Missing some key ingredients for a recipe? No need to put your cooking plans on hold if you know these simple substitutions.

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At the best of times, there are few things more frustrating than being in the middle of a cooking or baking project and being out of an ingredient. With people in Maine avoiding stores due to social distancing or, when they do go to a store finding empty shelves, knowing a few kitchen ingredient substitutions can come in very handy.

Instead of oil use applesauce

From brownies to breads, many baking recipes call for some amount of cooking oil. If you run out of oil — or are running low — unsweetened applesauce is a good substitute. It has the consistency to make your recipe deliciously moist but with less fat than oil. Substitute the required amount of oil with the same amount of unsweetened applesauce.

Instead of vinegar use lemon juice or wine

Many recipes calling for vinegar require the acidity it contains in addition to its unique flavor. Luckily, the acidity of lemons perfectly fills in for it while adding its own citrusy flavor. Replacing vinegar with lemon juice is a one-to-one ratio. If you are whipping up a sauce that requires vinegar, you can also use equal parts white or red wine — depending on your preference — in its place.

Instead of wine use broth

If your recipe calls for wine but you don’t have any, you can use chicken or beef broth in its place. Substitute the wine with the same measurement of broth and, for some extra flavor, mix in a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice for each cup of broth.

Instead of baking powder use baking soda and cream of tartar

Ever try making biscuits without baking powder? Instead of light, airy biscuits you end up with hard, flat creations. But there’s no need to abandon your baking plans for any recipe that calls for baking powder if you are out. Instead, for every teaspoon of baking powder needed, combine one-quarter teaspoon of baking soda with one-half teaspoon of cream of tartar.

Instead of brown sugar use sugar and molasses

For a recipe that calls for the special sweetness of brown sugar, you can get the same result by combining white sugar and molasses. To substitute for light brown sugar, stir one- to two-tablespoons of molasses into each cup of sugar, depending how light (or lightly flavored) you want it to be. For dark brown sugar add up to one-quarter cup of molasses per cup of sugar. Combine the sugar and molasses in either a food processor or mix directly into the recipe’s other ingredients.

Instead of sour cream use yogurt

Plain regular or Greek yogurt is a perfect substitute for sour cream since it has the same consistency and a similar flavor. It can be substituted in the same amount as the required sour cream. It’s also a great and healthy topping for your baked potatoes or tacos.

Instead of buttermilk use milk and lemon juice

Buttermilk certainly adds a unique flavor and light texture to a number of recipes like pancakes or biscuits. But if you don’t have any, mixing milk with lemon juice will do the trick thanks to the acidity in the lemon juice. Out of lemon juice? White vinegar will work as well.

According to the University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension, mix a cup of whole or low-fat milk with one tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar. Stir together and then let the mixture stand at room temperature for five minutes. You will know it’s ready when it is slightly thickened and you can see small curds. Use the mixture in the same amount as you would buttermilk in the recipe.

Instead of white sugar use honey or maple syrup

If there is no white sugar in the cupboard, honey or maple syrup will add the necessary sweetness to a recipe. Keep in mind, however, when using honey or syrup instead of sugar you are adding more liquid than the recipe calls for. For every cup of sugar you are substituting, reduce the other liquids in the recipe by two tablespoons.

In the end, after choosing or forced by circumstance to try these substitutions you may just find you like them so much there is no going back to the original ingredients.

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.