More time at home has provided us all with an opportunity to experiment in the kitchen a little more, but at the same time it’s been tricky to get a hold of some of the ingredients needed.

We’ve been getting creative with the ingredients we have, finding alternatives to staples such as eggs, flour and tomatoes, so no recipe is unachievable. And dare we say it, they might just be better than the originals. We’ll let you be the judge. 

Here is our list of the top hard-to-find ingredients during lockdown and our favourite alternatives. 

1) Eggs

Need a little something sweet? You can use a half banana for every egg in your cake recipes (these also work for pancakes too). Try Stine, our resident vegan baker’s tasty banana bread. The softer the banana the better in this case.

No bananas, no bother. Try making a chia or flaxseed egg, 1 tablespoon of seeds to 2.5 tablespoons of water = an egg. Then use as a substitute in a range of delicious recipes such as mint pea and potato cake or sweetcorn fritters

2) Flour (plain and self-raising) 

Sweet or Savoury? Bread or cake? This pair feature across many recipes.

Self-raising flour is simply plain flour with added baking powder. As a general rule of thumb, add two teaspoons of baking powder per 150g of plain flour, et voila – instant rising power! 

If you don't have either, there are still alternatives...

To make a moreish cake you could use ground polenta or ground almonds. Why not try this sticky lemon and rosemary polenta cake

Making bread without any flour is tricky but there are alternatives to wheat flour. If you already have stale bread you could revive it with our steamed bread pudding. If you have no wheat flour, but have ground spelt, buckwheat or chickpea embrace variety and use them as an alternative.

Flour is brilliant for thickening sauces and soups, but so are breadcrumbs. Try our Tuscan ribollita soup recipe which is made of stale bread and a mixture of vegetables. You can also use an egg yolk to thicken a sauce at the end of cooking.

3) Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a hero ingredient in a lot of recipes, but you can use tomato puree and a bit of stock to add flavour to dishes such as three bean Mexican chilli instead of the suggested tinned tomatoes.

You can roast red peppers or butternut squash and then blitz to get a puree. This can then be added as a substitute to dishes from curries to pasta sauces to add the sweetness that tinned tomatoes often offer.

4) Rice

Run out of rice? Cous-cous is a great alternative and grains and pulses like bulgur, freekeh, buckwheat, spelt and barley are all tasty and can be served in place of rice. 

One ingredient cauliflower rice will provide a delicious accompaniment for any dish that calls for rice. If you can’t get enough cauliflower in your life, try pairing it up with our cauliflower and chickpea curry.

5) Pasta

No pasta, no problem. Try healthy vegetable pasta as an alternative. Make tagliatelle by using a vegetable peeler to take long strips of parsnips, carrots, broccoli stalks or courgettes to use in place of the spaghetti. Just boil for a minute for a delicious al-dente alternative. Pair it up with one of our five pasta recipes using roughly five ingredients.

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6) Herbs and spices

Different herbs and spices have different flavour properties. Some are earthy, some are zesty, some are warming etc.

When considering making a substitution for a herb or spice that you don’t have, try and think about these flavour properties and make an educated match. These are our top three swaps: 

  1. Cinnamon, nutmeg and mace are aromatic warming spices, try using them in sweet or middle eastern dishes.
  2. Coriander and lemon grass are citrusy, so if you don’t have one of these try adding a squeeze of lemon at the end of cooking.
  3. Basil, marjoram, thyme and oregano are all sweet and pungent and often used in Italian, Greek and Spanish cooking. If you are missing one try using another to see how it changes your dish.

Stock cubes are a great foundation for adding flavour to a dish. If you don't have any, try our delicious zero waste vegetable stock recipe, it's quicker and easier than you might think.

7) Garlic and Onions

Super powerful and flavoursome, these two can make or break the dish! And with these alternatives, it never has to break again.  

Shallots, leeks, spring onions or even chopped chives can be an alternative to an onion. A pinch of onion powder will do too.

Garlic powder or garlic oil are two alternatives. Use an eighth of a teaspoon of garlic powder or a teaspoon for every garlic clove in the recipe, but make sure you add it later in the recipe. Powdered garlic will burn much more quickly than fresh. Garlic oil can be used instead of your regular cooking oil, or drizzled on top of the dish after. 

8) Butter 

Out of butter but keen for cake? Some oils can be substituted in. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature and will cream with sugar, similarly to butter. If you only have liquid vegetable oil, try reducing the volume needed by around a quarter. Your cake will be a bit denser and moister but a flavourless veg oil will do in a pinch.

9) Yeast

We often use yeast to make leavened bread (the type that rises). But we have made bread without yeast for years.

To make leavened bread without store bought yeast you have two options. One, if you you’re happy to wait, you can harness yeast by creating your own sourdough starter. Or use baking powder as we have done in this traditional Irish soda bread with fennel seeds.

Then, there is always unleavened bread, such as these Sri Lankan coconut rotis.

10) Buttermilk 

Buttermilk is a common ingredient in baking, though not always easy to get your hands on. But no need to down tools and race to the shop. Buttermilk is simply an acidic liquid in your baking, and it’s easy to knock up a sour sub. A squeeze of lemon into the same volume of milk (the milk will thicken and slightly curdle – don’t worry!), or yoghurt thinned with a little water will do the trick.

Let us know your favourite food swaps on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

Hungry for more?

Check out our Lockdown Lunch inspo, for easy tasty lunch ideas.


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