Substitution Chart for Today’s Cooks

Chocolate chip cookies

Ask Chef Phyllis:

Years ago I had a refrigerator magnet that displayed equivalent amounts for baking, like 4 quarts equal 1 gallon and other basic information that most cooks know already. Now I’m looking for a different kind of substitution chart that has more up-to-date equivalents. For example, healthier swaps such as a better fat for the margarine in my old chocolate chip cookie recipe or the best kind of oil I  should use in my Fry Daddy. Is there any chance such a list exists? Can you help?
—Pauline Wolfe Henderson, Collierville, TN

I receive dozens of requests for healthier sugar equivalents and fat substitutes. We’re all looking for better options, but we still want to keep our tried and true recipes. Though I have the same chocolate chip cookie recipe that calls for margarine that you have, I never want to use margarine again. I switched to butter first, but it made a harder cookie than I wanted. Next came lard, with better results. But the final and best choice for my Toll House chocolate chip cookies was… coconut oil (which I refrigerated for 30 minutes first). See my other recommended Toll House substitutions below, followed by my complete substitution chart. It might just save your baking day!

Ingredients and Substitutions for Original Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

Original ingredients:
2¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) margarine
¾ cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup nuts (optional)


Margarine: You may swap 1 cup margarine with 1 cup coconut oil (chilled for 30 minutes in the fridge) or 1 cup butter if you prefer. Chef’s tip: If you use butter, reduce cooking time 1–2 minutes for a softer cookie. Everything else remains the same.

White sugar: Replace ¾ cup sugar with ⅞ cup coconut palm sugar or 1 cup organic cane juice sugar.

Flour (for gluten free cookies): Substitute flour for 2 cups light buckwheat flour or a flour-free mix of your choice, such as one from Bob’s Red Mill.

Chef’s tip: To answer your question about frying, I recommend peanut oil, coconut oil, or lard. These fats have a higher smoking temperature, 450°F to be exact. Since you can fry foods at a higher temperature, they absorb less grease and are crispier too. You can also try adding 1 tablespoon olive oil to the butter in the frying pan; the oil will keep the butter from browning too quickly. Finally, I hope you try lard for your pie crusts. It’s flakier and tastier and a much better choice than hydrogenated  shortening.

Ingredient Substitution Chart

Note: ⅞ cup is equal to ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons.

Butter1 cup1 cup ghee (clarified butter)
Butter, unsalted1 cup1 cup coconut oil
Chocolate, premelted1 oz. liquid packet3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder + 2 teaspoons brown rice syrup
Chocolate, syrup1 serving of chocolate milk2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder + 1 tablespoon honey
Chocolate, unsweetened1 oz. square3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa + 1 tablespoon melted butter
Cornstarch1 tablespoon1 tablespoon arrowroot
Corn syrup, dark½ cup½ cup brown rice syrup + 1 teaspoon vanilla
Cream, half and half1 cup⅞ cup whole milk +1 tablespoon melted butter or ¾ cup whole milk + ¼ cup heavy cream
Cream, heavy whipping1 cup¾ cup whole milk + ⅓ cup melted and cooled butter
Cream, light1 cup⅞ cup whole milk + 3 tablespoons melted and cooled butter
Cream, sour1 cup⅓ cup melted butter + ¾ cup milk or 1 cup Greek yogurt
Fat, shortening1 cup⅞ cup lard or schmaltz (for pie crust) or 1 cup coconut oil (for cakes and cookies)
Fat, shortening or margarine1 cup1 cup butter; ⅞ cup clarified bacon or pork fat; or ⅔ cup clarified chicken fat + ¼ cup nut oil
Fat, vegetable oil1 cup1 cup peanut oil
Flour1 tablespoon1 whole egg; 2 egg yolks; 1 tablespoon tapioca or arrowroot (for pudding); or 1 tablespoon quinoa flakes or agar-agar flakes (for soup)
Ginger1-inch pieceyields 2 tablespoons grated ginger
Lemon juice1 tablespoon½ teaspoon lemon extract
Lemon juice1 teaspoon¼ teaspoon cider vinegar
Lemon juicejuice of ½ lemonyields 2 teaspoons lemon juice
Lime juicejuice of ½ lime1 teaspoon lime juice
Milk, sour or buttermilk1 cup1 cup sweet milk + 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar
Milk, sweet1 cup1 cup sour milk + ½ teaspoon baking soda
Milk, whole1 cup4 tablespoons powdered milk + 1 cup water or 4 tablespoons nonfat milk + 2 teaspoons melted butter + 1 cup water
Molasses1 cup1 cup raw honey
Stock1 cup1 cup water
Sugar, brown1 cup¾ cup raw chilled honey or ⅞ cup rapadura sugar
Sugar, white1 cup1 cup organic cane juice sugar (I use Trade Winds organic); 1 cup unsweetened applesauce (for cakes); 1 cup pureed pumpkin pulp; 1 cup mashed banana; or ⅞ cup coconut palm sugar
Tomato juice1 cup½ cup tomato sauce + ½ cup water
Tomato sauce2 cups¾ cup tomato paste + 1 cup water
Water1 cup1 cup whey
Zest, lemon1 lemonyields 2 teaspoons finely grated zest
Zest, lime1 limeyields 2 teaspoons finely grated zest
Zest, orange1 orangeyields 2 tablespoons grated zest

Chef Phyllis


To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:

  • chemical- and hormone-free meat
  • wild-caught fish
  • pasture-raised, organic eggs
  • whole, unrefined grains
  • virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
  • whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
  • pure, clean, spring water
  • sea salt
  • raw and/or cultured milk and cream products

Creative Commons photo by Sharon Drummond

Phyllis Quinn

Phyllis Quinn is a chef, food writer, and founder of Udderly Cultured, a class that teaches how to make homemade fresh mozzarella, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, and other cultured products. Private lessons are available. For a reservation, call Phyllis at 970-221-5556 or email her at [email protected] Rediscover nearly lost cooking methods and get one-of-a-kind recipes in her books The Slow Cook Gourmet and Udderly Cultured: The Art of Milk Fermentation.

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