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7 Great Alternative Ingredients to Use When Baking

How many times have you wanted to bake a quick batch of brownies but your pantry is missing a key ingredient? Or you've vowed to cut back on sugar but still have a hankering for sweet treats? Alternate ingredient hacks can save you that trip to the grocery store, or they can be a nice way to sneak some healthier options into your favorite foods — much the way parents hide veggies in sauces for small children. From applesause to flax seeds, here are seven great alternative ingredients to use when baking.

Avocado

Several fresh green avocados sliced open on a rustic wooden table
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Butter might be delicious, but like most delicious things, its nutritional value is minimal. If you’re looking to make your baked goods a bit more healthful, avocado makes a great substitute. A ripe avocado has consistency similar to butter, so you won’t notice a difference in texture, and avocados are filled with nutrients and heart-healthy fats. They can be especially delicious when used in chocolate-based recipes like brownies, and since butter has four times the calories and five times the total fat as avocados, you can feel better about having a second serving.

Avocados can also be used as a substitute for sour cream, cheddar cheese, and mayonnaise.

Almond flour

Bowl of finely ground almond powder sitting beside several whole almonds
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There are many reasons to forgo all-purpose flour — low-carb diets, gluten-free eating, lessening processed ingredients, etc. But, that can be a killer when it comes to baked goods. If you’re craving some rolls, pancakes, or pizza crust, one popular option is almond flour.

Almond flour is made from ground almonds, which means it's low in carbs, high in good fats, and packed with nutrients. Almond flour does tend to retain a bit more moisture, so use only about 1/3 cup of almond flour to every full cup of regular flour when substituting to keep a good consistency.

Applesauce

Bowl of applesauce sitting beside several whole apples and cinnamon sticks
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Cutting back on sugar can be difficult if you have a sweet tooth, but one way to retain all the sweetness in your recipes without adding inches to your waistline is by using applesauce instead.

Applesauce has all the sweetness of sugar with just a fraction of thes calories. This substitution isn’t foolproof, though. Applesauce obviously has a much different consistency than sugar. If the recipe calls for sugar to make a crispy texture, applesauce probably won’t produce the intended results.

Greek Yogurt

Several glass jars filled with granola, berries, and Greek yogurt
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Many baking recipes call for heavy cream to add sweetness and a rich consistency. Unfortunately, heavy cream also contains about twice fat calories. If you want to cut back on the fat content but keep the consistency, try using Greek yogurt instead. Substitute 1:1, and know you also added some extra healthy probiotics to your meal as well.

Chicken or beef broth

Up close view of bowl of chicken broth with vegetables and seasonings
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Beer is a common ingredient in baking because it can add tons of flavor to your recipe, and the fizziness can make any dough light and airy. Unfortunately, it also adds between 150-200 calories per beer along with carbs and, potentially, alcohol depending on the recipe. If you’re looking for a healthier alternative, try using chicken or beef broth.

If the recipe calls for a light beer, use chicken broth. If it calls for a dark, heavy beer, try beef broth. Broth will cut back on the calories and carbs but contains more sodium than beer. Using a low-sodium broth can help keep sodium levels to a minimum.

Flax seeds

Big pile of flax seeds placed atop a large wooden spoon
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Eggs are a staple ingredient in baking, and their unique texture might seem impossible to replicate. But fear not. For vegans and the health-conscious, flax seeds offer a great substitute.

When flax seeds are ground up and mixed with water, they become thick and gelatinous, just like an egg! One tablespoon of flax seeds and three tablespoons of water can replace one egg. It might be a bit more work than just cracking an egg, but it makes for a healthy alternative.

Flax seeds do have a nutty, earthy flavor, so this substitution is best used in recipes that compliment those flavors like oatmeal cookies, scones, or grain muffins.

Banana

Bowl of sliced bananas sitting beside several large whole bananas
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Bananas are a versatile ingredient to have in the kitchen. When it comes to baking, they can replace eggs, oil, or butter in just about any recipe. If you’re using bananas as an alternative to eggs, one ripe banana can replace a single egg. For butter or oil, also use a 1:1 ratio.

The only downside to using bananas as a substitute, if you want to call it a downside, is the flavor. Bananas have a strong, unique taste that will find its way into any recipe. Use this substitution only in sweet recipes that would work well with the banana flavor like cakes, muffins, and bread.

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