Cheap and easy swaps for hard-to-find baking ingredients such as flour, eggs, milk & more
Eg, fizzy water instead of eggs, oats instead of flour
The past several weeks have seen grocery shortages in many shops most won't ever have seen, unless they're old enough to remember rationing like my dad (hi Dad!). With most of us at home, baking is a popular way to pass the time, but with many struggling to pick up their usual key ingredients such as flour and eggs, there's been renewed interest in wartime recipes, as well as vegan baking.
I might not be a professional baker, but it's something I do often and enjoy. This is my 14th year vegan so I've a lot of experience with different ingredients, and baking is applied chemistry, which I’m qualified in (yes, really) – so I’m going to give you some tips and tricks on how to easily and cheaply substitute ingredients you may be struggling to find, so your baking won’t go bad.
I've checked prices at Tesco (as most people can access it), or Asda/Sainsbury's if Tesco had no stock online. As you'll see in the tables below, I'm showing you a range of alternatives where some are cheaper and some aren't, as you may already have those ingredients knocking about and not need to buy them, you might discover something much cheaper, or want to choose an ingredient for another reason.
As I mentioned, I'm a MoneySavingExpert and not a professional baker, so before using any tips make sure you've checked all allergy information so you don't end up buying something unsuitable.
In some areas (including where I live), plain wheat flour is still pretty scarce and it’s not practical to try and make your own. Gluten-free baking can be tricky, so if you can eat wheat and gluten, it’s probably not worth ransacking the free-from aisle unless you know what you’re doing – but there are other alternatives.
Firstly, here's what you need to know about swapping between different types of wheat flour:
- If you need self-raising flour, but only have plain, swap with 1.5tsp of baking powder per cup of plain flour.
- If you need plain flour, but only have self-raising flour, adjust the ratio of baking powder to self-raising flour to match your recipe if it’s not 1.5tsp per cup.
- If you need bread flour, you can swap with plain or self-raising flour in some recipes, but as they have a lower gluten content it's often best to change recipe instead.
Secondly, here are a few wheat flour replacements and how to use them:
|Flour replacement||How I'd use it||Price per 1.5kg (vs £1.35 for flour at Tesco)|
|Chapatti flour||Great for making chapattis (a type of flatbread that needs no yeast), but you can try it out for baking too as it's wheat flour. It's usually found in large 5kg or 10kg bags in the 'world foods' aisle.||53p (so 82p cheaper)|
|Oats||Grind rolled oats into flour in a blender to make oat flour, which I find is good for muffins and certain types of bread, but not so good for cupcakes.||£1.13 (so 22p cheaper)|
|Rice flour||It's possible to buy, or mill your own from dry rice in a high-speed blender, but I’d recommend oat flour instead. It's easier to work with if you’re not used to wheat and/or gluten-free baking.||£2.63 (so £1.28 more expensive)|
|Chickpea/gram flour||You can also use it in baking, although I’d recommend mixing with other flours as it has quite a strong flavour (don't eat the raw batter, yuck). Better as an egg replacement.||£1.50 (so 15p more expensive)|
As a vegan, I've always used alternatives to eggs when baking, and I bet there are probably more than you think. Here are a few of the things I've given a go, such as bananas and fizzy water – really, this is no yolk.
|Egg replacement||How I'd use it||Price (vs 14p per egg at Tesco)|
|Banana||Use half of a very ripe mashed banana to replace one egg. The riper the better – over ripe bananas are sweeter, so you can use less sugar.||8p (so 6p cheaper)|
|Carbonated water||Use ¼ cup to replace one egg – good in pancake recipes. It's especially useful if you have a Soda Stream laying around as you’ll not need to go out and buy fizzy water.||1p per ¼ cup (so 13p cheaper)|
|Chickpea/gram flour||Use this to make eggless omelettes. Most vegan omelette powders are mainly chickpea flour, with some kala namak salt for ‘eggy’ flavour (optional). Mix 1 tbsp with 4 tbsp water to replace one egg, and stir up before adding to frying pan. Check the world foods section of the supermarket.||2p per tbsp (so 12p cheaper)|
|Milled flaxseeds/linseeds or chia seeds||Replace one egg with 1 tbsp of milled flax (it’s linseed by another name) and 3 tbsp of water. Stir it together and let it sit for a while, and it’ll go ‘gooey’ like beaten egg. It's good in bread or muffin recipes. Check the cooking/breakfast sections of the supermarket.||15p per tbsp (so similar price)|
|Silken tofu||Silken tofu (in the cartons, not tubs) mashed with a fork, or blended works really well as an egg replacement, especially in muffins. Use ¼ cup to replace one egg. Check the bean/pulse or Asian section of the supermarket.||29p per ¼ cup (so 15p more expensive)|
|Baking powder replacement||How I'd use it||Price (vs 100g baking powder)|
|Baking soda with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar||Use ¼ tsp of baking soda and 1 tsp of lemon juice, or apple cider vinegar for 1 tsp of baking powder in your recipe. The lemon juice might add a bit of a lemony flavour, but in my experience apple cider vinegar can’t be tasted in your finished cake.||35p (so 6p cheaper, plus cost of lemon juice)|
|Baking soda replacement||How I'd use it||Price (vs 100g of baking soda)|
|Baking powder||Use 3 tsp of baking powder per 1 tsp of baking soda that your recipe calls for. You might need to do some maths to get the ratios right if your recipe calls for both – set it as a home schooling problem for the kids!||41p (so 6p more expensive)|
If you usually buy cow's milk, you can replace it in a recipe with any non-dairy milk, such as soya, which is the cheapest alternative (1L soy milk is 59p at Tesco, compared to 80p for two pints of cow's milk). Bear in mind that some milks, eg, coconut will impart a flavour to the finished product.
Alternatively, or if you can't find oat or almond milk, the table below shows how you can use oats or almonds to make milk yourself:
|Milk replacement||How I'd use it||Price per cup (vs 1L of milk)|
|Oats and water||Soak 1 cup of oats for 15-30mins, rinse and drain, then blend up with 2-4 cups of fresh water. You can change the thickness after you’ve blended by adding more water. Pass through a sieve, cheesecloth, muslin, or even a clean tea towel to take out any chunks before using. You can add sweetener like maple syrup, or leave it plain and then use in baking or tea/coffee.||10p (so £1.30 cheaper)|
|Almonds and water||Made in a similar way to oat milk, soaking almonds overnight, but best if you’ve a high-powered blender. You'll end up with about one litre of thick and creamy almond milk - thicker than store-bought, but you can add more water to thin it down and make it go further.||£1 (so 5p more expensive, unless you water it down)|
Not got ingredients? Change the recipe
Instead of trying to swap out every ingredient in a recipe you've got your heart set on, it might be time to be a little more flexible. No flour but got oats? Try flapjacks. No eggs? Try a vegan bake.
We asked MoneySavers to show us their best lockdown bakes for inspiration:
What if my baking still fails?
As long as it’s not burnt to a crisp, or otherwise unsafe to eat (eg, raw egg) – as I always say, eat the fail! Nobody will know if you eat the evidence. Obviously, I’m not saying you should purposefully waste ingredients, especially as they’re hard to come by right now, but if you’re learning or baking for the first time, it’s not always going to be perfect.
Are you having to get creative in the kitchen due to baking shortages? What are your top tips and favourite swaps? Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter.