Why does this always happen?!
Does this sound familiar…you have your list (check), you go to the store (check), you get home and start preparing dinner (check), and then everything comes to a screeching halt when you realize you forgot an important ingredient!
So frustrating…can you relate?!
In our experience, we have learned there is almost always something we can use in place of that “critical missing ingredient.” The key is to not panic…chances are you won't ruin the meal and the result may even be better than what the recipe originally called for!
Our most recent “emergency” was we were out of chili powder.
I stopped, (grumbled a little), took a deep breath, combined some hot sauce, cumin and oregano…crisis averted and the result was fantastic!
A couple weeks ago, we provided a coaching tip on emergency substitutions, which was focused on liquid cooking substitutions.
For Part 2 on the topic, this one is focused on herbs and spices.
Especially since meal preparation time is so precious with our crazy schedules, there is no time to stress over a missing ingredient!
So, here are some ideas on herb and spice substitutions, and these are based on dried herbs and spices, unless specified.
Allspice (1 tsp) = 1/2 tsp of cinnamon + 1/2 tsp ground cloves
Basil (1 tsp) = 1 tsp oregano or thyme
Cardamom (1 tsp) = 1 tsp ginger or cinnamon
Chili powder (1 Tbsp) = dash hot pepper sauce (or 1/4 tsp cayenne) + 2 tsp cumin + 1 tsp oregano
Chinese five spice (1/4 cup) = 6 star anise pods + 1 Tbsp ground fennel seeds + 1/2 tsp ground cloves + 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon + 2 tsp black peppercorns (or Szechuan peppercorns) - toast if desired and then grind everything together.
Chipotle Chili powder (1 tsp) = 1 tsp smoked paprika (add dash of cayenne for some heat)
Chives (1/4 cup chopped fresh) = 1/4 cup green onion, leek, onion
Cilantro (1/4 cup chopped fresh) = 1/4 cup parsley
Cinnamon (1/2 tsp) = 1/4 tsp nutmeg or allspice
Cloves (1/2 tsp) = 1/2 tsp allspice, cinnamon, or nutmeg
Coriander (1/2 tsp) = 1/2 tsp ground caraway seeds or cumin
Cumin (1 tsp) = 1 tsp chili powder
Curry powder (about 1 Tbsp) = 1 tsp coriander + 1/2 tsp turmeric + 1/2 tsp mustard powder + 1/2 tsp chili powder + 1/4 tsp cayenne + 1/4 tsp ground cumin + 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
Fennel seeds (1 tsp) = 1 tsp caraway seeds
Garlic (1 clove fresh garlic) = 1/4 tsp garlic powder or granulated garlic, or 1/2 tsp jarred minced garlic
Ginger (1/4 tsp) = 1/4 tsp allspice, cinnamon or nutmeg, (1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger = 1/4 tsp ground ginger)
Italian seasoning (1 Tbsp) = 1/2 tsp of each: basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, sage and thyme
Leeks (1 cup or 1 large leek, white and light green part only) = 1 cup chopped green onion, onion or shallot
Lemon extract (1/2 tsp) = 1 tsp of lemon zest (grated lemon peel)
Marjoram (1/2 tsp) = 1/2 tsp basil or thyme
Mint (1 tsp) = 1 tsp basil or rosemary
Mustard powder or dried mustard (1 tsp) = 1 Tbsp prepared mustard
Nutmeg (1/4 tsp) = 1/4 tsp cinnamon or ginger
Onion (1 tsp powder) = 1 Tbsp onion flakes, 1 tsp granulated onion, or 1/3 chopped fresh onion
Oregano (1 tsp) = 1 tsp basil, thyme or marjoram
Parsley (1/4 cup chopped fresh) = 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Poultry seasoning (1 tsp) = 1 tsp sage plus dash of black pepper, marjoram, rosemary and/or thyme
Pumpkin pie spice (1/4 cup) = 3 Tbsp ground cinnamon + 2 tsp ground ginger + 2 tsp ground nutmeg + 1 1/2 tsp ground allspice + 1 1/2 tsp ground cloves
Red pepper or crushed red pepper flakes (1/4 tsp) = 1/4 tsp cayenne, hot sauce or black pepper
Rosemary (1 tsp) = 1 tsp tarragon or thyme
Saffron (1/8 tsp) = 1/8 tsp turmeric or paprika
Sage (1 tsp) = 1 tsp marjoram or rosemary
Savory (1 tsp) = 1 tsp marjoram, sage or thyme
Seasoning Salt: 2 Tbsp salt + 1 tsp pepper + 1/2 tsp paprika + 1/2 tsp garlic powder (or granulated garlic) + 1/4 tsp onion powder (or granulated onion) + 1/4 tsp sugar
Sumac (1 tsp) = 1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
Tarragon (1 tsp) = 1 tsp fennel seed
Thyme (1 tsp) = 1 tsp basil, marjoram or oregano
Turmeric (1/2 tsp) = 1/2 tsp dry mustard (can also add saffron)
Zaatar (also spelled Zahtar): 2 Tbsp sumac + 1 Tbsp thyme + 1/2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds + 1 Tbsp marjoram + 1 Tbsp oregano + 1/2 tsp salt
A few other tips:
- Fresh and dried herbs are interchangeable. For 1 Tbsp of any fresh herb, you can use 1 tsp in dried leaf form or 1/2 tsp in ground form. For example, 1 Tbsp fresh thyme = 1 tsp dried thyme leaves = 1/2 tsp ground thyme.
- Fresh and dried garlic are also interchangeable. For 1 clove of fresh garlic, use 1/4 tsp garlic powder or granulated garlic.
- Nuts are mostly interchangeable, so use whatever you are in the mood for (or whatever you have on hand!).
- Dried fruits are also fairly interchangeable…if a recipe calls for raisins, but you don’t have any, you can easily substitute cranberries, dates, dried apricots or others.
- For breadcrumbs, you can process bread in a food processor or blender (1 slice of bread = 1/4 cup breadcrumbs).
- For cornstarch (1 Tbsp), you can use arrowroot (1 Tbsp) or flour (2 Tbsp). For thickening, use 2 parts water to 1 part thickener. Mix the thickener with water, and then add it to your meal. If using flour as a thickener, simmering it for 2-3 minutes after it has thickened will help remove the flour taste.
a coaching tip on how to kick those mystery flavor packets to the curb!
Also, if there is a spice or herb you are curious about and don’t see here, please let us know and we will provide our thoughts!
Print a PDF of this substitution list for easy reference!
These are terrific! Thanks for the pdf link for printing this out. I’ve got another one for you. The other day I needed prepared horseradish for a steak topping and I had none. I did an internet search and found a suggestion to substitute wasabi paste, which I weirdly happened to have, and that worked!
Perfect – thank you! We will have to add that to the list!
Great tips. Thanks for all the information.
So happy this was helpful – thank you!