The ultimate guide to ingredient substituting

On a scale of 1 to the baby shark song, how annoying is it when you read through a recipe and find out you don’t have everything you need to start cooking. The thought of heading back to the supermarket isn’t particularly appealing and the likeliness of beans on toast for dinner quickly grows stronger.

Stop right there. Just because you don’t have EVERYTHING on the recipe, doesn’t mean you can’t achieve delicious results. It may not be exactly like the recipe describes, but there’s a huge range of alternatives out there. You may even discover you prefer the dish this way. Let your creativity take the lead and have a go at using these substitutions. Besides, nothing exciting ever came from following the rules


Amchur - Mango Powder: dry, sour taste. Introduced to North Indian cooking during a time when limes and lemons were tricky to get hold of due to the climate. 

Try using: ground persian lime. If you can’t get your hands on that, try fresh lime 

Asofoetida: Bold, savory and umami tasting

Try using: onion and garlic powder or shallots, fresh garlic or leeks 

Cardamom: floral, robust and subtly citrussy

Try using: cinnamon and a small pinch of nutmeg or cloves

Caraway seeds: these seeds are a member of the cumin family. They’re slightly milder and a little sweeter in flavour. 

Try using: roasted cumin seeds or a small sprinkling of dill

Fresh curry leaves: a fresh and lemony herb

Try using: Lemon zest 

Garam Masala - There are many different variations of this spice powder, depending on the region of India it comes from. If you don’t have this spice blend at home, you could always make the blend yourself.Check your spice cupboard and use any of these ground ingredients in equal parts:black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom powder, bay leaf, cumin powder, and clove powder. (Careful with the clove powder, as it can easily overpower.) 

Kasoori Methi /Fenugreek leaves: bitter tasting. 

Try using: celery leaves 

Saffron: one of the most expensive spices in the world. A beautiful flavouring and colouring agent with a strong sweet and nutty taste

Try using: Turmeric and a pinch of paprika 

Star anise: strong woody and earthy flavour. 

Try using: either Chinese 5 spice or a blend of cinnamon and fennel seeds


Atta Flour - Wheat flour. used for roti, chapati and paratha. 

Try using: If you can’t find chapati flour, there are ways to work around it, although the texture won’t be the same and you might not be able to roll out the dough as thin as you would with chapati flour. Mix 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 of either all-purpose flour or unbleached white.

Maida Flour - Wheat flour. Sometimes called all purpose flour. Also used for making roti and parathas, but achieves a much softer result than the traditional atta flour. 

Try using: Wholewheat is just as good and a healthy alternative . You only need to use half the amount of wholewheat flour though, as the flour is much lighter.

Gram Flour - Dal Flour. Otherwise known as chickpea flour. This flour is very high in protein and has a nutty taste and a very earthy smell 

Try using: another kind of legume flour such as soy bean, fava bean, lentil or urad dal flour

Urad dal flour: Dal flour. Used for papads and of course, to make dosa. 

Try using: Rice flour. You could also finely grind urad dal to create your own urad dal flour.  Don’t attempt to use any wheat based flour