Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Substituting Ingredients

Monday night as I was preparing Bean and Cheese Enchiladas for dinner, I realized that I only had a ½ cup of sour cream, which is unusual for me since I always have this on hand. I needed at least one cup of sour cream because I wanted to double the batch of Enchiladas. I then remembered that my daughter has been making homemade dip with sour cream and salsa this week, so I figured that is where the sour cream disappeared. 

No matter how well-stocked you keep your pantry, sometimes you run out of an ingredient that you need for a recipe and it can be inconvenient to run out and purchase the necessary ingredient. I know I would have to make a ten mile round trip to pick up more sour cream, which was out of the question. 

What should I have done?

I could have simply made one batch of the Enchiladas and solved my problem, or I could use a substitution. Substituting an ingredient is another frugal tool that we can use to save money in our kitchens. 

I scrounged around in my refrigerator to see what I had on hand. I had just picked up several blocks of cream cheese on sale the week before, so I decided that would make a great substitution. And you know what? It turned out we actually like the recipe even better with the added cream cheese! How wonderful is that? 

Here are some other substitutions that I personally make in my kitchen:  

Bouillon cubes for Chicken, Beef, or Vegetable Broth
Regular Milk plus Lemon Juice for Buttermilk
Cocoa powder for chocolate baking squares
Cottage Cheese or Yogurt for Sour Cream
Yogurt Cheese in place of Cream Cheese

Here is a photo of the Mexican Rice that I served with the Enchiladas. The recipe calls for Pace Picante Sauce, but I have successfully substituted my own home canned salsa for the Picante sauce many times and have always been happy with the results.   

If you are looking for an ingredient to substitute in one of your own recipes, there are a number of lists online that can help you with this. The University of Nebraska has an excellent article online regarding commonly used substitutions, which can be found here.

I was glad that my recipe turned out well after substituting an ingredient. I know that is not always the case though. Have you ever substituted an ingredient in one of your recipes? What were the results?

© Belinda Richardson and Frugal Workshop, 2012.
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without”


  1. I often use vanilla yogurt for buttermilk, cottage cheese for ricotta-both with great results. Good to use what is on hand vs spending gas to go to the store and often to be further tempted to buy more than what was to be purchased. How many times have you gone to the store for milk and bread and ended up with several bags of groceries? quite common for that to happen, and that's what the stores are counting on. Staying OUT of the stores is a real money saving tip! Glad the cream cheese idea worked out even better! You needed the substitution, probably wouldn't have tried the enchilladas with cream cheese otherwise. What is the expression: Necessity is the mother of invention?

    1. Such an excellent point, Carol. I know I've went into the store to get one thing and ended up with a couple of bags of items. Even with a list in hand, I usually end up getting more items. Yes indeed, necessity is the mother of invention. :)

    2. I meant to add, Carol, that we also use cottage cheese in place of ricotta for Lasagna. My grandmother always did that and so did my Mom.

  2. Belinda, I really loved this post and I instantly became a follower of yours! Cooking is my favorite hobby and I do find myself missing an ingredient quiet often and going to the grocery store for one item can be really inconvenient. I love that cream cheese is so multifunctional and keeps well. I use it in lasagna as well if Im running low on regular cheese and it tastes just as good if not better! Hope to hear from you soon and looking forward to your next post!


    1. Hi Nico,

      I'm so glad to hear that you liked my post and became a follower. I'll be sure to check out your site too. I've not had cream cheese in lasagna before, but that sure does sound good. We love cheese here, as you can probably tell. lol :)

  3. Cheese is a staple in my house... it keeps for days! Also, I found that when I open cheese, its best to store it in parchment paper and then a plastic bag or aluminum foil... helps it not get hard and go bad! Oh and about the lemon thyme! I'm working on a marinade recipe for upcoming "Man's Week" on the blog! Its so yummy and I can't wait to share the recipe once I just it perfect!!


    1. Sounds great, Nico. I look forward to seeing the marinade recipe on your blog. :) Great tip on keeping the cheese fresh.

  4. I am so into using what you have on hand - I use sour cream, creme fraiche, cream cheese and cream pretty much interchangeably. Have a great week.


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