Occasionally even the most seasoned of cooks will come across an ingredient that they’ve never heard of, or don’t have access to.
This is especially true with the wide variety of ingredients you may need to cook healthy, hearty meals to suit your lifestyle choice. Maybe you can’t get to the store right away, or maybe you just don’t know where to look, but in the end sometimes you have to deviate from the recipe.
Usually this means one of two things. Either you give up entirely, or you look for a substitution.
For those of you opting to do the latter, as is strongly recommended, we here at Community Natural Foods have gathered together this handy list of ingredients that you might encounter and a few of the common substitutions that might make your life a little easier.
If you’ve come across something that you think should be on this list let us know by leaving a comment or sending the moderator an email.
Seitan (a.k.a. Wheat Meat) – Seitan is a wheat based meat substitute commonly found in vegan or vegetarian meals from Asia and can be substituted with tofu or the meat of your choice.
Sucanat – Sucanat is whole cane syrup that has been dried and ground into sugar. Unlike other cane sugars it retains it’s molasses content and many of the vitamins and minerals lost in the drying process. It can be substituted with an equal amount of brown sugar.
Nutritional Yeast – Nutritional Yeast is an inactive form of yeast that is high in protein and vitamins. It is often used by vegetarians or vegans to supplement vitamin and protein intake. It’s strong nutty flavour makes it a good replacement for hard cheeses or seasonings.
Millet – Millet is a grain of African origin used in place of wheat or rice, it is gluten free. In most cases Millet can be substituted for brown or white rice depending on preference.
Arrowroot Starch – Arrowroot is a tuber vegetable known for its gluten free thickening capabilities, ability to tolerate freezing, and the fact that it dissolves clear. If one isn’t concerned with gluten content it can be substituted with corn starch, or tapioca starch is gluten content is an issue.
Various Flours – Flour availability will vary by region. What is available in North American may not be available in Europe and vice-versa. Since the primary concern with flours is gluten content keep in mind that rice flours, chickpea flour, amaranth flour, and potato flour are gluten free, while oat flour, rye flour, and barley flour are not.
Hard Fats – As a general rule all hard fats can be substituted for one another. This means that butter, hard margarine, lard, and shortening can all be used in the same recipe on a one-to-one ratio. Keep in mind that each fat will have a different flavour and slightly different texture.
Lecithin – Lecithin is an emulsifying agent (meaning it helps oil and water blend together) commonly used to help leaven yeast based doughs and liquid lecithin can be substituted for vegetable oil with a one-to-one ratio. Vegans should look for lecithin derived from soybeans, as it can also be derived from egg yolks.
Guar Gum – Guar Gum is a thickening agent used in gluten-free baked goods to mimic the effect of gluten textures. It can be substituted with the more expensive, but more readily available, xanthan gum.
Eggs – Eggs are one of those ignredients that make life difficult for vegans who enjoy baked goods, but for those who don’t mind a slight texture difference there is an easy substitution you can use. For every egg called for in a given recipe combine 1 tbsp of milled flaxseed and 3 tbsp of water. Use this mixture exactly as you would use an egg. The consistency will be slightly gummier than a regular baked product, so try it on something you won’t be feeding guests first to make sure it lives up to your standards.
Milk – Typically when a recipe calls for milk it can be substituted for an equal amount of soy milk, almond milk, or hemp milk. Specific types of milk, however, may require specific substitutions. Buttermilk can be substituted with an equal amount of rich soymilk with a tbsp of lemon juice or white vinegar added to it. Whipping cream (otherwise known as heavy cream) can be substituted with coconut cream, so long as you don’t plan on actually making whipped cream from it.