Increase Your Holiday Stars: Thanksgiving Swaps & Substitutions

Cranberry Orange Sauce
Cranberry Orange Sauce – 2 Guiding Stars

Thanksgiving is all about preparing family recipes year after year. In most cases, these aren’t just any recipes, but directions in dishes which were developed with care and precise selection of perfect seasonal ingredients. What happens when those ingredients aren’t available on store shelves? This year we may find out. Don’t let the strained supermarket supply chain impact your holiday cheer. Follow this guide to successful Thanksgiving swaps and substitutions.

Canned Pumpkin

Try canned squash when you can’t locate canned pumpkin. It provides similar texture and flavor. You can also use a fresh pumpkin (often called “sugar” or “pie” pumpkin), but as my colleague Kitty Broihier notes, it will take a bit of time and preparation.

Spices & Extracts

You can create your own spice blends if your local store is out. For example, from our Soft Pumpkin Bars, you can replace 2 tsp. pumpkin spice with: 1 tsp. cinnamon, ⅛ tsp. cloves, ⅛ tsp. allspice, ¼ tsp. nutmeg, and ¼ tsp. ginger.
If you can’t find vanilla extract, try an equal amount of maple syrup, or half the amount of almond extract.

Evaporated Milk

Evaporated milk is used to create a creamy texture in an assortment of dishes. However, if you can’t locate it, you can make it yourself with this effortless method: Gently boil about 2 ¼ cups regular milk (watching it to ensure it doesn’t burn) until the volume is reduced by a little more than a half, to about one cup. Then, cool, and use the thickened liquid in a variety of recipes that call for evaporated milk.

Sweetened Condensed Milk

Sweetened condensed milk (also referred to as condensed milk) is basically evaporated milk with added sugar. If a recipe calls for it, first consider what the recipe might be like without the added sugar—do you really need it or could you just use straight evaporated milk? If it needs some sugar, either add a bit of extra sugar to the recipe, or make your own condensed milk by stirring sugar into gently heated evaporated milk (try to use as little sugar as possible).

Fresh Herbs

When a recipe calls for fresh herbs, using them is truly ideal. Of course, when you don’t have access to fresh, dried herbs (especially when cooked into a recipe) can be a reliable substitution. When needed, one tablespoon fresh herbs can be replaced with one teaspoon dried.

Cranberry Sauce

If store shelves are out of stock of this berry staple, then I have a simple solution—make it yourself! With easy, make-ahead recipes like our Cranberry Orange Sauce available, you may decide to skip the canned version moving forward.

Low-sodium Chicken Broth

If your preferred low-sodium chicken broth is difficult to find, look for Guiding Stars, in store or online, to help you quickly and easily find a nutritious replacement. Alternatively, you can use white wine, low-sodium vegetable broth, or a combination of regular chicken broth plus water and seasoning.

Your family and friends may not even notice your simple ingredient shift if careful consideration is applied and if the result resembles the dish your guests look forward to enjoying. If you’re looking for more advice on this topic, check out our blog on flexible substitutions.