Bakers Gotta Bake: Substitutes for Beginners

eggs butter spices and milk for baking

You want to learn how to be a baking extraordinaire, but groceries take up room—and money. For the beginners who are slowly growing their pantry, here are ingredient substitutes you’ll need in your baking adventures. 

Baking Powder or Baking Soda 

Southeast Dairy Association - pancakes

For such similar names, baking powder and baking soda are very different in recipes even though both are used in place of yeast. Recipes like Blueberry-Buckwheat Pancake use baking powder because it reacts when placed in heat, so it can rest before being going near the stove. Baking soda is used in recipes like the Buttermilk Banana Bread Muffins because it reacts to any acidic ingredients included, so these recipes are baked immediately. The baking soda reduces the tangy taste of ingredients like buttermilk. The two are not exclusive, however. Baking soda and baking powder can come together, like in our Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins, to control the flavor but still allow the mixture to rise. Are you confused yet? 

Southeast Dairy Association - blueberry muffins

If you need to substitute one for the other, you can. Replace baking soda with three times the baking powder asked for, but reduce any salt used in the recipe. To replace baking powder with baking soda, use a quarter of the called for amount. After that, take half of the called for amount (or double the baking soda) and add in cream of tartar. Now you should be thoroughly confused. 


We are judging you hard for not keeping a stock of buttermilk in your fridge. If you just used the last of it and need more, though, reach for the milk. For every cup you need, add a tablespoon of lemon juice to the milk and let sit. If you’re out of regular milk, too, use plain yogurt. You better not be out of all three. If you are, we’re being polite and referring you to the creams for help. (All right, use two-parts evaporated milk to one-part water to make milk. Next time, though, make sure you have plenty of the good stuff.) 

Southeast Dairy Association - cornwell sour cream pound cake

Similarly, recipes that call for yogurt can be replaced with sour cream or buttermilk using the written measurements. For every cup of sour cream your cake calls for, use 1 cup plain yogurt or 3/4 cup buttermilk with 1/3 cup butter. 

Butter Substitutes 

You probably already swap out cooking oils with butter. The real headscratcher for the unaccustomed is when a listed ingredient is lard. Honestly, who doesn’t have lard in their cabinet— fridge? However you store it, if you somehow find yourself lacking, fully replace lard with butter. 


Southeast Dairy Association - ricotta pesto crostini

For your cheese substitutions, ricotta and drained cottage cheese can be used interchangeably, perfect for that Ricotta Pesto Crostini. A good Parmesan cheese substitute is Asiago cheese or grated Romano cheese, or vice versa. Cheeses like Colby cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese can replace cheddar cheese. 


If you don’t bake, you probably aren’t aware of how many milk consistencies there are. A baking staple, evaporated milk can be fully replaced by light cream. (Yes, there are different types of cream.) One cup of light cream can also be switched for 3/4 cup milk with 3 tablespoons butter. A cup of half and half can be 7/8 cup milk with 1 tablespoon butter. Heavy cream can be replaced with evaporated milk fully or 3/4 cup milk with 1/3 cup butter for every cup. 


For every egg you need, you can use half a mashed banana with 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. Ah, baking powder, you’re back to confuse us. If that baking powder and baking soda conversion is still a problem in your recipe, skip the banana and swap that egg for 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise. Before you try making scrambled mayonnaise, just remember this substitution isn’t for that or an egg wash! 

Now that you have the big substitutes, head over to The Dairy Alliance’s recipe pages and get to your holiday baking. 

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