Baking Substitutions

Title text: Shelter in the greatest place laid over a photo of eggs in a carton, one of the ingredients Rachel will offer substitutions and alternatives for in baking.

With all the uncertainty around us, it’s pretty much inevitable you’ll feel some stress or anxiety at some point. When I feel like things are out of my hands, it’s good to focus on an activity that gives you control. For some, it’s exercise, but in this case it’s making food! You can control ingredients, flavors, cook time, and texture of food.. It’s really quite amazing. And you need it for fuel anyway, so.. Let’s make it tasty!

Desserts and special treats (hello new mini tart pans) are of great comfort to me right now. While maybe desserts aren’t healthy, focusing my attention on something else is! I’ve been leaning hard on a variety of homemade desserts from lemon blueberry bread to vegan pecan cheesecake but have not been able to stock up on some staples. Eggs are just hard to come by and if I have them, I’d rather put them to a more nutritious and savory application.

Even when I bake in non-pandemic situations I often employ substitutes for creative or dietary reasons. Sometimes I really just don’t have 2 sticks of butter to spare. But after watching every season of Good Eats, and picking up tips from various recipe blogs over many years I’ve compiled a list of some great substitutes for baking ingredients. 

Remember that once you change even 1 ingredient you could yield different results, so try as few substitutions as possible. I’ve tried all of these alternatives and have never had a problem enjoying the final product. That said, you should not be using these substitutes to implement very technical dishes or dishes where the main ingredient is being subbed. This list won’t help you make restaurant quality souffle without eggs or perfect puff pastry without butter.

Substitutions for Eggs 

Flax Eggs - This is a combo of flaxseed meal and water. Just combine 1 Tbsp of flaxseed meal with 2 1/2 tbsp of water. After resting for about 5 minutes, the mixture becomes like a gel to create an egg-like substitute! If you only have flax seeds (not meal) you can grind it using a coffee bean grinder before using. Great pantry alternative.

Chia eggs - This is a combo of chia seeds and water. Just combine 1 Tbsp of chia seeds with 2 1/2 tbsp of water. After resting for about 5 minutes, the mixture becomes like a gel to create an egg-like substitute. 

Soft tofu - There was tons of this at the grocery store so you’ve got something to work with! It’s about ¼ cup per egg. Tofu has no leavening properties, so in most cases, you’ll want to add about 1/8th teaspoon baking soda (per egg called for).

Substitutions for Milk

  • Any plant based milk - Most baked goods can substitute plant based milk from the grocery store with no problems as it's often used as a binder.
  • Pantry Nut Milk - Essentially you soak nuts (almonds or cashews are popular) for 4+ hours and then you blend it all up to puree. If you can’t get it that fine then you strain it with fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth.
  • Oat Milk - In a similar process to nut milk, you can use pantry stable rolled oats to make milk! You soak em, blend em and/or strain em and you have milk made from shelf stable items. 
  • Canned Coconut Milk - This is a super convenient pantry alternative that I use in dire times. I don’t mind the taste at all, but it will depend on your coconut preferences. 

Substitutions for Butter

  • Coconut Oil - This rich oil is a great substitute for baking, although some coconut aroma will come through in the end. 
  • Unsweetened Applesauce - This is a great pantry staple to have for baking subs. I’m not sure what other people use it for, I hate applesauce other than for baking.
  • Pumpkin puree - Anyone like me who gets pumpkins in the fall, freezes unsweetened puree for this exact baking purpose! Plus, I use a great fresh pasta recipe that requires a little pumpkin puree. I would not recommend sweetened pumpkin puree unless it's for dessert baking.
  • Zucchini - Amazing substitute and I’m shocked every time I use shredded zucchini in chocolate chip bread and don’t notice at all. The zucchini has a lot of moisture and is a great replacement in things like breads or cakes.
  • Avocado - I may sub half my butter for avocado but not more. I think Avocado can be too dense especially if not totally ripened and can affect texture. Once an avocado is “too ripe” for my liking, I’ll throw it into a baked goodie. 
  • Bananas - This one’s a good choice if you have bananas but be careful because bananas add extra sweetness to the recipe so you may want to cut back on the sugar you add in.

As a final note, I recommend you actively think about balancing the flavors when making substitutions. Some folks love coconut and others don’t. Adding banana instead of butter means you should decrease the amount of sugar. You can search online for your specific substitution ratios. Enjoy your baking experimentation! 

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