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"They’re Cheaper And I Really Can't Tell The Difference": People Are Sharing The Ingredient Swaps They Make All The Time When Cooking At Home

You know how it goes: You're cooking dinner, only to realize you're missing an ingredient. It happens to the best of us. Well, luckily, there are plenty of tasty and creative recipe swaps and substitutions that work just as well — if not better.

Stirring risotto in a pan
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So redditor u/jnwiggs1 asked, "What ingredient do you normally replace in your recipes?" And lots of home cooks chimed in with their advice.

(Some responses also come from this post.)

1."I use canned tomatoes all the time unless I can get good, fresh ones that are local and in season."

Making Bolognese sauce
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2."Depending on what I'm making, I will often replace liquids with other liquids. For example, instead of water, I will use stock. Or instead of stock, I might use wine (or vice versa). If all I have is water, I'll use that then, and I'll up the flavor elsewhere."

Preparing quinoa in a cooking pot on a stove
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3."I live in Singapore, where it's almost impossible to get all those peppers — serranos, pimentos, Anaheim, banana — you just can't find them. I always just use generic green chile peppers or jalapeños."

Slicing pepper for guacamole
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4."I find that guanciale (pork jowl) is impossible to procure for a reasonable price, so I just use bacon or pancetta in its place."

Spaghetti carbonara
Gianfranco Carraca / Getty Images

5."I use green onions instead of chives. They’re cheaper, and I can’t really tell the difference. Plus, I usually have a jar of them growing in my kitchen."

Étouffée with green onions
Lara Hata / Getty Images

6."I always swap out Italian bread crumbs for panko. IMO, panko is superior in almost every way."

Salmon coated with panko
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7."I replace unsalted butter with salted butter, even when I'm baking. I like the extra salt, especially in desserts because it balances out the sweetness."

Slicing butter for baking
Miniseries / Getty Images

8."Oils and vinegars. I already have five kinds of vinegar on hand, and I’ll be damned if I’m going out to get yet another just for this one recipe."

Pouring vinegar into soy sauce
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9."I replace water with black coffee for pretty much any chocolate baked goods I'm making from boxed mix."

Brownie mix being prepared with whisk
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10."I replace shallots with onions 99% of the time. Shallots are so expensive! And sure, they do elevate a dish, but I don’t bother with them unless I’m making something ✨fancy✨."

Golden sautéed onions in a pan
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11."I use coconut milk in any recipe that calls for heavy cream. I find that coconut milk imparts the perfect creaminess without altering the flavor too much."

Making coconut milk curry
Marc Dufresne / Getty Images

12."I often replace sour cream or mayonnaise with Greek yogurt in things like tuna or chicken salad. It’s not for health reasons or anything. I just love the tanginess that Greek yogurt adds to a dish."

Chicken salad on lettuce
Rob Castro / Getty Images

13."I use Worcestershire sauce in dishes that call for fish sauce and vice versa. For example, I use fish sauce in tomato-based pasta sauces, and Worcestershire sauce in Southeast Asian dishes."

Pouring soy sauce onto sautéed cauliflower
Dukai Photographer / Getty Images

14."I never buy brown sugar. Instead, I just add molasses to white sugar. This allows me to easily control the darkness of the sugar."

Baking mini apple pies
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15."Celery is the real devil's lettuce. I always replace it with diced green bell pepper whenever a recipe calls for it."

Dicing green bell pepper
Ciara Kimsey / Getty Images/iStockphoto

16."I usually use croutons, soup crackers, or crushed-up Ritz crackers instead of bread crumbs. Recently, I used croutons to bread Parmesan chicken, and the result was amazing."

Homemade bread crumbs with herbs

17."I never keep buttermilk in my fridge, but I almost always have heavy cream. I just mix a cup of heavy cream with 1 teaspoon of vinegar, then I wait 15 minutes, and voilà: a perfect buttermilk substitute."

Pouring buttermilk into flour and egg
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18."I use sunflower seeds as a cheaper alternative to pine nuts when making homemade pesto. They're about one-fourth the cost but a similar texture."

Making pesto with pine nuts and basil
Funwithfood / Getty Images

19."When baking, I'll sometimes replace an egg with a mashed banana. The final product is more moist and has a subtle, natural sweetness. Plus, you can eat as much of the raw dough or batter as you want!"

Mashing banana in a bowl
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20."I use creamy Italian dressing instead of mayo. Try it when you're making a BLT sandwich. It's next level."

A hand holding a BLT sandwich
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21."If I'm making a meal like chicken piccata or pasta puttanesca that calls for capers in the ingredients but I don't have them on hand, I'll finely chop up green olives (like Castelvetrano or Manzanilla). Or I'll substitute finely chopped dill or cornichon pickles. All three give a dish the same salty, flavor-packed punch."

Bell pepper peperonata with capers and black olives
Antonio Busiello / Getty Images

22."When a recipe calls for tahini but I don't have any in my kitchen, I often use peanut butter in its place. While peanut butter is common in Thai and Asian cooking, you'll often see tahini in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern recipes. Both taste nutty and creamy and can be used more or less interchangeably if you only have one to make sauces, marinades, curries, and even soups."

Thai peanut noodles
Ezumeimages / Getty Images/iStockphoto

23."I personally hate green bell peppers, so I replace them with poblanos. They taste a lot better and don't have any noticeable heat."

Tacos with poblano peppers
Carlosrojas20 / Getty Images/iStockphoto

24."Try using coconut milk instead of water or broth when cooking rice. It makes the rice taste amazing, especially when you're using it for stir-fries and other rice-based dishes."

Coconut rice in a sieve
Cavan Images / Getty Images/Cavan Images RF

25."A lot of Japanese recipes tend to call for both mirin and sugar, but I don't like too much sweetness in my savory dishes. I usually just substitute sake for both of them and call it a day."

Chicken teriyaki over rice in a bowl
Penpak Ngamsathain / Getty Images

26."I use half-and-half and skim milk for pretty much any dairy product that a recipe might call for. Keeping a half dozen different liquid dairy products is annoying. Between half-and-half and skim milk, the two options pretty much cover my needs."

Someone making mashed potatoes
Elizabeth Watt / Getty Images

What's an ingredient substitution or recipe swap you use all the time in your home cooking? Tell us in the comments!

Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.