Serena Caner, registered dietician

Column: Proper recipe substitutions can be a tricky business

Healthy Bites/Serena Caner

It started with a phone call. “Serena, I made a total blast-off.” Being my sister’s food consultant, I was worried. “Oh no, what happened?”

“Well, I was having a group of friends over for brunch so I baked my chorizo egg casserole…”

“And?”

“Well, one of the girls was vegetarian, so I substituted tofu for the chorizo…”

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There was no need to say more. My sister is a brilliant and successful lawyer, but the kitchen continues to elude her. In her defence, making recipe substitutions is tricky and requires that you know what purpose the ingredient serves in the recipe. Unfortunately, chorizo and tofu have different water contents and flavour properties, and are not interchangeable. However, some substitutions can be made:

Yogurt for mayo: In salad dressings, plain yogurt can be used instead of mayo. However, in cooked products, using yogurt, which has a higher water content, will affect the end product (it will be more watery).

Dairy-free milk for regular milk: dairy-free milks can be substituted for regular milk, but they will taste different. Rice milk has the most neutral taste in baking. The fat content of the milk will also affect texture.

Baking powder: If you have run out of baking powder, you can mix together 1/4 tsp baking soda + 1/2 tsp cream of tartar for 1 each teaspoon baking powder. (Note: if you run out of baking soda, you cannot replace it with baking powder).

Buttermilk: A substitute for buttermilk is to add 1 tbsp (15 ml) lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup (250 ml) milk and let it stand 5 minutes. You can also thin plain yogurt or sour cream with milk or water.

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Unsweetened chocolate: 1 oz unsweetened chocolate can be substituted with 3 tbsp cocoa powder mixed with 1 tbsp butter or oil.

Icing sugar: icing sugar can be made by blending 1 cup white sugar with 1 tbsp cornstarch in your food processor or coffee grinder, until finely powdered.

Cornstarch (for thickening sauce): 1 tbsp cornstarch can be substituted with 2 tbsp flour, but flour should be cooked longer, to avoid a raw taste.

– Serena Caner is a registered dietitian at Shuswap Lake General Hospital


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