From Scratch: Homemade Substitutes

April 5, 2012

baking powder nut flour
Photos by Sarah Shatz

We've all been here: halfway through a new recipe, you realize the flour called for is cake not all-purpose, or that the milk needed is buttermilk instead of whole. On the cusp of a serious baking weekend with both Easter and Passover presiding, we're offering up several homemade substitutions that promise to get you out of a bind without leaving the kitchen. 

Almond Flour or Meal

  • Process whole, blanched almonds (skin removed) into a fine powder in a food processor.
  • To make almond meal, go through the same process, but leave the skins on for added texture.

Baking Powder

  • Combine 2 tablespoons cream of tartar, 1 tablespoon baking soda, and 1 tablespoon cornstarch.

Brown Sugar

  • For light brown sugar, combine 1 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon molasses and mix well.
  • For dark brown sugar use 2 tablespoons molasses instead.


  • Combine 1 cup milk and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
  • Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes (it will thicken), then stir and use as directed.

Cake Flour

  • For each cup of cake flour, take 1 cup all-purpose flour and replace 2 tablespoons of the flour with 2 tablespoons cornstarch.

Condensed Milk

  • In a blender, combine 1 cup boiling water, 2 cups sugar, and 1/2 cup butter. Blend thoroughly, then add 4 cups nonfat dry milk powder 1 cup at a time until incorporated (stop at 3 cups for a thinner consistency).

Food Coloring
Extract color from the following ingredients by processing in a juicer, blender, or food processer. If you use a blender or food processor, strain out solids with a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth.

  • Pink and red: beets, red currants, red berries, or pomegranate juice
  • Yellow: turmeric, yellow beets, yellow bell pepper
  • Green: matcha (green tea) powder, kale, spinach, green bell pepper
  • Blue and purple: blueberries, blackberries, purple grapes, red cabbage

Powdered Sugar

  • Pulverize 1 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon cornstarch in a food processor or blender for 1-2 minutes.
  • Sift thoroughly using a fine mesh sieve to ensure powdered sugar is free of granulated sugar.

Quick-Cooking Oats

  • Briefly zap regular rolled (old-fashioned) oats in a food processor. Process with just a few short bursts or you'll wind up with instant oats!

Self-Rising Flour

  • Combine 1 cup flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Still in a bind? Consult the FOOD52 and Whole Foods Market Cooking communities in one go using Foodpickle, our real-time food Q&A!

What homemade substitutions do you rely on? Share your quick-thinking tips and techniques in the comments section below.

Like this post? See last week's From Scratch topic: Chocolate 101.

2 Comments Add a Comment
  • Molly1bw

    molly's kitchen says: These are great questions, Jan! The difference between cream and milk is fat content -- so if you're in a pinch, you can add melted butter to milk (2/3 cup whole milk and 1/3 cup butter for 1 cup cream) to achieve a cream-like consistency and fat content though this won't produce whipped cream. Yogurt is a great substitute for mayonnaise if you're searching for a lower fat option. Vinegar can certainly stand in for lemon juice to create buttermilk. Replacing milk with yogurt in baking recipes can be tricky as you will need to compensate for both the thickness and acidity of the yogurt. For each cup of yogurt used to replace milk, reduce the amount of baking powder by 2 teaspoons, and add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to the recipe. You may also need to reduce the amount of butter or oil in the recipe if substituting yogurt. Look for powdered or pasteurized egg whites to replace raw egg whites in recipes. Hope this helps!

    over 2 years ago Reply to this »
  • Missing_avatar

    Jan Dash says: more useful substitutes would be how to make cream from milk and what to substitute for mayonaise. Can you use vinegar instead of lemon juice for souring milk? When can you replace milk with yogurt? How can I replace raw egg whites in a recipe? (I don't want to eat raw eggs)

    over 2 years ago Reply to this »

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