Color Me Impressed: 10 DIY Baking Substitutions

You decide to bake the cookies for your daughter’s class party at 10pm only to realize you're out of brown sugar. Before you throw the half-used bag of white sugar out the kitchen window take a breath, we can help. Cooking blog Cooking in Stilettos explains how you can make brown sugar by mixing some of 8 pounds of white sugar you have on-hand and molasses. That is, of course, if you happen to have molasses. Speaking of sticky situations (pun intended), below is a list of common baking ingredients and substitutes that will work in a pinch.

messy baking ingredients on counter

Keep in mind that a substitute is not the same as the real thing. Just like when you have a substitute in school it isn’t exactly a replacement for the teacher. The sub really has two main jobs: take attendance and keep the students from throwing the textbooks out the window. You don’t expect the substitute to prepare the students to pass the state exam just like you probably aren’t going to win the ribbon in the state fair for your grandma’s famous Molasses cookies...which you cleverly made with honey. However, these substitutes will make sure you show up to Aunt Sue’s BBQ with a decorative plate of cookies that you didn’t take out of the Costco package in the car on the way over (hypothetically speaking).

If You Don't Have Molasses (1 cup):

  • substitute with 1 cup of honey, or
  • 1 cup of dark corn syrup, or
  • 3/4 cup of  maple syrup, or
  • dissolve 1/4 cup of light or dark brown sugar in 1/4 cup of warm water

If You Don't Have Honey (1 cup):

  • substitute with 3/4 cup of maple syrup plus 1/2 cup of granulated white sugar, or
  • 3/4 cup of light or dark corn syrup plus 1/2 cup of granulated white sugar, or
  • 1  1/4 cups of granulated white or brown sugar plus 1/4 cup of additional liquid in recipe plus 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

If You Don't Have Freshly Grated Ginger Root (1 tablespoon):

  • substitute with 1  1/2 teaspoons of ground dried ginger plus 1/2 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice

If You Don't Have Sour Cream (1 cup):

  • substitute with 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, or
  • 3/4 cup of sour milk, buttermilk or plain yogurt plus 1/3 cup melted butter, or
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus enough whole milk to fill 1 cup (let stand 5-10 minutes)

If You Don't Have Baking Powder (1 tsp):

  • substitute with 1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar plus 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch

If You Don't Have Whole Milk (1 cup): 

  • substitute with 1 cup skim milk plus 2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine

If You Don't Have Plain Yogurt (1 cup):

  • substitute with 1 cup of heavy whipping cream (35% butterfat) plus 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

If You Don't Have Sugar (1 cup):

  • substitute with 1 cup of  light or dark brown sugar

If You Don't Have Ricotta Cheese (1 cup):

  • substitute with 1 cup dry cottage cheese

If You Don't Have White Vinegar (1/4 cup):

  • substitute with 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

The only question that remains is if you're out of brown sugar and you're out of molasses, can you use a molasses substitute? A substitute for a substitute? Let's try not to over-complicate things, ladies, this is baking not Inception. For the previous solutions plus a comprehensive list of baking substitutions, visit Joy of Baking.

Now put these tips to use and dig in the Skinny Mom Desserts + Sweets Index!