Helpful Ingredient Swaps When You Can’t Go Shopping
Remember when we used to dash to the supermarket after work for that single carrot, or a pot of cayenne pepper… or that one fillet of salmon?
Now that supermarket trips are limited, I’ve ransacked the pantry this week to share ingredient swaps guaranteed to make your meals come together like they do in the recipe.
We’re talking cornflakes instead of breadcrumbs, crushed rice krispies instead of baking flour or even mayonnaise instead of eggs. What I also found while researching was that a lot of these subs are actually healthier than the originals – win!
Lemon juice, or mild vinegars like apple cider, or red wine, are a great way to boost flavours without adding salt. If there’s a lemon in your fridge, or the last drops of vinegar in a bottle, try a splash with soups or salads for a satisfying zing.
You can also give soups, stews and ragùs a savoury boost with one of my favourite Gousto twists – soy sauce. Don’t worry, it won’t make your meal taste like a stir-fry, it just adds a rich hum to your sauce.
If you’re holding on to your last loaf – plain rice cakes, Ryvita crackers and oat cakes are great lower carb toast alternatives with a satisfying crunch.
And remember to whizz up those stale pieces in the food processor to make breadcrumbs!
Speaking of breadcrumbs, do you need a tasty topper to cheesy bakes but don’t have any to hand? Cornflakes, crisps and flaxseeds add so much savoury crunch to a meal.
Going against the grain can work a treat, like using fluffy couscous and wholesome alternatives like bulgur wheat in salads, or even alongside curries.
Need gluten-free options? Protein-rich quinoa and brown, green or puy lentils are a high fibre swap to your standard basmati.
For a lower carb take, cauli rice is always a good choice. Or you can always choose one of the above options and pad your meal out with lots of fresh vegetables.
To create a range of vegetarian and vegan options, there are so many amazing alternatives to ground beef.
If you’ve read some of my recipe recommendations before, you’ll know one of my favourites for this is lentils – they add so much savoury richness to dishes and melt into the flavours of a sauce beautifully.
You can also whizz up mushrooms in a food processor, which are known for adding rich faux-meat notes to meals like our famous Chestnut Mushroom Bolognese.
For a vegan alternative that tastes like the real deal, Meatless Farm’s Meat Free Mince will always be a number one choice in some of my favourite Gousto recipes like Meat Free Kofte & Greek Bulgur Salad or our Meat Free Mince Tacos with Lime Mayo.
Mash is my ultimate comfort food in confusing times. But don’t make a whole trip to the shop just for potatoes – if you’ve got butternut squash, turnips or swede in the cupboard, they work just as well.
If a lower carb option appeals, buttery cauliflower or carrot mash are just as rich and warming on top of shepherd’s pies or beside a succulent sirloin.
But when the white potatoes are gone, I always hope there’s a sweet potato to be found. Mainly because Gousto’s Warming Harissa Aubergine and Lentil Pie has to be one of the best dinners ever invented.
If my butter dish is looking bare, I’ll spread mashed avocado or hummus on toast or bread – and bonus, avocado’s are chock-full of healthy omega-3s. You can even use them as spreads in a sandwich – they’re more flavourful, nutritious and filling too.
Whether it’s our Vietnamese Noodle Broth or our 10 Minute Scrambled Tofu Fried Rice, we’re big fans of scrambling tofu here at Gousto. To add heaps of flavour to this versatile ingredient, add soy sauce or fish sauce to give it an umami boost.
For plant-based baking, two tablespoons of chia seeds hydrated with water work surprisingly well. Or, my favourite hack has been using two tablespoons of mayonnaise for every egg. Trust me, you won’t even notice a difference.
I have a confession to make. Before this article, I’d never tried courgetti (courgettes spiralised into the shape of spaghetti) or boodles (the same, but with butternut squash) – and though it will never take the place of my first love, linguine, I’ve loved combining it with the noodles in my cupboard to add more veg to my dinners.
In salads or pasta, any tinned fish works just as well if not better than tuna! The richness of mackerel, or the brininess of sardines, are just as good as meaty tuna, so it’s definitely worth trying.
Or, for tuna mayonnaise sandwiches, my favourite switch is mashed chickpeas with mayonnaise. Not only can you easily make it vegan, but you can add diced onions, carrots and celery to the mix for sweetness and crunch.
For savoury sauces like cheese or béchamel, long-life or most unsweetened plant milk will work well. I’d steer away from rice or coconut though, as rice isn’t quite rich enough for my taste and coconut milk has a stronger, sweeter flavour than oat, almond or soy.
According to Epicurious, oat milk is the best dairy substitute for baking. One of their editors tested every plant milk out there, and swears by the creamy richness of oat milk, so if you’ve got it, use it!
Due to snacking a lot more recently, my household is getting through a lot of hummus. Luckily, as long as you have tahini, garlic and lemon juice on hand, you can replace chickpeas with lots of alternatives: Like white beans, butter beans, or even roasted pumpkin and carrots. There’s no better time to broaden your hummus horizons!
Flour’s a little trickier to come by right now, but earlier this week Briony from The Great British Bake Off posted an amazing substitute on her Instagram: Rice Krispies! She crushed them in a food processor, used the same quantity as she would flour, and the results speak for themselves.
If you’re scraping the jar for that last dash of mayonnaise, try creamy greek yoghurt, or for vegans, Coyo’s coconut yoghurt instead. Not only do they taste just as good, they also provide extra protein and good-for-the-gut bacteria.
If you’re holding on to your sugar for a baking occasion, I’ve found two great alternatives for teas and coffees: cinnamon and vanilla extract. They add a hint of sweetness and aroma to your hot drink, and mean your sugar stores can be saved for something a little more special.
When you’re baking, mashed ripe bananas add so much natural sweetness to your baked goods – and stops that delicious sugary fruit from going to waste.
Nice cream has been one of my favourite go-tos for a sweet treat. If you have some fruit on the turn, stick it in the freezer, blend it up with a tablespoon of water at a time for a tasty, healthy ice cream alternative.
Please share your plates
Nothing has been more comforting recently than seeing the delicious new ways people are cooking during these crazy times. Cooking and eating have always been my favourite way to connect with people, and although we’re physically further apart than we’ve ever been, seeing what you’ve cooked up on Instagram has been a treasure trove of exciting inspiration for this article and the last, 10 Simple Feasts You Can Whip Up From Tins.
So if you try any of these swaps this week, or have cooked something both mouthwatering and resourceful, share it with me in a comment below or post using the hashtag #GoustoWeekly. It’ll make my week.