HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Missing ONE ingredient

Don'tcha just hate it when you're all set to make something or the mood suddenly strikes you and you realize you're missing one simple ingredient for which there is no substitution. :<(

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. There's ALWAYS a substitution...or one can just leave it out.

    Now that I've said that, let the debate begin!

    3 Replies
    1. re: ttoommyy

      Made a pumpkin pie once and didn't realize I didn't have ground cloves. Worst pie ever!

      1. re: Babyducks

        Really? I guess it just has to do with personal taste. I can take or leave cloves. I think I wouid be fine with a pumpkin pie that had just cinnamon, ground ginger and nutmeg.

        1. re: ttoommyy

          I didn't think it would make that much difference either, however the pie just tasted flat.

    2. Depends if you can get by without it. Sometimes yes and sometimes no

      1. It really depends on the dish but there is rarely things I don't make because I am missing one thing.

        Unless it was flour and I was making bread I can usually make do.

        Why not tell us the dish and what you are missing as a challenge?

        1. Yes, I do hate that. And sometimes it is something that you really HAVE to have. Like ...

          Shortbread cookies - but no butter in house
          Beef Stew - but no onions in the house (or garlic)
          Chili - but you're out of chili powder

          This is why I love having a big freezer, but even so, it doesn't work for everything. I mean, I can be craving a spinach salad and that freezer isn't going to help me have spinach on hand (at least not spinach that I'd put in a salad).

          1. Turmeric when I am making a curry.

            Tarragon when I am cooking fish.

            And for me, there are no substitutes for bacon and butter.

            1. I'm a lucky duck in that a Super Target is about 2 minutes from my abode. If I'm missing something, I'll just go grab it or a substitute.

              1 Reply
              1. re: alliegator

                Yeah, there's a store close by. It's still a bit of a pain, but not a menu-scrapper.

              2. Isn't that what neighbors are for? Not to borrow 5 lbs of potatoes or a porterhouse steak, but if it's just an onion or a stick of butter, I'd borrow one from a neighbor.

                (Growing up it seemed like we were always 1 egg short when we went to bake cookies. The neighbor who typically loaned us the egg was repaid with interest -- i.e., not just the return of the egg, but also some of the cookies.)

                7 Replies
                1. re: masha

                  Right. Fortunately, we live in a neighborhood where this marker of civil society remains intact.

                  1. re: masha

                    I'll use this method, too. I'm in a condo complex where everyone knows everyone because we're thisclosetoeachother. I tend to be fresh herb central because it's plain to see on my terrace. But a bottle of good beer gets you a handful of whatever you need.

                    1. re: alliegator

                      I hate it when I think I have all the ingredients to make something great, but then discover that the herb(s) called for are dried up or soggy in my fridge, or the last onion in the house looks good from the outside but is mush inside. On the weekend I was all set to make a West African chicken stew with peanut butter. I opened up my jar of roasted, unsalted peanuts that I had been storing in the fridge. They smelled rancid. Had to run out for fresh peanuts. Grrr. The most annoying thing was that once the meal was cooked, the chopped peanuts as garnish were totally unnecessary. The stew on its own had great eye appeal. Yes, the garnish was pretty, but made no difference in taste.

                      1. re: 1sweetpea

                        "The most annoying thing was that once the meal was cooked, the chopped peanuts as garnish were totally unnecessary. The stew on its own had great eye appeal. Yes, the garnish was pretty, but made no difference in taste."

                        Which is exactly why unless it is an integral part of a dish (no flour and I am making a cake or no ground beef and I want a beef hamburger, for example) I don't fret. I just either substitute something similar or leave it out all together.

                        1. re: 1sweetpea

                          Hmmm, I'm intrigued by the chicken stew, please tell me more :)
                          I grow the herbs for that simple reason. When you need them, they've turned to sludge. I'm really into Thai and Vietnamese cooking. The herbs are not so much garnish, but part of the recipe. And the terrace jungle was born. I live in Texas, so the climate is ideal. No peanuts out there, though :)

                        2. re: alliegator

                          Usually there's a substitute. But if not I've got great neighbors and a few stores down the street. I'm a very big list maker and menu planner so I usually have what I need.

                        3. No, because if it's a simple ingredient, I'll dash over to the supermarket to get it.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: GH1618

                            Today I wanted to make a savory cheesecake (see Giada's red pepper cheesecake). Wouldn't ya know it, I'm out of eggs, which never happens, but I didn't pass my egg lady's house this weekend. Neighbors are not close by and the nearest grocery store is about 5 miles.

                            1. re: Scoutmaster

                              The less convenient the shopping, the more important the planning. I try never to run out of my preferred brand of eggs myself, but sometimes it happens. Worse things can happen is my outlook.

                          2. Cilantro. If I am out of cilantro, my Mexican-ish dishes just don't have the right oomph. So, it's go to the store (which is only a 5 minute drive), or make something else.
                            Or send the hubster, who loves running errands (bless his heart).

                            1. I'm quite often one egg short, and this usually happens on one of those nights where I just get the urge to bake something. I live in an isolated area, the local shop is closed by 8 and it's a little late to be bothering neighbours. So I substitute, and so far without any poor results.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Musie

                                I would have no idea how to substitute for an egg in a baked good! That's very impressive to me. What do you do?

                                1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                  Depends on what kind of baked good, but for muffins I just add a little more liquid and a little more fat to replace 1 of the 2 eggs (an egg is about 2 oz of liquid).

                              2. Missing one (well, part of one) ingredient was how I 'invented' my favourite cookies. Didn't have as much peanut butter as called for in the recipe for peanut butter cookies, so added some extra butter and a package of chopped peanuts.

                                Now I add the full pb amount AND the chopped peanuts and choc chunks.

                                1. If I'm making 'BB' and I forgot to pick up the chuck I don't think I'd bother. It's a matter of how important the ingredient is to the dish right? No white pepper?

                                  1. I know this feeling well:

                                    I had cleaned out the spice cabinet ditching stuff that hadn’t been used and realized that both my baking powder and baking soda were kinda old and tossed them too.
                                    Forgot to replace them at my next shopping trip
                                    Then promised my daughter blueberry muffins for her birthday
                                    Ya… I don’t have a recipe for muffins with out EITHER baking soda or baking powder… so off to the store I went
                                    (not my idea of a relaxing Sunday morning)

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: cgarner

                                      I recently tossed my baking powder and soda. Was planning to make a cake, realized I didn't have any. Ran to the store, didn't but either one in the basket till husband called and asked if I bought everything on the list!

                                      1. re: cgarner

                                        Just for future reference (not that this will ever happen again), they do exist---look up kosher for passover muffins. Lots of eggs, and of course you could use regular flour instead of cake meal and potato starch. They are pretty heavy, though.

                                      2. This happens to me all the time with spices I swore I had, but never seem to be there when I go to add them to the dish. In those instances, I'm the queen of finding some substitution and that may well mean changing the flavor profile of the dish, but it often makes for "I will never not add this new spice again!" discoveries.

                                        It has also led to me grabbing apples and making a quick applesauce to use in place of the butter I thought we had but didn't for a sweet bread I was baking.

                                        I think I'm with ttoommyy, there's alwys a substitution. Except I don't always know what that is....

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                          When we were starving student newlyweds, our food budget was maximum of $10 a week (decades ago, mid-70s). OFTEN didn't have the $$ for basic ingredients, so I improvised, too. Now I laugh that 1/2 of the recipes I tried never got a fair trial 'cause no way they tasted the way they were supposed to!

                                        2. In college, I had a roommate who had the habit of raiding my egg carton and leaving a dime in the egg's place, so that when I wanted to make a cake or something, I wouldn't have the proper number of eggs, but I did have a nice bright shiny dime that did absolutely nothing for me. Coupled w/ classes and exams, this was just about enough to make me homicidal, and she never understood why I got so mad about it. Needless to say, the arrangement didn't last.

                                          4 Replies
                                            1. re: mamachef

                                              Or a husband who puts away a mostly empty egg carton. I like to cut away the empty sections so I know what's left. He, apparently, doesn't.

                                              1. re: cheesecake17

                                                The Khantessa does that. Dashed clever of her.

                                              2. re: mamachef

                                                I deeply admire the fact that you didn't take out any revenge on this blatant pilferer. On my last day in that apartment, I probably would have taken a dozen eggs into her room and launched them at whatever struck my fancy.

                                              3. Just this week I started to make stroganoff, and realized I was out of tarragon, which to me is an integral part of the flavor. I ended up substituting thyme, which wasn't bad. Then I realized I was out of egg noodles, and ended up serving it over elbow macaroni.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: JonParker

                                                  Oy. It's just amazing when this stuff happens, especially when it involves something you didn't buy "because you knew you had some." I did this not long ago, getting my julienne on and chopping away for a pan of fried noodles, and lo and behold I had no noodles, and no rice either. I know it doesn't seem possible, but it happened.'

                                                2. Reading the thread on what to spread on toast I was glad i was out of one key ingredient because I had many of the rest and the evening would have turned into a long slow delicious end to my new years resolutions. Alas, I was out of bread.

                                                  There are times I think this website should come with a warning label from the surgeon general's office.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                    I tried reading it over my lunch hour so that I'd already be eating. Didn't help, just made me want to have an all day lunch.

                                                  2. yes I do hate that and it happens all too often to me.
                                                    no cake flour (and I'm making a cake)
                                                    no cream of tartar (and I'm making frosting for sugar cookies)
                                                    no baking powder (and I wanted to make biscuits)
                                                    no baking soda (and I'm making ginger snaps)
                                                    no ground nutmeg (only have whole with no rasp for gnocchi)
                                                    no cilantro (Asian meal)
                                                    no cumin (how can that even be possible?)