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America’s Healthy
Cooking Teacher

How can we substitute ingredients for others?

Wow, a lot of you want this answer.  So here are the most common substitution questions.  

 

For sugar, my first choice is brown rice syrup. It’s a liquid sweetener, glucose-based that is about 85% as sweet as sugar with a lovely butterscotch finish. Remember that it’s a liquid so you’ll need to adjust for that in your recipe. I also love coconut sugar, made from the sap of the coconut palm. This low-glycemic index sweetener has no coconut flavor; it tastes like brown sugar and can be substituted 1 to 1 in recipes that use granulated sugar.  

 

For daikon radish, simply use red radish. You can also substitute horseradish for the same kind of pungent spicy flavor. You won’t get the same therapeutic affect as daikon, but you will get a lovely flavor in your dish.

 

Any dark leafy green can be substituted for another. Just remember greens like mustard greens and watercress have a strong taste that can affect the flavor of your final dish.

 

If soy products are a problem, there are just a few ways to substitute. There are soy-free miso varieties now so you can always use those in a recipe that calls for soy-based miso. For tofu and tempeh, there really is no substitute. You can use seitan, a wheat-based meat substitute to create similar hearty main courses, but there is no substitute for tofu and tempeh. Soy sauce is, well, soybeans, so in a recipe that has soy, just use sea salt.

 

White flour is great for paper mache, but not for your intestines, so substitute whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour or some other whole grain flour. Remember that whole wheat flour is for bread and pizza; whole wheat pastry is for any sweet treat, from pie crusts to cookies, cakes and muffins. Semolina flour can be mixed in with whole wheat flour to create a lighter texture and color.

 

If you are sensitive to wheat and need flour substitutions with less or no gluten, try millet or oat flour, quinoa flour, chestnut flour or tapioca flour.  The texture of the finished product will be a little different, but you will still get the satisfaction you are looking for. And finally, for gluten-free baking, I have had great success with the Multi-Grain Blend flour from Authentic Foods. It makes gluten-free baking a no-brainer with no compromised ingredients.

 

Dairy products have lots of substitutions. Here’s the rundown on how they work in recipes so you can decide what you want to create. 

 

Milk

Soymilk (you know you must use organic only, right?) matches dairy for its richness and smooth, thick creaminess, so I used it in creamy sauces, smoothies or some soups. I find it to be too heavy for baking, resulting in a wet texture.  Rice milk is very watery and thin but works well for certain casseroles and lighter sauces. Always look for brown rice milk; if your rice milk is from polished rice, it’s just empty calories. Milks made from oats, quinoa, amaranth and other whole grains or whole grain blends are lighter than soymilk, but work great in any recipe that calls for milk. Finally, there’s almond milk, my personal favorite…not too rich, not too watery, just right…for any recipe, on cereal, as a treat. 

With all these milk substitutes, please do your best to choose unsweetened and organic varieties to ensure the best quality.

 

Cheese

This is a big one for most of us. I’d love to tell you that there are fabulous substitutes out there to help you break the cheese habit, but there just aren’t…in my opinion.

Not an expert because I don’t really even think about cheese anymore, I may have missed some fabulous new vegan cheese substitute, but in the end, I believe we need to stop eating cheese and all things cheese-like. 

However, I have had some success with ‘cheesy’ sauces made from cashews, tofu, white miso and other ingredients.

Eggs

I always say that you have to understand the ‘technology’ of eggs before you can substitute them. Eggs are used for two reasons in baking, generally speaking: to bind and to leaven. For binding, I substitute 1 teaspoon chia seeds soaked in 2 tablespoons liquid for each egg. For leavening, I use 1 teaspoon baking powder and ½ teaspoon baking soda for each egg. It works like a charm in my recipes.

Check out the recipes on the site to see how to use more whole, natural ingredients.