easy substitutes for your chaotic life

I don’t know about you, but I don’t always have dinner planned when I get home each night. Between juggling running my business, answering the four thousand phone calls a day from my father, taking care of my dogs, and keeping a small human, I mean my son, alive, in one piece, making sure he does his homework and chores and trying to make sure it doesn’t look like a bomb went off in house, oh wait, laundry, shoot, did the dogs get fed, is there time for a shower? (Maybe if I don’t shave my legs, or wash my hair, nah I’ll just skip it)… you get my point. So, when I finally do figure out something to throw together for dinner from what I have in the fridge, I know I won’t have a vital ingredient at home, and gosh dang it, I don’t want to figure out another recipe, or get Dominos for the 3rd night this week (shhhh!).

So, I wanted to compile a list of easy peasy substitutes for your chaotic life, seriously these are kind of like my Bible.

Baking Powder (1 teaspoon)

Substitute: 1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus 5/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Balsamic vinegar substitute: (1 tablespoon)

Substitute: 1 tablespoon cider vinegar or red wine vinegar plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar.

Bread Crumbs – Dry (1 cup)

Substitute: 1 cup crushed cracker crumbs, or 1 cup matzo meal, or 1 cup crushed cornflakes, or 1 cup ground oats, or1 cup crushed potato chips

Bread Crumbs – Wet (¾ cup)

Substitute: 1 slice of bread

Broth (1 cup)

Substitute: 1 cup boiling water and 1 bouillon cube, or 1 cup boiling water

Brown Sugar (1 cup)

Substitute: 1 cup of white sugar and 2 tablespoons of molasses

Butter (1 cup)

Substitute:  1 cup regular margarine, or 1 cup vegetable shortening (for baking), or an equal amount of oil can be substituted for a similar portion of MELTED butter if the recipe specifies using MELTED butter.

Buttermilk (1 cup)

Substitute: 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus enough regular milk to make 1 cup (allow to stand 5 minutes)

Chili Sauce (1 cup)

Substitute: 1 cup tomato sauce, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, dash of ground cloves and dash of allspice

Chocolate, Unsweetened (1 ounce)

Substitute: 3 tablespoons cocoa plus 1 tablespoon butter or regular margarine or vegetable oil

Cornstarch (for thickening) 1 tablespoon

Substitute: 2 tablespoons flour

Corn syrup: (1 cup)

Substitute: 1 cup granulated sugar plus 1/4 cup water.

Cream Cheese (1 cup)

1 cup pureed cottage cheese

Creme Fraiche (1 cup)

Substitute: Combine 1 cup heavy cream and 1 tablespoon plain yogurt. Let stand for 6 hours at room temperature, or 1 cup sour cream, or ½ cup sour cream plus 1/2 cup heavy cream, or 1 cup mascarpone cheese

Fish Sauce (1 teaspoon)

Substitute: 1 teaspoon Worcestershire

Garlic (1 small clove)

Substitute: 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Herbs, Fresh (1 tablespoon, finely cut)

Substitute: 1 teaspoon dried leaf herbs, or 1/2 teaspoon ground dried herbs

Honey (1 cup)

Substitute: 1 cup light molasses or honey

Ketchup (1 cup)

Substitute: 1 cup tomato sauce, 1/2 cup sugar, and 2 tbsp vinegar.

Lemon Zest (1 teaspoon)

Substitute: 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

Mascarpone (1 cup)

Substitute: 1 cup creme fraiche or 1 cup sour cream

Mayonnaise (1 cup)

Substitute: 1 cup sour cream or 1 cup yogurt or 1 cup cottage cheese pureed in a blender

Onion (1 small or 1/4 cup chopped, fresh onion)

Substitute: 1 tablespoon instant minced onion

Polenta (1 cup)

Substitute: 1 cup cornmeal or 1 cup corn grits

Ricotta (1 cup)

Substitute: 1 cup cottage cheese


Equal amount of turmeric

Sour Cream (1 cup)

Substitute:  1 cup plain Greek or nonfat yogurt.

Soy sauce For (½ cup)

Substitute: 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce mixed with 1 tablespoon water.

Tahini (1 tablespoon)

Substitute: 1 tablespoon peanut butter

Tomato Juice (1 cup)

Substitute: 1/2 cup tomato sauce plus 1/2 cup water

Worcestershire sauce (1 teaspoon)

Substitute: 1 teaspoon bottled steak sauce

White vinegar substitute: (1 teaspoon)

Substitute: 1 teaspoon lemon/lime juice or 2 teaspoons white wine.

Yogurt (1 cup)

Substitute: 1 cup of buttermilk, cottage cheese, or sour cream


Natasha Wertheimer

Hi Guys! I’m Natasha, a lovely mommy in her 30’s. I’m in the most beautiful relationship with my boyfriend, Jason, and together we live in Oconomowoc with our two goofy goldendoodles – Honey & Softy, and my 6 year-old son, the light of my life – Reilly. I’m originally from Dubuque, Iowa, and previously lived on the East Coast for about a decade, but I am so happy to call Lake Country my home. My love of cooking, baking and food started very young with parents who loved to explore new flavors and cultures, as well as having a mom that operated a chocolate shop before I was born. In my free time I absolutely love trying and creating new recipes – mostly sweet, but love to dive into the Asian flavor profiles of the savory dishes. I also love learning about wine, enjoying the arts, practicing yoga, sipping a good cup of coffee and traveling. I fell in love with my boyfriend in the kitchen and I hope I can make you fall in love with the recipes and food knowledge I’ll be sending your way as a contributor for The Lake Country Mom. // Follow her blog, Love in An Oven // Facebook // Instagram



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