Cooking with Claire: How to use substitutions to your advantage

“Cooking with Claire” is an introduction to dining beyond the dining hall using easy, fast and cheap recipes.

(Illustration/Alicia Fitzmaurice)

This week’s column will be a lesson in substitutions. When baking or cooking, sometimes you might find yourself missing ingredients that the recipe calls for. You might have thought you had the ingredient in your pantry, or you might be cooking for someone with a wheat, dairy or meat allergy. Thankfully, there are a few substitution options you can use.

1. Rice – cauliflower. Raw cauliflower is a great low carb substitute for rice. The chicken fried rice I made a few weeks ago for this column would be delicious if made with cauliflower instead of rice.

Heads of cauliflower. Raw cauliflower is a great low carb substitute for rice. (Wikipedia/Creative Commons)

2. Oil – applesauce. Fatty oils can be replaced with rich applesauce. This is a great way to sneak extra fruits into your diet.

3. Sour cream – Greek yogurt. Plain, unflavored Greek yogurt is filled with protein.

4. Buttermilk – milk and lemon. If a recipe calls for buttermilk, or in the olden days, “sour milk,” a little lemon juice in milk is the replacement.

5. Egg – banana. This is a good tip to remember in case your bananas go bad before your eggs do, or vice versa.

Cavendish bananas are the main commercial banana cultivars sold in the world market. (Steve Hopson/Wikipedia/Creative Commons)

6. Maple syrup – vanilla. If you are not wild about vanilla or maple flavor, use the other to sweeten your recipe.

7.  Pasta – zucchini noodles. Another low carb version of your favorite starchy meal. Heat them up for just a few minutes on the stovetop.

8. Mayonnaise – mashed avocado. Instead of the greasy and heavy mayonnaise in tuna and macaroni salads, use a healthy fat such as avocado.

9. Unsweetened chocolate – unsweetened coco powder and butter. For one square of unsweetened baking chocolate, substitute coco powder and butter.

10. Flour – whole wheat flour, nut flour, coconut flour. To boost your whole grain intake, substitute whole wheat flour in breads, muffins or cookies. Use nut or coconut flour for gluten free cooking.

Most complete cookbooks have a list of common substitutions in the back. Pinterest or food blogs usually have healthy, low carb, gluten-free or vegan substitutes. Be sure to remember measurements while substituting. One cup of applesauce will not equal one cup of oil, for example.

Claire Galvin is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at