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Easy Swaps for Common Recipe Ingredients

By Heidi Baldwin, MS, Holistic Health Coach

If you are like me, you have felt the frustrations of trying to follow many mainstream recipes, and for a variety of reasons. Have you been trying to ditch the dairy and see what changes you notice in your health? Or perhaps you want to try out a new recipe without setting off a food allergy, but you're allergic to one of the main ingredients in most recipes? It could even be that you're just one or two ingredients short of the recipe you want to try, and don't have time to run to the store. For all these occasions and more, it's helpful to know a few common ingredient replacements to hack into your cooking skills.

Whether your goal is to be healthier, to use what's already in your kitchen, or to avoid a food sensitivity issue, these ingredient swaps can help you be a master of ingredient disguises! Trust me, no one will notice the difference in the taste of the final product!


Baking something? You can use coconut oil in a ratio of 1:1 in either soft or solid form to replace the need for butter.


If milk is called for in whatever you're baking, you can swap it for any type of nut milk or coconut milk. That means almond milk or any dairy-free milk in the same amount as called for in the recipe. Coconut milk is my personal favorite as I find it has a creamier texture, similar to that of traditional milk used in baking.

Whipped Cream

Want to top your fruit with fresh whipped cream but without the dairy? Use coconut cream instead. Just be sure that it's well chilled overnight and only use the solid parts for the whipping. It has such a fresh and light taste to it!

Going Gluten-Free

Instead of using regular flour, use a cup of gluten-free flour plus a half-teaspoon of xanthan gum. Read the labels though… some gluten-free flour varieties already have xanthan in them which means you won't need to add it. There are many more gluten-free flours available on the market that are great for baking than in the past, so if you gave up on baking gluten-free because of the taste, give it another try. King Arthur’s measure for measuring gluten-free flour easily passes the “it better not be gritty” test at my house.


Whether someone has an egg allergy or they're vegan, you can still bake up tasty treats by replacing each egg in the recipe with 3 tablespoons of flaxseed meal combined with 6 tablespoons of purified water. I find warm water works better than cold. Make sure you mix it into a paste first and let it sit for a few minutes before combining it with your other ingredients. You can also substitute eggs with unsweetened applesauce, to make things easier. I use one individual serving size of applesauce per egg, and this works well for things like muffins. I find using applesauce with pancakes tends to make the pancakes have a “mushy” texture in the middle after being fully cooked.

Fish Sauce

Many Asian recipes call for the use of fish sauce. For those that have allergies or follow a vegan diet, you can swap it out with either soy sauce or tamari. You can also use Coconut Aminos as a soy-free alternative. Although you won't have that same umami flavor the fish sauce will bring, it will still be delicious, and you'll hardly notice the difference.

Grated Parmesan

If you need to add grated parmesan to your recipe, choose nutritional yeast. Side note: it's fabulous on air-popped popcorn, too.


Vinegar is one of those that can stump you in the kitchen since there are so many types, but the good news is that it's very versatile. So, if you have a recipe that calls for white vinegar, but you only have apple cider vinegar, you can use what you have. The only vinegar you can't just randomly sub in or out of your recipes is balsamic vinegar because the flavor is truly unique. Thankfully, it's an ingredient that meshes well with all diets, so you won't be doing anyone harm.

With this quick list of common ingredients to swap, you'll be able to master any dish for any occasion or any dietary concern. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different options to see what substitutions you like best! Bon Appetit!

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