A guide to baking substitutions for flour, sugar, yeast and more

Becky Krystal

THE WASHINGTON POST – These are trying times, to be sure. Many of us are turning to the kitchen not only for sustenance, but for comfort – especially in the form of baking. Maybe you have a favourite recipe you want to make. You realise you don’t have an ingredient, or the store is out of it. You start to lose it.

It’s OK! I don’t blame you. We’re under so much stress lately with so little control that even the littlest thing can set us off.

There are plenty of smart substitutions you can make, as long as you are realistic about the fact that the result might not be exactly the same. Here are some ideas.


If you’re able and willing to consider shortening as a substitute, keep in mind that shortening is 100 per cent fat, with no water, whereas butter is about 80 per cent fat and 20 per cent water. You’re more likely to notice that difference in something like cookies or pie crusts than cake.

How to choose a sugar substitute. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

Coconut oil, which is also 100 per cent fat and helpful for lengthening the shelf life of baked goods, is another popular butter replacement.


All-purpose: If you’re making a bread recipe that calls for all-purpose, go ahead and use bread flour if you have it. You may even like the crustier, chewier result better.

Bread flour: If you’re making a bread recipe that calls for bread flour, you can use all-purpose instead. Plan on one cup plus two tablespoons all-purpose for every one cup of bread flour.

Cake flour: For cakes that call for cake flour, all-purpose, especially a lower-protein brand, can be used.


Active dry: You can substitute instant yeast for active dry. Use an equal amount, but add the instant yeast to the dry ingredients instead of dissolving in liquid.

Instant: You can substitute active dry yeast for instant, so long as you dissolve the yeast first in some of the liquid called for in the recipe (don’t add extra liquid), according to the package instructions.


Brown sugar: To make dark brown sugar, add one tablespoon molasses to one cup granulated sugar, and for light, add one and a half teaspoons molasses to one cup granulated.

Light and dark brown sugars can replace each other in recipes calling for less than one quarter cup.

Granulated sugar: Brown sugar can be substituted in equal amounts for white, although you may taste the molasses flavour come through (not necessarily a bad thing!).

Honey: You may use one and a quarter cups granulated sugar for every one cup of honey adding a quarter cup of liquid to the recipe as well.

Other ingredients

Cocoa powder: For three tablespoons natural unsweetened, swap in one tablespoon unsweetened chocolate and reduce the fat in the recipe by one tablespoon.

Unsweetened chocolate: Use three tablespoons of cocoa powder and one tablespoon vegetable oil or melted butter to replace one ounce of baking chocolate.
Vanilla: One tablespoon of vanilla extract, one tablespoon vanilla bean paste and one vanilla bean can be used to replace one another. Depending on your taste and the recipe, you can use other extracts instead.