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Can't Find The Ingredient You Need? Here Are Some Common Alternatives

Nealy Fischer
Written by Nealy Fischer
Can't Find The Ingredient You Need? Here Are Some Common Alternatives
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If you or someone you know has a food sensitivity or allergy, then you know how frustrating it is when you can't eat a meal because of one ingredient. That's where this list of alternatives comes in handy. Nealy Fischer, the founder of The Flexible Chef and the author of the new cookbook Food You Want, shares her go-to swaps for when she's in a pinch. With this in your back pocket, you can cook for yourself and loved ones in a way that satisfies everyone's dietary needs.

How often have you gone on a wild-goose chase for an ingredient a recipe calls for or just skipped over an ingredient entirely, bewildered by where to begin? Don't flip out. Just flip it! Many of the ingredient swaps listed below are precise and seamless in effect and flavor, like swapping coconut oil for butter; others are acceptable but produce a different result, like using soy sauce or tamari in place of fish sauce.

Soy or tamari will lend a similar saltiness, and they're good swaps for fish sauce if fishiness isn't your thing. Similarly, coconut cream is a wonderful swap for heavy cream; just make sure it is very chilled if it must be whipped. The main point here is to stay flexible, adapt, and use what you have!

Baking swaps

1:1 swaps

  • Butter = margarine = coconut oil (Coconut oil can be measured soft or solid.)
  • Heavy cream = coconut cream (Make sure it's well chilled if whipping—chill it overnight and use only the solids.)
  • Dairy milk = almond milk = any dairy-free milk
  • Sugar = brown sugar = date sugar
  • 1 cup regular flour = 1 cup gluten-free flour + ½ teaspoon xanthan gum (Note: If your gluten-free flour has xanthan added already, omit it in the recipe.)
  • 1 12-ounce bag chocolate chips = 2 cups = 1 12-ounce chocolate bar, chopped
  • Almond flour = slivered almonds ground into superfine crumbs
  • 1 egg = 3 tablespoons flaxseed meal plus 6 tablespoons water (Mix to make a paste.)
  • Tapioca starch = potato starch
  • Applesauce = mashed banana = cooked pumpkin, sweet potato, or carrot purée
  • Grated zucchini = grated carrot
  • Spaghetti squash = spiralized raw zucchini noodles = spiralized raw sweet potato noodles
  • In most recipes, if you don't have chia, flax, or hemp seeds, you can just omit them. If they are crucial for the dish, it will be noted in the recipe.
  • Arrowroot = cornstarch


  • Yellow onions = red onions = pearl onions
  • Fresh garlic = garlic powder, 2:1 ratio (Not great but OK if you're really stuck.)
  • Olive oil = canola oil = melted coconut oil
  • Pine nuts = pili nuts = chopped macadamia nuts = cashews = peanuts
  • Almonds = pecans = walnuts
  • Soy sauce = tamari
  • Hoisin sauce = BBQ sauce
  • Fish sauce = soy sauce or tamari (But you will lose the fish's added umami flavor.)
  • Minced beef = minced turkey = minced chicken
  • Black cod = Chilean sea bass = any fatty fish
  • Halibut = flounder = haddock = any flaky white fish
  • Chives = green part of scallion
  • Basil = cilantro = parsley (For pesto, seasoning eggs, garnishes.)
  • Chickpea flour = any rice flour (Works in all the recipes in this book.)
  • Capers = chopped pitted green olives
  • Sake = mirin
  • Kale = romaine lettuce = chicory (Or cabbage or spinach, depending on the recipe.)
  • A specific vinegar = any vinegar (Except balsamic, which is unique.)
  • Goldenberries = cranberries = raisins = dried cherries
  • Pumpkin = acorn squash = butternut squash
  • Drizzle of chili oil = pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Glass noodles = thin rice noodles
  • Mango chutney = apricot or peach jam = citrus marmalade
  • Upgrade your stick of butter into ghee by heating it and then skimming off the white foam to create a clarified butter.
  • Nutritional yeast = grated Parmesan

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