baking substitutions
Via Our Food Stories

You’re mid-way through a recipe and guess what! You’re out of a crucial ingredient. But never fear - there’s probably something in your pantry you can use as a substitute.

In this post, we’re going to look at common baking ingredient substitutions for flours, liquids, leaveners, and fats. You can use these substitutions for recipes like cookies, muffins, cakes, breads, and pies.

Baking Substitutions for Flour

Below we list cup-for-cup substitutions for All-Purpose Flour, Bread Flour, Cake Flour, and Whole Wheat Flour. Because each flour has a different protein content, substituting one for another will affect the final texture and crumb of the item you’re baking.

For best results when substituting flours, weight your ingredients using a kitchen scale. Different flours and different brands of flour have different densities, which vary from brand to brand, so a cup of one flour can be a little heavier or lighter than another - which is why weighing ingredients is more accurate.

Substituting Bread Flour with All-Purpose Flour

1 cup Bread Flour = 1 cup All-Purpose Flour

All-Purpose Flour has a lower protein content than bread flour, so doughs utilizing it will have less gluten development. Your bread will be more tender, not rise as much, and have a softer crust.

Substituting All-Purpose Flour with Bread Flour

1 cup All-Purpose Flour = 1 cup Bread Flour

Because Bread Flour has a higher protein content than All-Purpose, your dough will have more gluten development. In bread recipes, this means your loaf will have a chewier crumb and crispier crust. But muffins, cookies, and pie crusts made with Bread Flour will be a little tougher and chewier.

To help with the texture differences, make sure to mix your dough as little as possible, since mixing develops gluten and makes baked goods tough.

Substituting Cake Flour with All-Purpose Flour

1 cup Cake Flour = ⅞ cup All-Purpose Flour + 2 Tbs Cornstarch

Cake Flour has a lower protein content than All-Purpose Flour, which is why this substitution includes the addition of cornstarch. While you can substitute these flours cup-for-cup (without the cornstarch), your cakes will be a little tougher and have a heavier crumb if using All-Purpose Flour alone.

Substituting All-Purpose Flour with Whole Wheat Flour

1 cup All-Purpose Flour = ½ cup Whole Wheat Flour + ½ cup All-Purpose Flour

Because Whole Wheat Flour contains the entire wheat grain, it has a prominent nutty flavor and produces baked goods with a heavier texture.

While you can substitute an equal weight of Whole Wheat Flour for All-Purpose Flour in a recipe, we’ve had the best results with replacing just half of the flour with Whole Wheat. You get the benefit of the airy texture of white flour, with the hearty flavor and superior nutritional content of Whole Wheat Flour.

Baking Substitutions for Liquids

Liquids add fat, moisture, and flavor to baked goods. As with flour, the easiest way to substitute liquids is by weight, rather than cup.

Substituting yogurt, milk, and sour cream

1 cup yogurt = 1 cup milk = 1 cup sour cream

Because of their similar fat and water contents, you can use an equal amount of yogurt, milk, or sour cream in baking. While yogurt and sour cream have a stronger flavor than milk, their subtle tang is tempered by other ingredients (like flour and sugar) in the recipe.

Substituting milk with almond milk (or other non-dairy milks)

1 cup milk = 1 cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)

Almond milk is an easy dairy-free substitution for cow’s milk.. You can also use an equal amount of other non-dairy milks - for example, cashew or soy - as milk replacements.

Substituting buttermilk with milk or almond milk

1 cup buttermilk = 1 cup milk + 1 tsp vinegar

1 cup buttermilk = 1 cup almond milk + 1 tsp vinegar

Mixing milk or almond milk with vinegar is an easy way to replicate the tangy flavor of buttermilk.

Baking Substitutions for Leaveners

leavener baking substitutions
Via Raquel Carmona Romero

Substituting active dry yeast with instant yeast

1 tbs active dry yeast = 1 Tbs instant yeast

Instant yeast and active dry yeast can be used in equal measure. Just remember that because active dry yeast granules are lager, your dough will have a longer rise time than using instant yeast. Similarly, recipes that use active dry instead of instant yeast will rise more quickly.

Substituting baking soda with baking powder

1 tsp baking soda = 2 to 3 tsp baking powder (but ONLY do this if you’re really in a bind)

Because baking soda and baking powder work very differently, only use this substitution in an emergency. Baking soda works by reacting with acidic ingredients in a batter (like buttermilk or molasses) and producing gas bubbles, which “leaven” the product.

Baking powder is a mixture of two different acids - one that produces gas bubbles when it gets wet, and another that produces gas bubbles when it gets hot (which is why baking powder is marketed as “Double Acting”). Because baking powder is less potent than baking soda, you’ll need to use two to three times the amount in your recipe.

Substituting baking powder with baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder = 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (ONLY use this substitution if you have something acidic in your recipe)

Baking soda is an alkaline ingredient that leavens baked goods by reacting to an acid. If a recipe doesn’t have an acidic ingredient to react with the baking soda, your baked good will taste soapy. So ONLY use this substitution if you have an acidic ingredient in the recipe - like yogurt, vinegar, lemon juice, buttermilk, or molasses.

Baking Substitutions for Fats

Substituting Vegan butter or shortening for butter

1 cup Vegan butter = 1 cup shortening = 1 cup butter

You can use an equal measure of Vegan butter, shortening, or even margarine as a substitute for butter. Just remember that each fat brings different qualities to a recipe. Shortening has a more neutral flavor than butter or Vegan butter, so it’s a good option when you want other flavors to shine through.

Shortening also stays stable at a larger range of temperatures than butter - which means your cookies will spread less, and your pie crust will hold a better shape. Vegan butters often have flavorings that mimic butter, so it’s a great option for dairy-free cookies, brownies, and muffins.

Substituting butter with oil

1 cup butter = ¾ cup oil

Because oil is a liquid fat and butter is solid at room temperature, you can’t do a one to one substitution without altering the liquid content of your recipe. Using oil to replace butter will result in a coarser texture and moister crumb.

Oil also has a more neutral flavor than butter, so it can be nice to use in lightly flavored baked goods - like a lemon muffin or carrot cake.

Substituting oil with butter

1 cup oil = 1 cup melted butter

Substituting melted butter for oil is an easy way to play around with textures and flavors in your baked goods. Remember that butter has a distinctive flavor, which will bring a different element to your baking. Try substituting melted butter for oil in your favorite brownie recipe - you’ll see a difference!

Substituting safflower oil or vegetable oil with canola oil

1 cup safflower/vegetable oil = 1 cup canola oil

Oils with neutral flavor profiles - like canola, safflower, or vegetable oil, can be used interchangeably in recipes.

Substituting olive oil with canola oil

1 cup olive oil = 1 cup canola oil (but keep in mind the flavor difference)

Unlike canola oil, olive oil has a very distinctive flavor that will change the way your baked goods taste. While they play the same chemical function in a batter (providing fat and moisture), the strong flavor of olive oil means it won’t work in every recipe.

Try using olive oil in citrus desserts - like cakes or muffins - where the two flavors complement each other.

We hope this makes those baking days when you run out of an ingredient a little easier! And if you want to leave the baking to us, check out our great selection of mail order cookies, mail order pies, and vegan desserts.

About the author, Jenna Huntsberger
Originally from Eugene, Oregon, Jenna moved to DC in 2005 to work in nonprofit communications. After deciding her real passion was pastry, she founded Whisked! in 2011, selling baked goods at a local farmer's market. Today, Whisked! cookies and pies are carried in more than 100 retail locations, and have been featured in publications like the Washington Post, Washington City Paper, and NPR.

Written by Jenna Huntsberger