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Save Money With These 9 Baking Substitutes

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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.

If you’ve decided to lean into making your own baked goods to cut costs, you’re in for a rude awakening. Supply chain issues and other shortages mean some baking ingredients are either missing from grocery store shelves or are much more expensive.

While American households aren’t facing the widespread shortages of pandemic days, the high cost of baking supplies can still be frustrating.

Fortunately, there are low-cost substitutions for most in-demand ingredients that can make your recipes healthier and, in some cases, less expensive. Before taking a look at the following, however, note that prices may have changed since this story was originally published.

Why Baking Ingredients Are Out of Stock or More Expensive

Unhappy grocery shopper
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In August 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that grocery prices had risen 13.5% over the last year. Of particular note were two categories of dairy products feeling the pinch: butter and eggs.

Dairy farmers face higher operating costs due to labor shortages and are struggling to increase production to meet seasonal demand. U.S. storage facilities reported cold butter stores were down 22% last summer.

Due to the conflict in Ukraine, flour and oil supplies were also affected, spelling the potential for a perfect storm. However, bakers can still find thrifty substitutions for common ingredients.

9 Baking Substitutions for Ingredients in Short Supply

Woman shopping for eggs
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The following ingredients promise to be in short supply for various reasons, from climate change to labor shortages. Fortunately, plenty of inexpensive substitutes work well in baked goods.

Note: In the substitution tables below, a 1-to-1 ratio means you can keep the measurements in the recipe exactly the same — i.e., 1 cup butter to 1 cup coconut oil — and count on a similar texture or rise. Flavor profiles may vary.

1. Best Substitutes for Butter in Baking

Butter on a plate
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At $4.72 per pound, butter prices are higher than they’ve been since 2018. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a tub of butter costs up to 26% more than it did a year ago.

Fortunately, lactose-intolerant folks have proved that plenty of ingredients provide the richness of butter called for in recipes without dairy.

In addition to obvious butter substitutions like coconut oil and shortening, bakers can get creative with yogurt, bananas and even applesauce in place of unsalted butter.

Butter Baking Substitutes, Ratios and Cost per Pound

applesauce with apples on a wooden table
PHILIPIMAGE / Shutterstock.com
  • Coconut oil: 1-to-1, $2.72
  • Shortening: 1-to-1, $2.43
  • Greek yogurt: 1-to-1, $2.78
  • Unsweetened applesauce: 1-to-1, $1

A word of warning that applesauce results in denser baked goods and doesn’t contain as much fat as other butter substitutes. If you opt for applesauce as a substitute for recipes with melted butter, consider adding a tablespoon or two of oil to improve flavor and texture.

2. Best Substitutes for Eggs in Baking

colored eggs
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Substituting eggs is a tricky endeavor for bakers. However, it may be necessary as shortfalls, a bird flu epidemic and record prices have come home to roost.

Eggs have seen steep increases, with prices going from $1.45 a dozen a year ago to over $4 per dozen in many areas of the country.

Some ingredients provide the same lift to baked goods as eggs, notably baking powder and baking soda. But getting the ratio correct is complicated.

Surprisingly, foodies concur that carbonated water is the best egg substitute for baked goods like cakes and muffins.

Egg Baking Substitutes, Ratios and Cost per Dozen

Peanuts and peanut butter
Victority / Shutterstock.com
  • Carbonated water (club soda): ¼ cup = 1 egg, 69 cents (24 oz.)
  • Water, oil and baking powder: 2 Tbsp. water + 2 tsp. baking powder +1 tsp. oil = 1 egg, $1.32
  • Mashed banana: ¼ cup = 1 egg, $1.38
  • Nut butter: 3 Tbsp. = 1 egg, $1.64

If you don’t have baking powder, you can use a third of the same amount of baking soda.

Keep in mind that using bananas creates a different flavor profile as well as a gummier texture. But for some baked goods, the additional moisture in bananas can be a boon for your taste buds.

3. Best Substitutes for Sugar in Baking

Sugar cubes
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Don’t panic just yet, but there have been reported shortages of granulated sugar. Most are localized due to shipping delays combined with high demand.

But it makes sense to stock up where you find a sale as sugar is currently running close to its historic high of 70 cents per pound.

While you can substitute brown sugar for granulated sugar in a 1-to-1 ratio, you should use 1¾ cups of powdered sugar for every cup of regular sugar.

Many health-conscious bakers are old hat at finding the best ingredients to add a little sweetness without the sugar high. Some unconventional sugars and syrups fit the bill, like honey, agave and even maple syrup, but cost significantly more per pound.

Sugar Baking Substitutes, Ratios and Cost per Pound

Vermont maple syrup
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  • Honey: ¾ cup = 1 cup sugar, $4.48
  • Agave: ⅔ cup = 1 cup sugar, $4.01
  • Maple syrup: ¾ cup = 1 cup sugar, $6.40

It is recommended when using thinner syrups such as agave and maple to reduce the other liquids in the recipe by 3 to 4 tablespoons to achieve the same consistency.

You may also want to reduce the oven temperature by up to 25 degrees to prevent premature browning.

4. Best Substitutes for All-Purpose Flour in Baking

Flour on a grocery store shelf
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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, flour prices are up 44.8% compared with the previous year, averaging about 55 cents per pound. Inflation combined with shortages from the Ukraine crisis mean the cost of flour won’t see relief anytime soon.

Although all-purpose flour is the cheapest way to make baked goods, many alternative flours exist. Knowing that cake flour is simply flour combined with cornstarch might save you a bundle at the grocery store.

And if you’ve got a bag in the back of your cupboard you need to use, chickpea, rice and almond flour all make acceptable flour substitutes in baked goods.

All-Purpose Flour Baking Substitutes, Ratios and Cost per Pound

Jars of flour and sugar
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  • Chickpea flour: ¾ cup = 1 cup flour, $6.56
  • Rice flour: ⅞ cup = 1 cup flour, $3.24
  • Almond flour: 1-to-1, $3.84

If you decide to use rice flour, add a binding agent such as cornstarch and xanthan gum to hold baked goods together.

Almond flour can be used interchangeably with all-purpose flour but may require an extra egg for binding and rising.

5. Best Substitutes for Chocolate in Baking

Woman stirring a brownie mix with a whisk
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Chocolate shortages aren’t new, but climate change means they’re here to stay.

Chocolate hovers between $3 and $10 per pound depending on cocoa content, but lack of fertilizer and severe storms may mean you’ll pay more at the register this year.

Fortunately, substitutes for chocolate in recipes abound. Certainly, cocoa powder is less expensive (add some butter or oil with it), but that will work well only in recipes that use chocolate chips.

Carob chips, chopped nuts or even raisins may do the trick and add a little something extra to your favorite treats.

Chocolate Baking Substitutes, Ratios and Cost per Pound

Mixed nuts
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  • Carob chips: 1-to-1, $10.72
  • Nuts: 1-to-1, $6.56
  • Raisins: 1-to-1, $1.76

6. Best Substitutes for Yeast in Baking

Bread and a bread machine
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Pandemic breadmaking caused a serious run on yeast a few years back. This year, yeast supplies are expected to be disrupted by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Currently, buying yeast in bulk is the best money saver and allows bakers to spend about 69 cents per ounce.

If you cultivated a sourdough starter months ago, pat yourself on the back because you’re all set. For the rest of us, however, there are a few yeast substitutes that’ll do in a pinch and act as low-cost leavening agents.

Yeast Baking Substitutes, Ratios and Cost per Ounce

Baking soda
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  • Lemon juice and baking soda: 1-to-1, 11 cents
  • Double-acting baking powder: 1-to-1, 31 cents
  • Buttermilk and baking soda: ½ tsp. buttermilk + ½ tsp. baking soda = 1 tsp. yeast, 14 cents

When using yeast substitutes that involve buttermilk or lemon juice, you’ll need to slightly reduce the liquid in your recipe by a teaspoon or two to account for the additional moisture.

7. Best Substitutes for Milk in Baking

Man with milk
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The same transportation and labor issues affecting butter supply are also slowing milk production.

While widespread milk shortages are not anticipated, there may be some intermittent lag between demand and supply.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates whole milk prices are averaging $4.41 per gallon, or about 28 cents per cup. Fortunately, several milk substitutes are relatively inexpensive and have a longer shelf life.

Milk Baking Substitutes, Ratios and Cost per Cup

A bowl of yogurt
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  • Evaporated milk: ½ cup water + ½ cup evaporated milk = 1 cup milk, 44 cents
  • Plain yogurt: 1-to-1, 59 cents
  • Sour cream: 1-to-1, $1.19

If you’re desperate, you can use water as a 1-to-1 replacement for milk in baking recipes. Water as a milk substitute has the bonus of being free, but be sure to put in a little extra fat for flavor.

If you have a can of sweetened condensed milk handy, you can use it as a milk substitute the same way you would use evaporated milk, but be sure to cut back on the sugar in the recipe.

8. Best Substitutes for Oil in Baking

Cooking oil
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Sunflower oil shortages in Ukraine pressure the rest of the world’s oil supplies. So you may discover that many of the oils you might commonly use for baking, such as canola or vegetable oil, are more expensive this year.

Current consumer prices for canola oil are about 7 cents per ounce or 60 cents per cup.

If you find oil in short supply on the grocery shelves during your next shopping trip, consider one of these baking oil replacements that substitute half of the oil with fruit purees. The fact that your baking will be healthier is just a bonus.

Oil Baking Substitutes, Ratios and Cost per Cup

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  • Applesauce: ½ cup applesauce + ½ cup oil = 1 cup oil, 78 cents
  • Pureed pears: ½ cup pears + ½ cup oil = 1 cup oil, 67 cents
  • Mashed bananas: ½ cup bananas + ½ cup oil = 1 cup oil, 46 cents

Professionals recommend cutting baking time by a fourth when you use fruit purees for part of the oil in baking recipes.

9. Best Substitutes for Vanilla in Baking

Spoon with vanilla extract and pods
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The world’s vanilla supplies track closely to the success of crops and harvests in Madagascar. Weak flowering promises a lackluster vanilla season, a situation expected to continue in 2023.

While the mass shortages of vanilla extract several years ago are unlikely, vanilla bean problems are here to stay. Current prices for vanilla extract are more than $2 per ounce.

Vanilla is a pervasive flavor, but there are several other ways to add some zing to baked goods. You could use something like pumpkin pie spice, but many spices have distinct tastes that might not jibe with your recipe.

Consider instead maple syrup, citrus zest or a splash of bourbon, rum or even coffee to perk up the flavor profile of your favorite treats.

Vanilla Baking Substitutes, Ratios and Cost per Ounce

Woman holding a sliced orange
Hananeko_Studio / Shutterstock.com
  • Maple syrup: 1-to-1, 40 cents
  • Citrus zest: Zest of one orange = 1 tsp. vanilla extract, 99 cents
  • Bourbon or rum: 1-to-1, 80 cents
  • Coffee or espresso powder: One pinch = 1 tsp. vanilla extract, 99 cents

Save Money With More Baking Substitutes

Family baking together
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As supply chains shift and climate change creates different challenges, you may find ingredients that were once plentiful in short supply at your grocery store.

Learning how to adapt recipes to accommodate what’s in season and in store can be a money-saving skill that keeps your budget trim for years to come.

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