June 20, 2024

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Cooking during coronavirus? Best substitutes for recipe ingredients such as milk, eggs or oil

Sometimes you don’t have all the ingredients you need to make that perfect recipe. We’re here to help.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, we sometimes had to get creative with ingredients because of dietary restrictions or food preferences. If you’re following a recipe or looking to re-create one of your favorite meals but you don’t have the exact ingredients, there are easy hacks to get a similar result.

Whether you haven’t made it to the grocery store to replenish your pantry or your local supermarket doesn’t have what you need, there are ways to substitute some of the most popular ingredients in recipes.

We’ve rounded up some substitution options to help you in the kitchen:

Bread crumbs

Don’t have a canister of bread crumbs on hand in your pantry? If you have a loaf of bread, you can make your own by grinding dried bread in a food processor or crushing bread that has been toasted and ripped into small pieces.

Another popular hack is using crumbled crackers to satisfy the crunch and texture that traditional bread crumbs provide in a recipe. If you have anything like Wheat Thins or Cheez-Its, you can smash them and add to your dish.

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Want to bake but don’t have butter? No problem. If you have a can of pumpkin puree gathering dust in your pantry, you can use it in place of butter. Coconut oil can also suffice as a butter alternative.

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Cake mix ingredients

A popular trend in the quarantine baking world is replacing the eggs, oil and other ingredients listed on the back of a box of cake mix with an unlikely product: a can of soda. Just mix any kind of carbonated soda with the dry cake mix and voilà – you have a cake! The folks at Betty Crocker suggest using fruit-flavored sodas such as orange, grape, strawberry, or lemon-lime for best results. 

For boxed brownie mix, pureed black beans can be used in place of butter or oil.


A variety of desserts and pastries call for buttermilk, but it might not be easy to find when you’re trying to get in and out of the grocery store quickly. Regular milk and a splash of white vinegar or lemon juice is a good substitute.

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Whole milk

Maybe you don’t want to buy an entire carton of whole milk, which is higher in fat than other kinds of milk, because it could go bad before you can use it all. If you have another type of milk on hand, fatten it up by mixing in melted butter.

As for switching out regular 2%, low-fat or skim milk, coconut milk and almond milk often substitute just fine.

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Espresso powder

This might seem like an obvious one, but finely ground coffee can be substituted for powdered espresso. Try to stay away from coarsely ground coffee if you can help it.


Flax and chia seeds are popular substitutes for eggs in recipes, but they can be difficult to find or expensive. Orange juice, applesauce and canned pumpkin puree are simple options. If you use a substitute with higher sugar content (such as orange juice or applesauce), you should reduce the amount of added sugar in your recipe. Buying unsweetened applesauce is also an alternative. 

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Lemons or limes

Though the fruit produces a fresher flavor, and zesting the rind gives a strong lemon or lime taste, you can use store-bought bottled lemon or lime juice. 

Mayonnaise and sour cream

Three words: plain Greek yogurt. Though you may not want to spread Greek yogurt on your sandwich in place of mayo, it works as an alternative in most other dishes. 

Olive oil

Canola oil, avocado oil, or sunflower oil will do the trick. Sunflower oil has a similar smoke point, while canola oil provides a versatile base; both olive and avocado oil are full of oleic acid, a fatty acid that can offer health benefits. 

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus cooking: Substitutes for recipe ingredients you can’t get