Ingredient Substitutes

//Ingredient Substitutes
Ingredient Substitutes2020-02-13T15:49:56-08:00

No need to throw out all your favourite recipes!

If you’re like me and you enjoy cooking from recipes in magazines or recipe books, you don’t have to throw them out because they call for unhealthy ingredients you no longer want to use.

And sometimes you don’t have the specific vegetable or liquid listed and would like to use up something you already have kicking around in your cupboard or fridge before it goes bad.

Be brave and with time, you’ll automatically be able to switch to healthy ingredients automatically while following your old-school recipe. Here’s an example of a Ricotta & Lemon Pancake recipe that I “veganized”:

Standard Ingredients Vegan Replacement
3 large eggs* equivalent egg replacer or 1/4 cup applesauce x 3
1 1/2 cups of buttermilk same amount of non-dairy milk + 1 1/2 tbps lemon juice
3 tbsp sugar 3 tbsp stevia or other natural sugar
1 cup ricotta cheese 1 cup med. firm tofu, use fork to shred
1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour 1  1/2 cups whole wheat flour

*it called for “beating the egg whites”, well, I just skipped that part.

The other required ingredients were fine so I just went ahead and made the recipe as directed and it was very good! Of course, it tasted different than the original but this is an example of how you need to give your taste buds a chance to adjust. And this will take time…

Here is an alphabetical list of healthy ingredient alternatives and optional swaps when you don’t have the exact ingredient in your recipe. You can substitute and still enjoy the meal with a slightly different twist! 

Beef Burgers: veggie or nut burgers = portobello mushroom burgers

Berries: dried cranberries = dried apricots

Beet Greens: spinach, swiss chard, watercress

Bread & Buns: large lettuce leaves can be used as wraps instead of buns or choose bread/buns that are whole grain

Bread Crumbs: ground sunflower or pumpkin seeds = flaxseed meal = chia seeds = almond flour = wheat germ = oat bran

Broth: choose organic low-salt versions or miso

  • beef broth = mushroom broth
  • chicken broth = vegetable broth

Butter/Margarine: applesauce = greek yogurt = hummus = mashed avocado = coconut oil, vegan butter (you can buy spreads, sticks and even shortening)

  • if substituting oil; 45ml oil = 60ml butter

Buttermilk: kefir or 1 cup non-dairy milk = 1 tbsp lemon juice (let sit 5 min.)

Cheese: veggie cheese (there are so many different flavours on the market now) = avocado

  • cheese slices = veggie cheese slices
  • cream cheese = milk-free cream cheese
  • halloumy cheese (from sheep and goat’s milk) = feta
  • tofu (slice it, bake it, fry it)

Chicken chunks: sauteed mushrooms = crumbled tempeh = tofu = beans (add spices and lime for flavour)

Chips: any legume chips = tortilla chips = vegetable chips

Chocolate: carob chips or carob powder or dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)

Coffee: Akava = bambu = caf-lib = chicory = kola nut = krakus = postum = rhodiola = teeccino = yerba mate


  • BBQ Sauce: dry spice rub containing smoked paprika = liquid smoke

Cream: coconut cream or milk (full fat for heavy cream)

Eggs: instant egg replacer = 1 tbsp ground flaxseed + 3 tbsp water =  1/4 cup applesauce per egg (for baking)

  • In recipes that require fried, hard boiled or scrambled eggs, tofu works just as well + way healthier!

Freekeh: Spelt = Farro = Millet

Fruit: apples = apricots = pears = plums = peaches

  • Baking apples: Braeburn, Jonagold, McIntosh
  • Tip: to freeze bananas, peel, cut in half lengthwise, place flat on a cookie sheet till frozen, then transfer to container for later use in smoothies or whatever
  • shredded coconut = slivered blanched almonds

Grains: minced or grated cauliflower

  • pearl barley absorbs more liquid than pot barley and is good for making risotto
  • quinoa: brown rice = freekeh = diced celery

Ground beef: veggie ground beef = tempeh = beans = pulses = grains = lentils = mushrooms

Herbs: 1 tbsp (15ml) fresh = 1 tsp (5ml) dried

Jam: fresh fruit with ground chia or flax

Juice: orange = pineapple

kefir: buttermilk (1 cup non-dairy milk + 1 tbsp lemon juice, let sit 5 min.)

Leafy Greens:

  • arugula = beet greens = chard = kale = mustard greens = spinach = watercress

Legumes: chickpeas = white beans

Liquor: bourbon = orange juice

Milk: almond milk = coconut milk (light drinking carton version)

  • Cream = canned coconut milk for cooking or soy/almond/coconut coffee cream


  • almonds = hazelnuts = toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds
  • peanuts = cashews

Parmesan Cheese: Vegan parmesan = nutritional yeast or you can shred vegan parmesan-type cheese

Pasta: udon noodles = whole grain = vegetable = ramen

  • wheat free: rice = soba = seaweed

Potatoes: sweet potatoes = yams = peeled rabocha squash = butternut squash


  • pulled pork: try frying sliced portobello mushrooms with sliced onions and add BBQ sauce, then serve as desired – YUM! = jackfruit

Rice:  whole grain brown rice = freekeh = quinoa = minced or grated cauliflower = buckwheat

Root Vegetables: celeriac = jerusalem artichoke

Salt: sea salt = herbs & spices = Mrs Dash salt-free options = pepper


  • clams = mussels
  • salmon = sauteed mushrooms = tofu = crumbled tempeh = beans (add spices & lime for extra flavour)
  • shrimp = scallops


  • poppy = black or white sesame
  • pumpkin = sunflower

Soft Drinks: Zevia pop = sparkling water = green tea

Sour Cream: milk-free sour cream = 1/2 cup plain greek yogourt + 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil with salt & pepper

Squash: acorn squash = butternut squash = sweet potatoes

Sugar: honey = maple syrup = molasses = fruit juice concentrate = agave nectar  = rice sugar = organic coconut palm sugar = stevia

Sweeteners: raisins = currants = dried apricots

Thickening Agents: Agar is a mineral-rich sea vegetable used to thicken foods

Tuna: choose Albacore or Yellow Fin Tuna that are “Pole & Line caught” for ethical & environmental reasons

  • easily substitute mashed chickpeas or other white beans to make a “tuna” sandwich or “tuna” salad

Turkey: Tempeh


  • cabbage = kohlrabi
  • carrots = jewel yams
  • roasted tomatoes: toss some halved romas with some extra-virgin olive oil, salt & pepper, spread on baking sheet and roast at 400F for 45 min.
  • sun-dried tomato paste: soak 12 – 14 sundried tomatoes in hot water till soft, add 2 garlic cloves + 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil and puree

Whey Protein: soy = pea = potato

Yogurt: soy yogurt = coconut yogurt = almond yogurt = greek yogurt = quark = cottage cheese