminess is desired, soy and almond milk are the best substitutes due to their fat content.
Butter, shortening, margarine, or oil used to prevent sticking To sauté or stir-fry: Use cooking spray, water, or broth or a non-stick pan.

In baking: Cooking spray, unbleached parchment paper, coconut or liquid oil, or silicone baking mats can also be used.
Full-fat cream cheese Use low-fat or non-fat cream cheese, Neufchâtel, or low-fat cottage cheese (puréed until smooth).
Full-fat sour cream, cottage cheese, or Ricotta cheese Substitute non-fat or reduced fat sour cream or fat-free plain yoghurt, 2% or fat-free cottage cheese, or part-skim Ricotta. An equal amount of mashed soft or silken tofu, blended with a dash of lemon juice, can also be used in place of Ricotta.
EggsIn baking, eggs have two functions: binding; or thickening and leavening. For most recipes, use 2 egg whites for each egg in the recipe.

Vegan substitutions:
Leavening: In cakes, cookies, muffins, quick breads, etc., replace a 1/4 cup of soy milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice for each egg in the recipe. In cakes and quick breads, adding an additional 2 tablespoons of corn starch to the dry ingredients for each egg being replaced will help bind the ingredients and give the product a soft texture (optional).
Thickening and binding: For each egg in the recipe, mix together 1 tablespoon of finely ground flax or chia with 3 tablespoons of water and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes before using.
ButtermilkFor 1 cup of buttermilk, combine 1 cup soymilk with 2 tablespoons lemon juice and let sit for 5 minutes.
Condensed milkSubstitute with canned coconut milk.
Heavy creamChill a can of coconut milk in the fridge for 48 hours, then open it up and use just the solidified layer of coconut cream from the top of the can.

Sugar and Salt

Instead of Try
Sugar (reducing) Reduce sugar by 1/4 to 1/3 in baked goods and desserts. Cinnamon or vanilla or almond extract can also be added to give impression of sweetness. (Note that baked goods with less sugar may not brown as much.) 
Sugar (substitutions) In baking:
Use 3/4 cup of honey in place of 1 cup of sugar and reduce the amount of liquid by 2 tablespoons.
Use 3/4 cup of maple syrup in place of 1 cup of sugar and reduce the amount of liquid by 3 tablespoons.
Use 1 1/3 cups of molasses in place of 1 cup of sugar and reduce the amount of liquid by 5 tablespoons. Add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda for each cup of molasses to combat the acidity of the molasses. Replace no more than half the sugar called for in a recipe with molasses.
Substitute with the same amount of brown rice malt syrup, and reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup per cup of rice syrup used.
Salt Omit salt during cooking and garnish with a small pinch of coarse sea salt when serving -- the crunch from the salt crystals will give the taste of salt without requiring the addition of as much salt as might otherwise be used. Use herbs, spices, lemon juice, citrus zest, miso paste, or different vinegars to lend the food flavour.

Is there anything else you'd like to see on ingredient substitutions in cooking and baking? Do you have any tested substitutions that you make at home that you're itching to share?

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