What do you do when you’re missing an ingredient? Try substituting!

What do you do when you’re missing an ingredient? Try substituting!

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Have you ever found yourself in the middle of making a recipe to discover that you’re out of one of the ingredients? It happens to everyone at one time or another but the good news is that there are substitutions you can make; below is a herb and spice substitution chart, followed by a set of useful links on the topic.


Name Description Form Use Substitute
Allspice Spice: reddish brown berry; pungent blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves whole seeds
Excellent for spicing desserts, relishes, preserves, tomatoes, sweet yellow vegetables, soups, meats and baked goods. cinnamon
Anise Aromatic Seed: small, grayish brown, oval shaped, licorice flavor whole seeds
Delicious in cookies, cakes, fruit dishes, coleslaw, cottage cheese, salad dressings, spicy meat mixtures, rye bread and apple pie. Sometimes used to give a licorice flavor and aroma to foods. fennel
Basil (sweet) Herb: bright green leaves when fresh; brownish olive when dried; sweetly pungent fresh
crushed leaves
Brings out the best in soups, marinades, salad dressings and cheese dishes. Its special affinity for tomatoes makes it indispensable in pizza, pasta sauces and other Italian dishes. Also used to flavor herb butters. marjoram
Bay leaf
Herb: long, green leaves; woody, menthol flavor (bitter if used too freely) dried whole leaves Add 2–3 leaves to tomato sauces, soups, stews and gravies. Remove leaves before serving. mint
Capers Spice: small, olive greenish pods; sharp, pungent briny flavor packed in salt or vinegar Good in beef gravies, canapes, fish, salads, sauces, tomato and eggplant dishes, and sprinkled on deli sandwiches. pickled green peppers
Caraway Aromatic seed: small, brown, crescent-shaped seed, slight licorice taste whole, dried seed Used for centuries to flavor baked goods, pickles, cheeses, coleslaw, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, green beans, sausage and cucumber salads. anise
Cardamom Spice: small, dark-colored pods; gingery-lemon, aromatic flavor whole seeds
Sweet and aromatic, cardamom is used to flavor cakes, cookies, pastries, breads, curries, custards and punches. coriander
Spice: plump, sweet, scarlet fruit of tropical capsicum plant; very piquant ground Use sparingly for a pungent zing in Mexican dishes and sauces, meats, eggs, stews and curries. (On a heat scale of 1 to 10 for chili peppers, cayenne rates an 8). chili pepper
Celery Seed Aromatic seed: small, light brown seeds; celery taste whole seeds
Wonderful in potato salad, coleslaw, egg and tuna salads, lentils and breads. tarragon
Chervil Herb: delicate, feathery leaves; light licorice, parsley taste dried whole or ground leaves Light, anise flavor is wonderful in sauces, cream soups, dressings and egg salads. Add chervil after cooking is completed; its delicate flavor is destroyed by cooking. tarragon
Chive Herb: long, green tubular leaves; delicate onion flavor fresh
Delicate onion flavor is delicious in eggs, cream sauces, fish, chicken, beef, lamb and vegetable dishes. Try 1–2 TB in cottage cheese, or in dips made with cream cheese, sour cream or yogurt. scallions
Cilantro Herb: short stemmed with thin, round, slightly fringed leaves; pungent and peppery smell and taste fresh This popular Mexican seasoning imparts a mild, delicate sweet flavor. A must for authentic salsas. In Chinese cuisine it is known as Chinese parsley. Italian parsley
Cinnamon Spice: reddish brown, rolled up quill-like sticks; sweet, mildly hot sticks
A favorite baking spice. Often used in combination with cloves, nutmeg and allspice to flavor breads, cakes, cookies and other desserts. Excellent with apples, it is essential with apple crisps and pies. ginger
Clove Spice: dried, unopened buds of a tropical evergreen; strong, sweet and pungent whole dry buds
A traditional flavoring in gingerbread, cookies and other baked goods. Also delicious in curries, chili and tomato sauces, beets, squash, stewed fruits, applesauce and sweet spiced syrups. cinnamon
Coriander Aromatic seed: dried, ripe berries of cilantro plant; almost round with straight and wavy ridges; flavor of lemon peel and sage whole seeds
Used to flavor a variety of foods including baked goods, dairy desserts, puddings, meats, curries, relishes, beverages and candies. The whole seeds are used in sweet pickles, punch and to flavor coffee. cardamom
Cumin Aromatic seed: long thin seed, yellow brown in color, dry earthy taste whole seeds
An essential ingredient in most chili powders and is used to flavor curries, stews, meats, tofu and vegetable dishes. turmeric
Dill Herb: small tan seeds or feathery light leaves (weed), tangy taste resembling caraway whole seeds
dried leaves
Dill seed is excellent in potato and carrot salads, sauerkraut, breads, soups, salad dressings, and egg, potato, cabbage and meat dishes. Dill weed is great in vegetable dishes, tofu and tempeh dishes, rice dishes, fish and cottage cheese. caraway
Fennel Herb: watermelon-shaped, chartreuse seeds or fresh, short, celery-like bulbs; licorice flavor whole seeds
ground fresh stalks
A must for authentic flavor in pizza and spaghetti sauce and Italian sausage. Excellent with fish and seafood sauces. It is also used in soups, stews and sweet potatoes. Wonderful in all Italian dishes. anise
Fenugreek Aromatic seed: smooth, red brown, unevenly shaped seeds, flavor reminiscent of burnt sugar and maple whole seeds
Widely used for flavoring imitation maple syrup. Good added to curries, spice mixtures, chutney, puddings, candies and baked goods. anise
Ginger Spice: gnarl shaped, light brown root; sweet, piquant, peppery whole roots
cracked roots
Traditionally used in gingerbread and ginger snaps. Mix with soy sauce and scallions or crushed garlic for an excellent dipping sauce for egg rolls or vegetables. cardamom
Mace Spice: lacy, fibrous covering around the nutmeg shell; flavor of nutmeg but milder dried blades
Used for pickling, for flavoring baked goods and in stews. nutmeg
Marjoram Herb: gray green leaves; musky, slight oregano bouquet dried whole leaves
A member of the mint family that enhances vegetables, meats, soups, sauces, salads and some cheeses. It also makes a delicious herb butter. basil
Mint Herb: dark emerald leaves, cool, menthol flavor whole
crushed and ground leaves
Bean and fish soups, candies, chilled fruits, cold beverages, desserts, hot teas, jellies, lamb, peas. bay leaf
Mustard Spice: tiny, white, yellow, or brown seeds; spicy, mellow, nutty whole seeds
Popularly used as a pickling spice. Add ground mustard to sauces, dips, eggs, cheese dishes, tofu and salad dressings. Yellow mustard is milder than brown. prepared mustard
Nutmeg Spice: very hard, brown, ovular seed pods; spicy, mellow, nutty whole seeds
Popular for flavoring cookies, pies, and other baked goods, especially in combination with other sweet spices like cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Add a dash to applesauce or cheese dishes. mace
Oregano Herb: grayish green leaves; strong, aromatic, slightly menthol dried whole leaves
Indispensable in Italian cooking. It has a special affinity for basil, and the two often appear together in vegetable, cheese, tomato and pasta dishes. Good in soups and stews also. basil
(mild capsicum)
Spice: scarlet pods, mild, slightly piquant ground Store carefully, away from heat or light, to preserve its color and freshness. Use in Hungarian goulash, eggs, sauces, cheese, tomato and pasta. cayenne pepper
Parsley Herb: curly small or flat green leaves; herbal, sweet flavor flakes
dried leaves
Popular as a garnish, it is also used to flavor soups, vegetables, sauces, dressings and potato dishes. Add 1–2 TB directly to your favorite dishes or reconstitute by soaking in ice water for 5 to 10 minutes. basil
Pepper Spice: round, shriveled berries; hot, biting, pungent taste. Black, white, pink and green available. whole, dried
Provides a burst of hot peppery flavor to salads and pasta. cayenne or red pepper
Rosemary Herb: grey green, curved pine needle leaves; sweet, bittersweet taste whole dried leaves
Use in soups and stews and with fish or poultry dishes. sage
Saffron Spice: delicate, orange yellow filaments; pleasantly bitter whole stigmata
The world’s most expensive spice. Use 1/8 to 1/4 tsp crushed saffron in rice, fish, poultry, breads and cakes. turmeric
Sage Herb: silver tipped, grey green leaves; strong, astringent, slightly bitter flavor whole leaves
Excellent with pork, sausage and poultry, and often found in stuffings, omelets, chowder and cheese dishes. rosemary
Savory Herb: dried, brownish green leaves, aromatic, piquant whole leaves
Commonly found in bread stuffings and dressings. Good cooked with beans and peas. sage
Tarragon Herb: long, thin, green leaves,; sweet, slight licorice taste whole dried leaves
A natural complement to fish and chicken and often found in specialty vinegars and salad dressings. Try it on salads and sauces. chervil
Thyme Herb: grey-green, curly leaves, warm, pungent slight lemony flavor whole dried leaves
Highly aromatic herb used to flavor soups, stews, sauces, cheese, stuffings, salad dressings and vegetables. basil
Turmeric Spice: yellow orange root; similar to ginger root in shape; musky, slightly bitter ground Indispensable in curry powders and Indian cooking. Good in salad dressings, eggs and rice dishes. cumin
Vanilla bean Aromatic seed capsule: very dark, long, slender seed pods; sweet, pleasantly perfumy flavor whole beans
pure extract
A classic flavoring used in sweet foods such as cakes, cookies, custards, eggnog, frostings, ice cream, milk, pastries, puddings, rice, smoothies, sweet sauces.



Herb & Spice Blends

These are a few of the herb and spice blends that are considered classics and are handy to keep available in your kitchen. When purchasing a commercial blend make sure it does not contain MSG or excessive amounts of salt.

Spice Blend Description
Apple Pie Spice A fragrant blend of cinnamon, fenugreek, lemon peel, ginger, cloves and nutmeg (or variations), perfect for any apple or fruit dish. Use it in your favorite apple pie recipe, or add 1/2 to 1 tsp. to custards, cookies, cobblers and fruit crisps or oatmeal.
Bouquet Garni A blend of celery, parsley, rosemary, thyme and bay leaf (or variations). Traditionally tied with cheesecloth and simmered in soups, stews, sauces and broths to impart the flavor of fresh herbs without the texture.
Curry Powder A fine blend of turmeric, paprika, fenugreek, coriander, black pepper, cumin, ginger, celery seed, cloves, caraway and cayenne. Gives the characteristic flavors of Indian cookery to rice, vegetables, meats, sauces, eggs, soups and dips.
Fine Herbs The delicate onion-like taste of chives and chervil’s hint of anise blend well with the warm, sweet flavors basil, tarragon and marjoram in this special blend. It is exceptional for flavoring soups, sauces and eggs.
Five Spice Powder Slightly sweet, but very pungent and aromatic blend of cinnamon, fennel, cloves, star anise and white pepper. Use sparingly in Oriental dishes and to season beans, poultry, meats and fruit.
Garam Masala A spicy blend of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, black pepper and coriander for use in soups, salads, seafood and vegetable dishes.
Gumbo File A combination of sassafras leaf and thyme leaf, Gumbo File is an important ingredient in Cajun cooking. It should be simmered gently and never boiled.
Herbal Seasoning This special blend of dill weed, kelp powder, nutritional yeast, marjoram, dehydrated garlic, oregano spirulina and red pepper (cayenne) is a tasty and healthful salt substitute. Use it to perk up salads, vegetables, soups, eggs, fish and tofu.
Herbs de Provence A blend of thyme, rosemary, winter savory, basil, tarragon, organic lavender flowers.
Italian Seasoning A blend of popular Italian herbs: oregano, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, basil and sage. Adds authentic flavor to tomato sauces, pasta, cheese dishes, pizza and salad dressings.
Mexican Seasoning This blend of chili peppers, dehydrated garlic, dehydrated onion, paprika, cumin, celery seed, oregano, red pepper and bay leaf is a natural for flavoring enchiladas and tacos. It also spices up cheese dishes, sauces, potatoes and tofu.
Mughai Garam Masala An aromatic, mellow, full-flavored blend of black peppercorn, cumin, bay leaf, cardamom, clove, cinnamon. Especially suited to milk, cream, yogurt and fruit dishes. Use at the end of cooking.
Poultry Seasoning A traditional blend of sage, thyme, dehydrated onion, marjoram, black pepper, celery seed and red pepper (cayenne) for poultry and stuffings. May also be used to season gravies, sauces, rice, breads and bisuits.
Sambhar Powder A traditional Indian spice blend containing coriander, chili peppers, fenugreek, cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, red pepper, asafoetida. Used for flavoring lentils (dahl), vegetable and lentil stews as well as stir-fried dishes.
Seafood Seasoning Adds the zing of lemon to a special combination of dill weed, sesame seed, lemon peel, basil, tarragon and celery leaf. Perfect for all types of seafood and seafood sauces. Excellent with chicken also.

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Check this chart for substitutions for various herbs.

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Check this chart for substitutions for various spices.

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Information and tips on cooking with sugar substitutes in handy chart form.

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Cook’s Thesaurus has literally thousands of substitution suggestions, including fruits, meats, herbs, and much more. Cream of the crop!

• Vegetarian Substitutions
Vegetarian Times has excellent suggestions on meat substitutions for meat-free, vegan, low-fat, yeast-free, allergy, ethnic, and alcohol-free vegetarian diets.

• Sweetener Substitutions
This document from the NDSU Extension Service gives alternative substitutes for refined sugar in baked goods, including info on how it affects the final product.

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Aunt Edna’s Kitchen has a substitution chart for common ingredients including flour, milk, sour cream, sugar, and more.

• US to UK Substitutions
Culinary Cafe has a great page for those wishing to convert US recipes into UK ingredient equivalents.

• Ingredient Substitutions
Kansas State University’s ingredient substitution chart is hyperlink-indexed with alphabetical listings in a nice chart.

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The electronic Gourmet Guide provides suggestions on ingredient substitutions to lighten up your baked goods.

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Tribune-Review has recommendations for ways to substitute other ingredients for salt in your diet.

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Land O Lakes has information on ingredient substitutions from alcohol to molasses.

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The Culinary Cyber-Sleuth has an interesting article on remaking recipes with various substitutions and/or reductions.

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Mississippi State Extention Service has an easy-to-read chart of substitutions for foods, herbs and spices. In addition to that, your Boiler is a very important part of your home, so make sure you have your Boiler Cover Insurance to be safe just in case it breaks down.

• Low Fat Substitutions
Fabulous Foods has suggestions on substitions to reduce the fat in your foods.

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Health World Online suggests food substitutions in your diet to avoid cancer, plus tips.

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