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Trading Common Kitchen Staples

Have you ever browsed the baking aisle of a bulk store like Costco and impulsively picked up a 5 pound bag of coconut flour? Seemed like a good idea at the time, and then it sat in your pantry neglected for months? Maybe you’ve even attempted a baking project or two, but it turned out thick and grainy.

Healthy alternatives and substitutions abound for common kitchen staples, but actually using them can sometimes feel like an expensive chemistry project – except instead of making a mess in a lab, you’ll be stuck with inedible blueberry “muffins” or a forgotten bag of expensive and abandoned almond flour. Here’s an overview of the substitutions for common kitchen staples, including recipes and ideas for how to use up the rest of that impulsively purchased coconut flour bag!

Flour Substitutes

  • Coconut flour is a dry, incredibly absorbent flour made from dried and ground coconut meat. It is a great source of fiber, protein, and fat. However, it is so absorbent that you only need a small amount of coconut flour for a typical baking recipe – far less than a 1:1 ratio replacement of regular wheat flour, typically around 1/3 cup coconut flour for every 1 cup of wheat flour. You also may need more eggs or other moisturizers like applesauce, since coconut flour is so dry. As with most substitutions, but especially with coconut flour, start by following a recipe from a reputable source first to see how it works before experimenting on your own. Check out this very helpful post on coconut flour to learn more. Try out these Fluffy Coconut Flour Pancakes or these Grain Free Coconut Flour Pumpkin Muffins!
  • Almond flour is typically made from blanched, ground, and dried almonds. It has fewer carbohydrates and fiber than coconut flour and is a good source of important nutrients like vitamin E, iron, and manganese. Almond flour can also be used in place of breadcrumbs for chicken dishes like these delicious Whole30 Chicken Tenders. Want something to satisfy your sweet tooth more? Give this Paleo Pumpkin Coffee Cake or these Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies a shot!

Sugar Substitutes
There’s another key kitchen staple that many of us can’t live without – and even feel “addicted to” – that can be omitted by choosing sweeteners from whole foods sources like honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, and stevia: yes, you can actually bake without sugar!

  • According to Grit, it’s okay to use honey to replace sugar in most recipes as long as you bake it at a lower temp (by about 25 degrees), reduce the other liquids in the recipe for 1/4 cup for every 1 cup of honey, and add a pinch of baking soda. Try this alternative in this Paleo Carrot Cake Loaf!
  • Agave Nectar
  • Maple Syrup
  • Stevia

Butter Substitutes
Anyone who wants to avoid eating dairy – due to lactose intolerance or a dairy free diet like Paleo – will need to find alternate sources of healthy fats and liquids for baking. Here are four good options:

  • Coconut oil is a great alternative because it has a high smoke point, meaning it is less likely to burn while cooking. Most Paleo baking recipes call for coconut oil instead of butter; here is one to try: Super Fudgy Paleo Brownies!
  • Olive oil is another option. As with coconut oil, olive oil has a strong taste that will likely come through in the end product, so choose to use olive oil with foods that will complement the flavor like this Citrus Olive Oil Cake.
  • Avocados are a wonderful source of omega-3’s and vitamin E, and can be used in place of butter depending on the dish. It’s recommended to only substitute half of the butter with avocado for optimum results. Try these avocado brownies for a delicious combination of avocado, coconut and chocolate!
  • Applesauce, while not a fat source, can mimic the effect of butter by keeping baked goods moist. Use applesauce in place of butter for recipes, especially cakes, but be sure to keep half the original amount of butter unless you want a super dense and moist cake like this yummy Vegan Banana Apple Chunk Bread.  


As a way to make special treats a part of an overall healthy lifestyle, these ingredient substitutions are both smart and delicious. What are your favorite substitutes for the common kitchen staples? Share with us in the comments below!


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