In a pinch, here’s how you can replace key ingredients your pantry might be missing.

By Betty Gold
October 15, 2020
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We've all been there: you're in the final stretch of your holiday cooking extravaganza, and just as you start to whip up the grand finale—pumpkin pie, of course—you realize you're completely out of ginger. And allspice. (And likely heavy cream and flour too, because it's 2020 and that's how life looks these days.)

Maintaining a complete, fresh, and steady supply of dried herbs and spices is kind of like going to the dentist—it's so easy enough to put it off right until the minute you're told you have a mouth full of cavities. While we won't argue that an allspice-less pumpkin pie can quite compete with the level of pain involved in potential root canal, there is no shortage of stress when it comes to missing ingredients.

Luckily, we're here to offer several smart solutions. For the ultimate guide to baking substitutions, find our complete chart here. We've also got swaps for evaporated milk, heavy cream, eggs, yeast, brown sugar, buttermilk, and even DIY pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and sour cream.

Herbs and spices are a whole other ball game. Before you find yourself with a half-cooked pan of patatas bravas and no paprika in the house, there are a few simple steps you can take to prevent this from ever happening. First, download our easy checklists to learn which basic spices and gourmet spices you should always keep in your pantry. Next, use these tips from the geniuses over at The Home Edit to keep your spices well-organized—that way, you can see what you already own and what you need to restock—and consider investing in an affordable spice organization tray. Finally, check your spice's expiration dates. Spices lose flavor and potency over time, and this period is significantly shorter than we’d like. Most seasonings are considered shelf-stable for about three years, but your nutmeg won’t taste anything like proper nutmeg in a fraction of that time.

If you still find yourself missing something, here are a few smart substitutions for spices and herbs you can try in a pinch.

Fresh to Dry Conversion for Herbs

First things first. If a recipe calls for fresh herbs but yours are either wilted or nonexistent, you can swap in the dried version. But because dried herbs tend to have a more concentrated, potent flavor than fresh herbs, you'll need less. We recommend substituting one-third the amount called for. This means the correct ratio is 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs to 1 teaspoon of dried herbs, as there are 3 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon.

Allspice Substitute

If you happen to have whole allspice berries on hand, you can use six whole berries in place of 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice, and if you're able, remove them these before serving. No whole allspice? Blend together equal parts ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

Aniseed (Anise Seed) Substitute

Swap in fennel seeds in equal amounts, or use a dash of anise extract.

Basil Substitute

Use fresh mint (slightly less) or fresh cilantro in place of fresh basil.

Bread Crumbs Substitute

Use crushed cracker or cereal crumbs, cornflakes, or croutons in the same ratio.

Cardamom Substitute

Swap in dried ginger, following the same ratio.

Chervil Substitute

Use tarragon or parsley.

Chili Powder Substitute

For 1 teaspoon, use 1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano, 1⁄4 teaspoon dried cumin, and a dash of bottled hot sauce.

Chives Substitute

Swap in green onions, onion, or leek.

Cilantro Substitute

Use fresh flat-leaf parsley in place of fresh cilantro.

Cinnamon Substitute

Use nutmeg or allspice, but only 1/4 of the amount called for.

Cloves Substitute

Allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg are all suitable substitutions.

Cumin Substitute

Swap in chili powder.

Everything Bagel Seasoning Substitute

To make your own Everything Bagel Seasoning from scratch, simply mix equal parts sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried garlic, dried onion, and kosher salt.

Fennel Seeds Substitute

Use a slightly lesser amount of anise seed, along with add a pinch of finely-chopped celery, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or dill.

Garlic Powder Substitute

A single garlic clove is equivalent to approximately 1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder (FYI, one clove of garlic makes approximately 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic or 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.) You can also substitute around twice as much garlic salt for garlic powder, but be sure to cut back on salt in your recipe accordingly.

Ginger Substitute

In a pinch, dried ginger can be replaced with allspice, cinnamon, mace, or nutmeg.

Italian Seasoning Substitute       

Blend together a combination of equal parts basil, oregano, and rosemary, then add a pinch of ground red pepper.

Kosher Salt Substitute

Use fine table salt, substituting 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 the amount called for.

Mace Substitute  

Use allspice, cinnamon, ginger, or nutmeg instead.

Marjoram Substitute

Basil, thyme, or savory will work.

Mint Substitute   

Here, try a bit of basil, marjoram, or rosemary instead.

Nutmeg Substitute

Swap in cinnamon, ginger, or mace. If it's a sweet recipe, you can also try allspice.

Oregano Substitute         

Thyme or basil should do the trick.

Paprika Substitute

Your best bet is ancho chili powder, but cayenne powder will also work (just keep in mind that cayenne is a lot spicier than paprika, so start with a small amount and taste as you go).

Parsley Substitute

Chervil or cilantro can serve as adequate replacements.

Poultry Seasoning Substitute 

For 1 teaspoon of poultry seasoning, substitute 3/4 teaspoon sage plus a 1/4 teaspoon blend of either marjoram, thyme, black pepper, rosemary, or savory.

Pumpkin Pie Spice

To make 6 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice, mix 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 4 teaspoons ground ginger, 3 teaspoons ground nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ground cloves, and 1 teaspoon ground allspice.

Red Pepper Substitute    

Add a dash bottled hot pepper sauce or black pepper to your dish.

Rosemary Substitute       

Thyme, tarragon, or savory can work in place of fresh or dried rosemary.

Saffron Substitute

We get it, it's pricey. Use a dash turmeric for a hint of color.

Sage Substitute   

You can swap in poultry seasoning, rosemary, savory, or marjoram.

Savory Substitute

Try either thyme, sage, or marjoram.

Tarragon Substitute

Chervil works, as would a dash fennel seed or aniseed.

Thyme Substitute

Basil, oregano, marjoram, or savory are your go-tos when you're out of thyme.