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Six Handy Food Substitutions

In a continuation of ourSandy’s Sixblog series, Executive Chef Sandy DiGiovanni at The Culinary Center of Kansas City shares a bit of insight from her wealth of culinary knowledge…

We’ve all been there, you’re hurrying along cooking something and –bam!– you’re suddenly stopped short because you don’t have an ingredient you need. That stinks. Here are a few quick substitutes I like to use. And some of them I use not because I need to, but just because I like it better than what the recipe called for, or I want to try something different.

  • Cornstarch.
    CornstarchIt seems that more and more folks are either needing or wanting to avoid gluten in their food. Here’s an easy trick for those recipes that call for flour and butter to thicken a soup or stew.
    It’s just this simple to make it gluten-free:
    Butter + Flour = Cornstarch + Water
  • Liquid SmokeLiquid smoke. 
    In the winter when the weather isn’t cooperating with grilling, use some liquid smoke for that “home bbq’d” feel. Of course the real thing is better, but when you need some ‘Que and you just can’t break out the grill, give in on the liquid smoke. Use just a little. Shhhh, it’ll be our little secret.
  • Portabello MushroomPortabello Mushrooms.
    Want to go meatless at a meal, but you’re not feeling ‘fishy’? Try replacing the meat in your recipe with portabello mushroom. It tastes good, it’s sometimes cheaper than the meat you’d otherwise use, and it has a good meaty texture that won’t change the whole feel of your recipe. Plus it will please your vegetarian friends!
  • cauliflowerCauliflower.
    There are so many ways to use cauliflower that many people never consider! I sometimes like to grate and steam cauliflower a bit to serve instead of rice. It’s paleo-friendly and delicious.  Try boiling and mashing cauliflower and serving in place of mashed potatoes. It’s a 1:1 ratio for your potatoes. You’ll find that it’s a healthier option than potatoes, just not always a cheaper one. And in a pinch, I replace the chickpeas in my hummus
    with cauliflower.  Get creative with your cauli!
  • Greek YogurtGreek Yogurt.
    I like to substitute real Greek yogurt when a recipe calls for mayonnaise. It’s a healthier option, but I know it’s not a cheaper option. The price is starting to come down on it as more Greek yogurt options hit the market.  In the meantime, if it’s not in your budget to completely substitute, consider doing a half-and-half mixture of yogurt and mayo. You could use plain yogurt, but it’s not as thick and it may affect your recipe. Another option to try is hummus. Depending on your recipe, replacing the mayo with hummus is sometimes a delicious option – I like doing that with deviled eggs!

  • FlourCoconut flour or almond flour.
    I often replace my regular all-purpose flour with coconut or almond flour. It has more protein, but no gluten. These flours can be a bit more expensive, but they offer a subtle flavor that you don’t get with regular flour. You can use a 1:1 ratio with the almond flour, but you may want to use a bit less with the coconut flour than your recipe calls for.

These are substitutions that I use frequently.
What are your go-to food substitutions?


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