It’s always good to know the alternatives to expensive ingredients. Usually, lists like this focus on high priced items that immediately spring to mind, but I’d also like you to consider that if you have to buy a specific ingredient for a special recipe, even if the initial purchase might not seem expensive for the whole packet, bottle, tin, tube etc, if you only need 15 mls out of a 150ml bottle or 1 oz out of 4oz, then essentially, that 15mls or 1 oz has cost you the price of the whole item. How many of you have pantries containing “expensive” products that really are fairly regular-priced products that you just don’t use often? I do. It’s so annoying because you just know you’ll probably end up throwing them in the trash when the use by date goes by. Avoid that with these alternatives to expensive ingredients.
Arrowroot is a starch that is used for thickening purposes in a variety of recipes. Its best feature is that it is tasteless, but as with many other useful ingredients, this one comes at a high price too. However, one of the best alternatives to expensive ingredients like Arrowroot is to use all-purpose flour. You may have to use twice the quantity to get the same effect but it is still a cheaper alternative. Remember, however, that arrowroot is also commonly used for gluten-free products, in which case this alternative won’t work.
2. Vanilla Extract
For anyone who does baking often enough, pure vanilla extract is an investment. Experts reading this will argue that the taste of the final product is never the same if you aren’t using pure vanilla extract. Nevertheless, if you aren’t that hardcore with your baking, you can easily leave it out or substitute a cheaper extract.
Mirin, a Japanese rice wine that is used as flavoring in a variety of dishes, is an ingredient that is not just expensive but also difficult to find, especially if you need just a tablespoon of it for your recipe. The best way to make up for this is to use sweet marsala wine and dry sherry in equal parts, equivalent to the amount of mirin the recipe calls for. At a pinch, just go with the dry sherry.
4. Cream of Tartar
Cream of Tartar is also an expensive ingredient and sometimes it’s just not worth the effort to get hold of it just to use a tea- or tablespoon or two of it. If your recipe uses it as a leavening agent, you can leave it out completely and use baking powder instead.
5. Fish Sauce
Fish sauce is a common ingredient in many Thai dishes. However, it not only comes at a high price if you use it rarely, but is also a no-no for vegetarians/vegans. One of the alternatives to expensive ingredients like fish sauce is to use soy sauce or teriyaki sauce. It is going to be really hard for anyone to guess that you omitted the fish sauce in the recipe!
Those who often try out Indian recipes will know the importance of ghee. Almost every dish starts with a few tablespoons of ghee in a frying pan, with many dishes requiring up to a full cup of it. It is not necessary to buy it from the market as you can easily make it at home by melting unsalted butter and separating the solids using a strainer. Olive oil is another handy alternative, though it is unlikely to stand high heats without burning.
If you love to experiment with different cuisines, all the different ingredients you might need really begin to add up. One of my favorite dishes is hummus. When it comes to alternatives to expensive ingredients, however, there is no substitute for tahini. But, I happened upon this recipe some time ago and it doesn’t use tahini. It’s still fabulous!
I’d love to hear what alternative to expensive ingredients you have found to be successful.