Missing an ingredient from your recipe? Food substitutions are your friend - Deepstash
How to Get Started With Cooking

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How to improvise with ingredients

How to follow a recipe

How to prepare ingredients

How to Get Started With Cooking

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Get to know your tastebuds

Get to know your tastebuds

Lean into your senses to understand what you're tasting and how you're tasting it.

Ask yourself some questions: Where does the flavor hit your tongue? Do you feel the heat from something spicy? What do you smell? Does the smell impact what you taste? Does the bite you just took feel creamy or silky in your mouth? Does the dish taste bland or is it popping with the flavor of the tomatoes you added?

As you start to understand those sensations, you'll be able to figure out what categories of flavors the dish's components fall into: acidic, aromatic, fatty, salty, and sweet.


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Categories of flavors

  • Acids are usually sour: lemon or lime juice, vinegar, or wines, sour dairies like buttermilk, sour cream, and yogurt.
  • Aromatics affect the way your dish smells -  the spices and herbs in your dish: garlic, onions, ginger, cumin, paprika, parsley, basil, or cilantro.
  • Fatssoften vegetables over high heat, and they can give richness to a dish. Butters, oils, margarine, ghee, cheeses, milk and creams and their vegan alternatives all count as fats.
  • Salt: sea salt, kosher salt, table salt, coarse or fine. You can add salt with soy sauce, fish sauce, capers, canned anchovies or bacon bits.
  • Sweet ingredients include sugars, maple syrup, honey or molasses.


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Taste as you go – and adjust your seasonings accordingly

Taste as you go – and adjust your seasonings accordingly

One relatively fool-proof way to get your seasoning just right – whether it's the one in your recipe or something you're subbing in: keep tasting your dish as you go.

How much you use depends on what your substitute ingredient is. Say you want to swap in dried herbs for fresh ones, like rosemary, basil, ginger or garlic. They're great alternatives to their fresh counterparts, but they're also stronger in flavor, so you'll want to use less than what the recipe calls for.

When in doubt, start with less seasoning and add more once your dish is almost done cooking.


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How you cook your food is just as important as what you put in it

Flavor isn't just about the ingredients in a dish, but also about the technique used to prepare it. Cooking is not just a series of recipes, but it's a series of techniques that you can adapt to your own taste.

Understanding the techniques can give you a lot of flexibility to figure out what you can substitute – including what type of pan you should use, especially if you don't have the same equipment a recipe suggests.


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Remember that recipes are guides

Remember that recipes are guides

A recipe is there as a guide, but it's not the law.  So if you find yourself reading a recipe that asks for an ingredient that's hard to find or too expensive, ask yourself, "Is this ingredient essential? Is it a deal-breaker if I don't have it? What's lost if I don't use it?"

Ultimately, you should make food the way you want it. If an experiment doesn't go quite as planned, that's OK. And if you mess something up, it's not really that big a deal."


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