Best Substitutes For Common Ingredients In An Indian Kitchen
Well, it's lockdown time & our kitchens are running frugally with ingredients we have in stock. Having said that, what if you run out of the most common ingredients? Indian kitchens are usually well-stocked with flours, spices & lentils and you have to make do with what you have therefore, this calls for substituting this with that. And ideally, if you had run out of something in your kitchen, you'd hurry to the supermarket, but that's not a luxury anymore. So, here are the best substitutes for common ingredients in your kitchen. You can thank me later!
We know that whole wheat flour is a much healthier option for baking bread, homemade naans, or even pita pockets. But sadly, we're out of Maida in most of our nearby grocery stores. But, you can always substitute it with the regular whole wheat atta. Two things to keep in mind while baking with wheat flour- it needs to be hydrated enough before baking otherwise the result could be dry & coarse. Overnight hydrating is preferable if you're baking bread.
Tamarind is mostly used in South-Indian cooking and of course, you can substitute tamarind too! Using equal parts of lime juice or rice wine vinegar with sugar, you can concoct your own mix. If you're using lime juice, add 2-3 drops of white vinegar for the tangy effect.
3. Hing or Aesofetida
This is one of those strong aromatic ingredients that goes into the oil before anything else. It is often used in Indian cooking due to its digestive powers. Although used sparingly by the pinch, if you run out of hing while you're cooking, the best substitute is onion or garlic powder. If you don't have those in your pantry, using fresh onions & garlic is the best option.
With less-frequency to the markets due to the lockdown, tomatoes could last only a while in the refrigerator. So, here are some substitutes to use instead of tomatoes: Kokum, Vinegar, lemon or Sour Curd. Use these ingredients in a curry and you won't miss tomatoes as much.
5. Chaat Masala
This Indian favourite is used in multiple ways; for a summer drink, sprinkled on fruits, sandwich or a streetfood affair at home. You can easily substitute chaat masala by making your very own version with coriander powder, cumin powder & dry mango powder mixed with a generous amount of salt. You can also substitute it with lemon juice & some salt too.
6. Fresh Ginger
Used in tea, dal & many other Indian curries, fresh ginger is likely to go out of stock in your kitchen. The simplest way to substitute fresh ginger, is by using ginger powder or like we call it, Saunth.
Lockdown period has got us all cooking at home & boring food is made interesting with rich ingredients. Saffron is very much used in our desserts and biryanis, however, being a really expensive ingredient you can replicate its flavour by substituting it with: rose water + a pinch of turmeric.
8. Cream Cheese
I know that this not the ingredient you're looking for right now, but if you ever feel like indulging in cream cheese frosting this substitute works like magic. It is tried & tested by me and I can guarantee you a 100% result. To 200 gms Paneer, add 75 gms curd, making sure the curd is not very sour. Whisk it in a mixer until smooth. Leave it to hang from a rod or a tap in a muslin cloth overnight. Next day, add 2 tablespoons of butter and whisk it, bringing it together. Your cream cheese is ready! For a sweet one, add 50 gms icing sugar, a tsp of vanilla essence & its ready to be pipped on!
It is indeed India's favourite condiment and most of us love pairing it with almost everything we eat. But, if you run out of ketchup, before running out to get some during this lockdown, try substituting it with: 1 cup tomato sauce + 1 teaspoon vinegar + 1 tablespoon sugar. You'll not miss the readymade ketchup anymore.
Milk is the most common ingredient in our fridge but if you ever run out of it, consider using plain curd as a substitute for milk for baking. If you're making a cake that calls for milk, use an equal amount of curd, making sure it's not sour in taste. In some cases, you can substitute milk with water too but with every cup add a tablespoon of butter to balance out the fat content. You can also use vegan substitutes like almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk etc. For normal milk replacements, you can make use of milk powder too.
11. Butter for baking
Now is the time, you're going to want to try baking because if you're a mother, you know how difficult it is to turn down your child's wishes for a cake! But, it seems impossible because every other cake recipe demands butter. But what if I told you that you can substitute butter with vegetable oil, buttermilk or curd! Now, isn't that an easy thing to do? So, it 'butter' not be the reason for you to stop baking.
12. Eggs for baking & cooking
There are wonderful eggless recipes in the world but some recipes just can't do without eggs! But, yet there are so many substitutes for eggs used in different recipes. For all those vegans out there, a flaxseed egg is the best substitute; 1 egg = 1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds mixed with 2 to 3 tablespoons water.
In a cake, best substitutes for eggs would be mashed bananas, flax egg or an apple mash.
13. Baking or cooking soda
Either to bake awesome goodies or make traditional recipes like dhokla or idli, soda is considered the best leavening agent. And, technically the easiest replacement would be baking powder, but what if you're running out of both? You can use club soda, egg whites or our desi, Eno! However, if you're using club soda, make sure you open the bottle or can at the last minute before it's ready to be baked or steamed otherwise it'll fall flat. And, whatever you do, please don't substitute baking soda with yeast! It's not going to yield any result & it's definitely not going to taste good.
14. Heavy Cream
The best substitute for heavy cream is whole-fat milk. Using skimmed milk or low fat milk in curries can be excused but it's not forgiving enough if used for whipping or baking purposes. Due to low fat content, the cream just won't come together, no matter how long you whip it for. If you have coconut milk or cream in your pantry, it works well too in curries and baked goods.
15. Cashews / Cashew Paste
Usually, cashews are a household staple, stored away in an air-tight container in our freezers but sometimes you only want to substitute it for a healthier result. You can swap cashews in curries with sesame seed, khus khus or peanut paste. Even curd or heavy cream can be added for a richer curry if you're out of cashews in your pantry.
16. Corn Flour
Today, my husband was craving some desi-Chinese and I thought why not make some manchurian? But, guess what I have no corn flour in my pantry because, remember about how we spoke about India has kind of stopped buying Chinese ingredients. Anyway, I have soy sauce & chilli sauce from months before and I'm going to attempt to make some Indianized version by substituting corn flour with rice flour. I know that rice flour is starchy (obviously because rice has starch in it), so I think it would be a great binding agent.