HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Are you making a specialty food? Tell us about it

What Ingredients Have You Substituted That Was Better?

Cherylptw Jan 4, 2010 06:14 PM

Last week, when making potato salad, I realized I didn't have enough mayo & I was out of onions. I also couldn't find the pickle relish I know I bought (and have since found). I didn't have time to run out to the store so I'm looking around the pantry & fridge for something to help make the potato salad a little creamier to take the place of the shortage of mayo. I came across the sour cream so I added a few heaping tablespoons. That worked but it still needed pickles & onions...I had an unopened bottle of of Thousand Island dressing in the pantry (I never use the stuff & think someone gave it to me) so I add a good amount of that and added a few tablespoons of spicy chow chow that was in the fridge.

I mixed the potato salad up and tasted it....I think it was the best I ever made; it's going to be my new recipe. What have you made that you've had to substitute or improvise that you thought was better than the original? Have you made a change that was not for the better?

  1. t
    thursday Jan 4, 2010 08:52 PM

    I can't think of any that were particularly drastic in terms of becoming a whole new recipe, but I did experiment with low-fat substitutions a few years ago for health reasons and found that yogurt in place of oil in breads like pumpkin, banana, zucchini (ones that already have natural 'moisteners') made the bread taste richer and less greasy, and evaporated skim milk in place of half in half or cream in almost anything makes it taste 'cleaner.' Something like creme brulee, of course, I don't substitute out the cream, but otherwise, I can't even eat store-bought breads or cream soups in restaurants anymore because they all taste greasy or like there's a film on my palette.

    28 Replies
    1. re: thursday
      Cherylptw Jan 5, 2010 07:23 AM

      I'd love to find a acceptable substitute for heavy cream for making creme brulee or for melting chocolate for dipping

      1. re: Cherylptw
        HillJ Jan 5, 2010 08:04 AM

        Substituting evaporated lowfat or fatfree milk for heavy cream works in a lot of recipes, including ganache.

        You can also whip it and sweeten it to use as whipped cream, but it won't hold--goes flat in about 40 minutes.

        Heavy cream subs because of calories or fat content is hard to replace w/out sub'ing another nearly as fatty ingred ie: milk & butter but depending on the recipe can be lightened using half n half, lowfat canned milks or yogurt.

        My fav sub in baking is to use fruit puree in place of oil, eggs or butter depending on the recipe. Black bean brownies were surprisingly good. Grated veggies in tea breads or grated pears even replaced oil, butter and one egg in a recent recipe that really wowed my family.

        1. re: Cherylptw
          goodhealthgourmet Jan 5, 2010 11:56 AM

          as HillJ said, evaporated low fat or skim milk is great for ganache - i do it all the time.

          for the creme brulee, you can use 2% milk and egg substitute...or fat free evaporated milk, a couple of egg yolks, and cornstarch.

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet
            buttertart Jan 5, 2010 12:28 PM

            I would never have thought of evap milk for ganache - good to know!

            1. re: buttertart
              Cherylptw Jan 5, 2010 01:21 PM

              Me either; I always felt that it had to be full fat heavy cream to keep it from separating...

              1. re: Cherylptw
                buttertart Jan 6, 2010 05:38 AM

                I like to use ganache whipped, wonder if it would whip with milk in it. Hmm.

                1. re: buttertart
                  Cherylptw Jan 6, 2010 07:57 AM

                  I've had experiences with ganache seizing up when using milk so that's why I'm surprised with the evaporated, but then again, most of the water is taken out of evaporated thus making it creamier in theory.

                  1. re: Cherylptw
                    mcf Jan 6, 2010 10:34 AM

                    I always use full fat everything, and in key lime or pumpkin pie, I substitute heavy cream for evaporated or skim milk. I also substitute almond flour for cookie crumbs in crusts. Toasted almond flour makes a delicious crumb crust.


            2. re: goodhealthgourmet
              Caitlin McGrath Jan 5, 2010 12:51 PM

              I'm very intrigued to hear about the evaporate milk ganache, as that wouldn't have occurred to me.

              A caveat about the creme brulee subs is that custards made with low-fat or nonfat milk, and/or with egg substitute/egg whites in place of whole eggs or yolks, can have quite a different texture than their full-fat counterparts: not so creamy, "tighter," and can be tough. I don't think twice about using the low-fat choices in bread pudding, pumpkin or sweet potato pie, and so on, but I probably wouldn't for creme brulee.

              1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                HillJ Jan 5, 2010 12:55 PM

                I agree CMcG, subs are possible but results can be so completely diff that the dessert just isn't the same. Creme brulee is a classic and a classic example of limited sub options to attain that classic taste. However, if you take the essence of a creme brulee and bring it to a low fat ice cream or french toast recipe, subs work.

                1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                  goodhealthgourmet Jan 5, 2010 01:45 PM

                  oh, i didn't say i'd *recommend* using low fat subs in creme brulée...i was just clarifying that it's possible ;)

                  re: the evaporated milk ganache, there's nothing to it. just swap out the heavy cream. believe it or not i've done it with fat free evaporated milk more than once, and it stays relatively thick & glossy and works really well.

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                    Cherylptw Jan 5, 2010 02:33 PM

                    I will have to try that..thanks for the tip!

                2. re: goodhealthgourmet
                  HillJ Jan 5, 2010 12:56 PM

                  ghg, have you ever tried a soy or almond milk or a coconut milk sub in ganache?

                  1. re: HillJ
                    goodhealthgourmet Jan 5, 2010 01:40 PM

                    never have. i can't eat soy, i suspect almond milk would separate, and i'm not big into coconut, so i never bothered to try that one but i have heard that it works....i suspect soy would work too, though it might be a bit grainy.

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                      HillJ Jan 5, 2010 01:47 PM

                      I'm going to experiment next time I dive into truffles. Play around with the liquids.

                      1. re: HillJ
                        goodhealthgourmet Jan 5, 2010 01:53 PM

                        ooh, fun :) please report back after you do!

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                          HillJ Jan 5, 2010 01:55 PM

                          Will do. Valentine's Day lineup..

                        2. re: HillJ
                          cheesecake17 Jan 5, 2010 04:06 PM

                          a friend made truffles with coconut milk.. she rolled them in shredded coconut. her guests loved them

                          1. re: cheesecake17
                            HillJ Jan 5, 2010 04:12 PM

                            Right up my alley cheesecake17! I want to try a s'more truffle and an almond joy truffle next week. My son asked for a lime & coconut truffle and I've purchased a variety of coconut milks, powders and gels to get me started...we'll see. Thank you for the reply!

                            1. re: HillJ
                              cheesecake17 Jan 5, 2010 04:19 PM

                              oooh lime and coconut truffles sounds amazing!!

                              my husband's aunt makes this AMAZING almond joy truffle tart.. but she won't give out the recipe!!

                              1. re: cheesecake17
                                HillJ Jan 5, 2010 04:26 PM


                                These are the recipes I'm playing with for an almond joy truffle and coconut lime truffles. An almond joy truffle cake sounds heavenly too...no sharing, what kind of friend (wink) doesn't share :


                                and for good measure, this truffle is absolutely delicious:

                                1. re: HillJ
                                  goodhealthgourmet Jan 5, 2010 04:46 PM

                                  yes, yes, yes on the chocolate with lime, but since i'm not a coconut fan, these are more up my alley...


                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                    HillJ Jan 5, 2010 05:19 PM

                                    Oh good heavens, great link! Adding to my checklist. creme fraiche and honey always gets my attention.

                                    1. re: HillJ
                                      goodhealthgourmet Jan 5, 2010 05:44 PM

                                      don't forget to dehydrate and pulverize/powder some limes (or any other citrus you may use) for dusting the truffles!

                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                        HillJ Jan 5, 2010 06:26 PM

                                        ah dusting is a whole 'nother matter. So many choices.

                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                          Cherylptw Jan 5, 2010 07:54 PM

                                          By the way, I dried some limes and can grind some at the ready for recipes; thanks for the suggestion!

                                          1. re: Cherylptw
                                            goodhealthgourmet Jan 6, 2010 09:13 AM

                                            terrific! you'll be amazed at what it does for the flavor. and of course when used for dusting it looks pretty :)

                      2. re: goodhealthgourmet
                        lilaki Jan 5, 2010 05:39 PM

                        that is amazing!!! i've never thought of subbing the cream with evap milk! thanks!!

                  2. tatertot Jan 5, 2010 02:44 PM

                    I substitute coconut milk for milk or cream for my vegan friends. It worked really well for the sweet potato casserole and corn pudding I made for Thanksgiving. It really bumped up the flavor. I used to use rice milk but that gave some recipes an unsavory gray color.

                    1. o
                      ola Jan 5, 2010 03:05 PM

                      Had a mojito made with basil instead of mint. Wonderful.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: ola
                        Cherylptw Jan 5, 2010 05:00 PM

                        Now, that sounds delicious; going to have to give that a try...

                      2. free sample addict aka Tracy L Jan 5, 2010 06:10 PM

                        For some unknown reason my market didn't carry canned chipotles, this is California after all. Anyway, I substituted Chipotle hot sauce for 1/4 of a canned pepper in a soup. I was originally skeptical but it worked great. I've overdone it with the peppers and the adobo sauce before, now I have control. It's now my favorite condiment. Oddly enough I discovered the convenience store on the corner has canned chipotles.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L
                          cheesecake17 Jan 6, 2010 10:13 AM

                          I use chipotle Mrs Dash on roasted potatoes. My husband loves it

                        2. maplesugar Jan 6, 2010 09:16 AM

                          I discovered the same thing about cold salads, I often use sour cream, yogurt, and even tzatziki both for a nice change and as of the last two, a lot less calories than hellman's.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: maplesugar
                            Cherylptw Jan 6, 2010 10:44 AM

                            I'll bet the tzatziki would make a delicious dressing for a greek pasta salad...feta, onions, etc. sounds good!

                          2. i
                            isadorasmama Jan 6, 2010 10:28 AM

                            Maybe not better, but different and good.
                            I was off mayo (actually I was off a lot of things, trying to figure out sensitivities) a few years back and subbed tahini for mayo in my tuna salad. It was a nice change and I didn't miss the mayo at all. I also like tuna salad with just some EVOO, lemon juice, fresh herbs, S&P...maybe a little pickle relish.

                            Show Hidden Posts