Shelves low on stock? Here are some cheat-y substitutes to get you by
Don't miss out, just switch out
Realising you don't have a key ingredient for something you wanted to make is a real pain. Before lockdown, it only really happened because you forgot to replenish something; a pop to the shops would solve that. These days, you realise you don't have it, then plan an essential journey to the shop, only to find that they don't have it either. Great.
Don't let that put you off though. For a lot of the staple ingredients we use in everyday cooking and baking, there is a really accessible alternative, so you can get back in the kitchen and get on with it.
It's a really bad day when you have run out of salt; it's needed for just about everything. There are alternatives, though – for example, soy sauce. It isn't just for sushi and Asian cuisine, it's packed with umami flavours and that salty goodness you're looking for – and there is a good chance you have some in the cupboard. You can also use the brine from tinned vegetables or pulses (which tends to be salted), or even consider adding a salty cheese, like parmesan.
Some of these solutions will be better on your chips than others, but running out of salt doesn't have to mean going without seasoning.
This has been in painfully short supply recently – and if you have managed to get your hands on some, there is a good chance you've had requests for some from your friends. Most baking needs flour, and if this is what you have planned, think about the alternative types of flour available. Almond flour, for example, is something you can make at home and works really well in cookies etc. Just blanch almonds and whizz them to dust in the food processor and you're good to go. Quinoa seeds also work well – if you wash them, dry them, then bake them for 15 minutes, you can mill these to a powder and use them too, although it does give a stronger nutty flavour.
If you are just using flour to thicken things or give texture in meals then there are tons of options if you find yourself short. You can grind rice into a powder and add it to soups and stews to thicken them up, and adding some potato will have a similar effect. You can also grind up crackers to add or use bread crumbs – and, if you happen to have any in the house, Smash is another secret weapon.
Eggs have been frustratingly difficult to come by recently, so some serious alternatives have had to be deployed. Clearly, you are not going to get a fried egg from a substitute, but just about anything that uses eggs as an ingredient can go without. If you look up vegan recipes for cakes, etc, they often substitute eggs with vegetable oil. You can also bring the same level of moisture one egg provides by adding 50ml of milk of 70g of natural yoghurt!
Aquafaba is definitely substitute of choice for things like meringues, though. This is the thick liquid that chickpeas come in, and it works a treat. Two tablespoons are equivalent to one egg white, and they whip up just the same.
There could be a ton of different reasons for you wanting to substitute meat in a meal, but one of them may be that you have run out – and currently, getting to the supermarket is not so easy. If you are keen on having meat, regardless, then it's a better idea to plan ahead and ration it than it is to run out and have to go without.
Any vegetable, diced up in a stew, will bulk it out so that your meat goes further – and if you're not big on vegetables, potatoes alone will do. Pulses like chickpeas and lentils will do the job too, with the added benefit of filling you up with the protein you are having to miss out on. There is also tofu if you want to add a bit of texture, but if you were only adding meat for flavour, a dollop of Marmite will do the job.
We all know you can use honey to sweeten anything you would normally sweeten with sugar, but you needn't limit yourself to just that. You can use maple syrup or golden syrup to sweeten anything; just reduce the quantity by about a quarter (75g for every 100g of sugar you would have used). If you happen to have molasses in the house, it's also a good alternative – but reduce the quantity even further (maybe just over half of the sugar you would add).
Image: Bon Appetit
If you just want to add a little sweetness to something that isn't an entire bake, a pinch of cinnamon might be the answer – but don't forget that tinned fruit and some tinned vegetables come in a suspension of sweetened syrup. There is no reason why you can't use this.
It will take some trial and error as the sugar content is different in each of the tins (tinned peaches being much sweeter than tinned carrots), but you can reduce the sugar content of most things by about a half before it changes the composition dramatically, so if you fall a bit short, it will be a little less sweet than you were aiming for but not the end of the world.
Now, don't judge me, but I am forever using garlic granules. Even if your hair stands on end at the thought, consider buying some to keep in your spice rack for if you find yourself without garlic in the house. I promise, it's just as delicious in most things.
If that's just not an option, chives will give you the garlic flavour you are after. If it's just the aromatic hit you want, celery and celeriac will provide that when fried, and grated horseradish can give the sharpness you want.