Have you ever been somewhere and wanted to cook a particular dish and just couldnt find the ingredients? Ever seen a recipe and thought wow that sounds great but will make me feel horrible because it’s so bad for me? Ever wanted to make a specific recipe but realized you were intolerant to one or more of the ingredients and then gave up? I have experienced all of these feelings more times than I can remember and has been a huge inspiration behind Interpretive Chef. Many of the substitutions I have used over the year I have made up based upon flavor or texture but I realized there were more options out there so I got to work on researching other substitutions for myself and for others. Here is what I came up with!

Allspice – 1 teaspoon

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon plus 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves.

Baking Powder – 1 teaspoon

  • 1/3 tsp. baking soda plus 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar or
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 cup yogurt or buttermilk (decrease liquid in recipe by 1/2 cup)

Bread Crumbs (Dry) – 1 cup

  • 3 slices of bread, crumbled.
  • Rolled oats

Butter – 1 cup

  • 1 cup of regular margarine or
  • 1 cup of vegetable shortening (for baking) or
  • 1 cup of oil (but only if melted butter is called for)

No set measurements for the following so add a little at a time, mixing, until you get the consistency you feel is right. If you like your food a little wetter then add more oil, a little dryer, add less- you get the idea

  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Mashed bananas
  • Unsweetened Applesauce
  • Avocado puree
  • Ground flax seed
  • Organic fat free yogurt- plain, plain with vanilla extract, or vanilla flavored (my favorite use of this substitution is when I make Cherry Brook Kitchen Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies. The recipe calls for water, butter and vanilla extract and I only put in organic fat free vanilla yogurt) go-to cookie mix
  • When making chocolate products, you can use banana
  • When making fruit products, you can use banana, applesauce, fruit butters or coconut oil

Buttermilk – 1 cup

  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar plus enough regular milk to make 1 cup (let sit for 5 minutes)
  • Plain yogurt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup milk plus 1 ½-1 ¾ teaspoons cream of tartar


Screen shot 2012-12-01 at 9.42.48 PMScreen shot 2012-12-01 at 9.42.40 PM

If you are into flake type cereal, try experimenting with some different types of flakes such as spelt or quinoa.

Like chocolate shavings or dried fruit in your cereal? The dried fruit typically put in boxed cereals is covered in extra sugar so it’s best to just buy some good quality dried fruit in the bulk section of your organic grocery store and add it to your home made cereal.

Screen shot 2012-12-01 at 9.43.05 PM

Into oatmeal? experiment with different types of grains that provide a meal exactly like oatmeal such as kamut flakes or spelt flakes. If you want oatmeal, opt for the steel cut oats, they taste better and are less processed and more nutritious. Like Museli for your yogurt? Make it yourself using seeds, nuts, dried fruits and a variety of grain flakes from the bulk section.

Cream of Wheat? How about Cream of Buckwheat?

Screen shot 2012-12-01 at 9.42.55 PM


  • Nutritional yeast
  • Daiya cheese (made from tapioca and it tastes GREAT! Try using it with a quesadilla, different flavor that you would expect but it’s addicting!)

Screen shot 2012-12-01 at 1.13.54 PM

Chocolate Chips:

  • Cacao Nibs
  • Carob chips

Cream / Half and Half – 1 cup

  • 7/8th of a cup of whole milk plus 1/2 tablespoon of butter or
  • 3 tablespoons of oil, plus enough milk for 1 cup or
  • 1 cup of evaporated milk

Cocoa – 1/4th cup

  • 1 ounce (square) chocolate (decrease butter/oil in recipe by 1/2 a tablespoon)
  • Carob powder

Condensed Milk – 1 cup

  • Heat 1/3 cup of evaporated milk, 3/4 cup of sugar, and 2 tablespoons of butter until dissolved.

Cornstarch (for thickening) – 1 tablespoon

  • 2 tablespoons of flour (must cook for at least 3 minutes longer to thicken)
  • Apotato flourgar, Agar
  • Arrowroot powder
  • Tapioca
  • Konjac Flour
  • Potato Starch
  • Potato Flour


  • Quinoa
  • Bulghur wheat
  • Freekah (check out this recipe-
  • Barley
  • AmaranthFreekeh recipe
  • Kamut
  • Millet
  • Faro
  • Wheat berries

Alternative Grains

Dried Fruit

  • Currents
  • Raisins
  • Chopped dates
  • Cranberries
  • Cherries
  • BlueberriesScreen shot 2012-12-01 at 9.12.55 PM

Egg – 1 whole egg

  • 1/4th cup of egg beaters
  • Ener-G egg replacer
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds + 3 tablespoons water, stirred til gelatinous.
  • 1/4 cup pureed silken tofu or half a banana, mashed with a fork, to replace one egg. The tofu works great in cakes and brownies, but I haven’t tried it in cookies. The banana has worked well for me in all baked goods I tried, but it does add banana taste. It’s great for recipes with chocolate!
  • Use a heaping tablespoon of sour cream instead of an egg… it makes the cakes really fluffy and moist! Also, for a recipe using egg whites just use 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and three tablespoons of water.
  • Olive oil
  • Tbsp or 2 of canned pumpkin
  • Applesauce

Flour (All-Purpose) – 1 cup

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour plus 1/2 cup of all purpose flour (don’t substitute more than 1/2 the flour)
  • Spelt flour
  • Amaranth flour

The following alternatives require more leavening, so add 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder per cup of flour.   Agar agar can also be used as a thickening agent

  • 3/4 cup rice flour or
  • 1 1/2 cups of oat flour or
  • 1 1/4 cups of rye flour or
  • 5/8 cup of potato starch flour or
  • 1 cup rolled oats or
  • 1 cup fine cornmeal

Other types of flour:

    • Chickpea Flour- Versatile and rich in protein and fiber, this gluten-free flour is a bit heavy, but it DOES NOT taste like beans. If used alone, it  makes baked goods somewhat dry, so add extra moisture. I like to use it in pancakes or to combine it with almond or quinoa flours for added lightness.
    • Coconut Flour- Light, rich in healthy fat and tasty, this flour is incredible and I’d use it every day if my kid wasn’t allergic to coconut! This flour adds moisture to baking, but doesn’t bind as well as other flours. When baking with coconut flour, your recipe will need more moisture and more eggs.
    • Sorghum Flour- Slightly nutty in flavor, this gluten-free protein-rich flour is very popular. Can be used alone in a recipe.
    • Buckwheat Flour – Rich in protein and dark brown in color, this flour tastes nutty. It’s light and not a good binder. Unless you want the distinct nutty buckwheat flavor, do not use it in recipes other than pancakes, crepes, waffles or bread. I love the mixture of buckwheat and chickpea flours: one is light and the other one is heavy, so together they create the perfect balance.
    • Arrowroot Starch- Expensive and binding, this flour is my go-to choice when I need to thicken something fast. I even add it to cake frosting, so that it’s not runny. When added to baked goods, this flour can easily make them too dry, so use sparingly.
    • Quinoa Flour- Rich in protein and other nutrients, quinoa flour adds moisture and binding to your baked goods. Its flavor is very light, but slightly bitter, so I usually use in combination with other flours.
    • Blanched Almond flour- Nice-tasting and versatile, this flour can be used in a multitude of recipes. I like to use it by itself or to combine it with other gluten-free flours, like quinoa. Keep in mind: blanched almond flour and almond meal are NOT the same thing.cauliflower pizza

To make a pizza dough without flour, check out these recipes for cauliflower pizza dough ( and quinoa pizza dough


French Fries:

yucca fries

Ground Beef:


  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Agave nectar
  • Coconut oil

Heavy Cream (1cup):

  • 1 cup evaporated skim milk
  • ½ cup low fat yogurt plus ½ cup low fat cottage cheese
    Screen shot 2012-12-01 at 9.33.31 PM

Ice Cream:


  • Greek yogurt
  • Mashed avocados
  • If you are making tuna salad try it with mashed avocado and/or different types of mustard


If you want to turn a dish vegetarian, or to have something in addition to grains, try portabella mushrooms. These are great grilled, grilled and stuffed, stuffed and baked, or sautéed. If you want to make burgers and are tired of veggie burgers and don’t feel like make your own fancy patty (if you do check out this recipe, have not tried it yet but it looks great Screen shot 2012-12-02 at 1.35.28 PM) just grill up a portabella mushroom, stick some cheese on it so it melts, top it with some sautéed onions and you have yourself a delicious burger.

Another thing I add to many meals is feta cheese. It stays in chunks more so than most cheeses, so it feels like it has more sustenance and it truly enhances the flavor.

Screen shot 2012-11-30 at 10.12.27 PM

For direct substitution of meat by way of soy product, check out the Gimme Lean products. Be weary of these substitution soy products because many come with a very odd texture.

I have tried the beef and sausage Gimme Lean products and am a huge fan of both.  The Smart Dogs taste just like hot dogs and the Tofurkey kielbasa and other sausage products are great as w ell. To try another soy product, I recommend extra firm organic tofu. It doesn’t carry its own flavor, but if lightly simmered in olive oil, rather than fried or overcooked to become a sponge, tofu takes on the flavor of whatever you are cooking and has a lot of protein.

Screen shot 2012-11-30 at 10.12.01 PM

I am not a fan of tempeh products because the texture is weird and I have not found a flavor that I have been that found of. Overall, try to reduce the amount of soy products because a lot of the soy products in are country are GMO, there are huge issues with Monsanto and more things than you can imagine already have soy and no one needs too much of any one ingredient.



  • Unsweetened applesauce
  • Mashed avocado
  • Mashed banana
  • Silken tofu
  • Equal parts of fruit juice
  • Pumpkin puree
  • Low fat cottage cheese
  • Equal parts yogurt
  • Stiffly beaten egg whites into batter
  • Prune puree
  • Grated raw zucchiniScreen shot 2012-12-01 at 9.32.17 PM


To have a pasta dish, look for substitution noodles made from alternative grains-

  • kamutScreen shot 2012-12-01 at 9.41.41 PM
  • Quinoa
  • brown rice
  • buckwheat
  • corn

If you want to eliminate all grains try kelp noodles OR-

Screen shot 2012-12-01 at 9.32.35 PM

bake a spaghetti squash and dress it just how you would prepare a regular pasta dish. Here is a recipe suggestion that I have made and it tastes great. You can also use asparagus instead of sage to have some extra vegetable element ( To get a little more inventive, try thinly slicing zucchini into pasta looking pieces. I have heard the spiral slicer is good for this but I am yet to try to use one. Next purchase piece perhaps? Here is an actual recipe with the technique (

Screen shot 2012-12-01 at 9.36.43 PM

If you don’t want the pasta texture, but like the dressings that come with it, apply those same toppings to quinoa, freekah, brown rice, or bulgar wheat.

Potato Chips:

Check out these recipes and try them out at your next party or make them for a snack for y

ou and/or your man! You can also find some of these chips pre-made by the brand Terra Chips.

Screen shot 2012-12-02 at 1.28.00 PMScreen shot 2012-12-02 at 1.27.50 PM

Popcorn is also a way healthier snack, jazz up the popcorn with garlic powder, chili powder, cinnamon, etc.

Another great crunchy snack option is roasted pumpkin or squash seeds. When making a pumpkin or squash dish, save the seeds, clean them, dry them off and then cover them in spices of your choice- try garlic powder and nutritional yeast, try  garlic powder and piri piri spice; or go with a sweeter option and top them with cinnamon and honey/agave nectar

If your in the mood for something crunchy but want to try something sweeter, try apple chips. They can be found in the grocery store. Terra Chips makes some great fruit and veggie chips, but you can also make your own (

Screen shot 2012-12-02 at 1.28.52 PM




  • Grated steamed cauliflower
  • Plus all the typical grains I have mentioned as substitutes for quinoa

Rice Crispies:

  • Brown rice cereal with flax meal

Romaine lettuce:

  • There is not much nutrition in this type of lettuce, in comparison to spinach, so try to substitute romaine and most other types of salad greens for
  • Spinach or if you are truly adventurous and love your greens and your health, substitute the salad greens for
  • Raw, chopped kale (curly would probably be the most similar to salad greens and lacinato would be the most dissimilar)

Sautéed Spinach:

Spinach is great for you when you consumer organic spinach. Non-organic spinach has one of the highest pesticide contents of any food. Spinach is high in tons of essential nutrients but if you want to try another type of sauteed green for a different taste or texture, I recommend collard greens or kale. The preparation time is certainly much longer than spinach, less can be put in the wok or pot at a time, and constant surveying needs to occur so nothing burns; however, if you have the time, I definitely recommend. These greens also don’t get as mushy as steamed spinach so I feel like I can eat them as the basis for a main dish and don’t get sick of the texture as quickly.

Check out the recipes as part of my Times of Comfort section of Interpretive Chef.

Sour Cream (for baking):

  • 1 cup sour cream For baking: 1 cup yogurt plus 1 teaspoon baking soda.
  • 1 cup sour cream For baking: 3/4 cup sour milk plus 1/3 cup butter.
  • Greek yoghurt
  • Oil
  • Applesauce
  • Sour cream
  • Ground flax seed
  • Low fat cottage cheese

Sugar (Powdered) – 1 cup

  • 3/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • Honey: 3/4 cup for 1 cup sugar, reduce liquid by 1/4 cup and add 1/2 tsp baking soda for every cup of honey.

Sugar (White) – 1 cup

  • 1 cup of firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups confectioner’s sugar (not for baking)
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup (reduce liquid in recipe by 3 tablespoons)
  • Stevia
  • Honey
  • Apple sauce
  • Agave nectar (liquid or grains)
  • Raisins, figs, coconut shavings, currents and dates can also help to sweeten a dish if the flavors correlate. *if using dried fruit to sweeten, make sure there are enough dry or wet ingredient alterations to correlate
  • spices like cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg can add a nice dessert touch to something. If you combine those three spices with some powdered ginger and a little honey or agave you will get a chai flavoring

Whole Milk – 1 cup

  • 1 cup buttermilk plus 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda (if baking, reduce baking powder by 2 teaspoons) or
  • 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk , 7/8 cup of water, and 2 teaspoons of butter
  • Plain Yogurt – 1 cup
  • 1 cup buttermilk or
  • 1 cup cottage cheese (blended smooth) or
  • 1 cup sour cream

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