Kitchen Substitutions


This is a common topic of conversation for me. I learned to bake using the traditional white flour, sugar, butter, and nearly full-fat dairy. Shortly after I started baking for myself I began tweaking the recipes simply based on what I had around, initially just low-fat dairy. As I got more in to Weight Watchers and nutrition and more comfortable in the  kitchen I started to play more with my ingredients. While not all of my substitutions have turned out perfectly, these are my most reliable exchanges.

Baking Substitutions

Herbs & Spices: Here are some helpful ideas for those bottles of spices gathering dust in your pantry…

  • Allspice: Excellent in baking or in Caribbean or Middle Eastern meat dishes
  • Basil: Light licorice/mint flavor, complements tomatoes
  • Cayenne Pepper: Cajun dishes, curries and seafood
  • Celery Seed: Great complement to egg salad
  • Chili Powder: Add to eggs, Mexican foods, etc (I use this on TONS… I’m a slave to heat)
  • Cilantro: Essential to salsa and Latin, Indian and Asian dishes
  • Cumin: Southwestern, Indian and Mediterranean foods
  • Dill: Excellent with seafood; marries well with lemon and mustard
  • Ginger: Excellent with baked goods, orange/yellow vegetables and Asian foods
  • Marjoram: Related to oregano but gentler and sweeter. Use with beans and on pizza
  • Oregano: Better suited to Italian, Greek, and Mexican foods
  • Paprika: Brilliant red and sweet. Use to color and flavor a variety of foods (I love this with chocolate desserts)
  • Rosemary: Great with pork, lamb, chicken and anything with olive oil and garlic
  • Tarragon: Complements chicken and fish dishes, salads, dressings and mustard sauces (Try this recipe from Ina Garten but use skin-less chicken breasts and 1/2c reduced fat mayo and 1/4c plain non-fat yogurt.)
  • Thyme: Excellent with meat, poultry, seafood, vegetables, and tomato sauces

Additional Considerations when using butter and oil:

  • If you are using it for cooking try sauteing vegetables or cooking rice in a low-sodium fat-free broth instead of butter or oil. When making homemade mashed potatoes bulk up on flavor by using garlic, broth and fresh herbs instead of butter and milk.
  • If you are using it for baking swap a pureed fruit for up to 1/2 of the total butter/oil in a light batter (cookies, cakes, etc), for a chocolate dessert you can substitute 100% fruit for the butter/oil. Some great substitution options (must be soft and pureed): bananas, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, applesauce, prunes.
  • If you are making a pastry like croissants or pastry crusts do not use margarine or light butter as it will negatively affect your end product

Happy Healthy Cooking!

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