In A Pinch

By Kristen Castillo

April 12, 2018 4 min read

Whether you've run out of a necessary cooking or baking ingredient or you simply want to cut back on fats or calories, there are lots of tasty and healthy substitutions.

Before you head to the grocery to get a last-minute ingredient, check this list swaps that might already be in your pantry.


You might not think of prunes as a baking switch but think again.

Jackie Newgent, registered dietitian nutritionist, author of "The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook" and spokesperson for the California Prune Board, suggests making a prune puree to use instead of half the butter or other fat in baking.

Another prune plus? It naturally sweetens as it reduces calories and adds extra moistness to foods. It can enhance fudginess in brownie recipes, too.

*Greek Yogurt

Forget sour cream the next time you're making creamy dips, salad dressings or toppings for baked potatoes or tacos. Choose Greek yogurt instead.

"Plain Greek yogurt is higher in protein than regular yogurt," says Becky Kerkenbush, a registered dietitian and member of the Wisconsin Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Greek yogurt is also a good source of calcium and probiotics. It's a worthwhile substitute for half a recipe's butter when you're baking, too. Kerkenbush says Greek yogurt "keeps the moisture but decreases the fat."

Note that because Greek yogurt is thicker than regular yogurt, cooks may need to add extra liquid when subbing it for melted butter.


The next time a recipe calls for eggs, try flaxseed instead. "Flaxseed is giving you the protein and fat that you would have in egg," says chef James Briscione, director of culinary development for the Institute of Culinary Education. "When baking, the protein in flaxseed provides moisture and structure."


This superfood is a great stand-in for mayonnaise. Kerkenbush suggests avocado as a healthy pairing with tuna, chicken, egg or potato salad. It's also suitable switch for butter.

"Use in place of butter in a 1-1 ratio," Kerkenbush says. "When baking, reduce over temp by 25 percent and increase baking time, check on item, to prevent browning too quickly or rising/caving in in the middle."

*Black Beans

The next time you're baking, trade a cup of flour for a cup of rinsed and drained black beans. You'll save calories and add fiber and protein to the dish. And don't worry about your dessert tasting like beans. Desserts like brownies will still be rich and sweet.


Swap out oil or butter with applesauce. "The plant fiber in applesauce also provides structure and helps to hold up and dissolve into mixtures," says Briscione, who explains applesauce replaces the moisture butter or oil would add to a dish.

*Pumpkin Puree

Try this fall favorite year-round as a replacement for butter. Instead of 1 cup of butter, use 3/4 cup of pumpkin puree. Or split the difference and combine 1/2 cup of butter with 1/2 cup pumpkin puree. The pumpkin adds flavor and has fewer calories than butter. It may affect the texture of the food, so experiment until you find a recipe that works for your taste buds.


Zaida Khaze uses bananas instead of flour when she's making pancakes. "It is healthier for you and easier to digest," says the mother of two and founder of WiggleTot. "The ripe bananas are sweet enough that the pancakes or waffles are tasty without using maple syrup."


Not just for breakfast, oatmeal is handy for savory meals, too. Kerkenbush recommends using oatmeal as a binder in meatloaf and oat groats as a basis for poultry stuffing.

The health benefits of oatmeal include reduced cholesterol and blood sugar levels, reduced blood pressure and better digestive health.

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