Genius/Horror ingredient swaps you have made

Inspired by last night’s bolognese sauce recipe, which required ‘half a cup of white wine’. Having everything else to hand, I decided I could easily substitute some other alcoholic liquid - but the only bottle on my ‘top shelf’ which remotely fitted the bill was a blended Scotch whisky.

Slightly more than a ‘generous’ half- cup later, I had ‘the best bolognese you ever made’, according to my wife. I may have to add Scotch to more recipes in future…

Less successful bolognese: a flatmate (years ago) decided tinned salmon was as good as ground beef.

We couldn’t finish it. And that was a time when we’d eat just about anything.

So what are your triumphs and disasters regarding ingredient swaps? When you decided that “X was just as good as Y”?

Moved to the genius/horror Cafe (from MPSIMS)

I once grabbed chicken fajita mix instead of taco mix at the store once. Decided “how bad can it be?” And threw it in the ground beef.

Don’t do that. Trust me.

Not me but my wife, and certainly not intentional, but one Thanksgiving while she was making the gravy she accidentally grabbed the cinnamon off the spice rack instead of the black pepper. Definitely not something you can swap one for the other!

Okay… I had to find out what the difference is…
Fajita Seasoning:

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin


Taco seasoning:

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

I mean, differences in proportion of ingredients and one has cornstarch - which adds no flavor - the other adds oregano.

So I have to ask: How bad was it?

If you make a batch of bourbon rice crispy squares. Don’t double the bourbon. Definitely too much of a good thing.

Once when I was still learning to cook, I tried my hand at meatloaf. My mother, for some reason, always put a couple of spoonfuls of syrup in hers. I didn’t have any syrup, but figured honey was the same thing. Result: sweetloaf. Even the dog didn’t want it.

I would imagine it’s just not “right” without necessarily being bad. Maybe even on the bland side.

One ingredient substitution that I read about that works spectacularly is using leftover dry vermouth instead of wine for recipes that call for wine. I can’t take credit for that though.

The Horror event: Making fresh crab cakes from crabs I’d personally caught, steamed and picked the da before, I used baking soda in the recipe instead of baking powder. Every crabcake tasted like an alka-seltzer tablet. I had to toss it all. :rage:

The genius event: adding just a bit of worcestershire sauce to my beef stroganoff amped the flavor by a factor of 10.

I swap seasoning packs like that all the time, and I’ve definitely used chicken fajita mix for ground beef. It’s fine. The flavors are largely the same, but that’s going to depend on brand. I’m not even sure why they given them different names – the main thing I remember is the chicken fajita is light on the cumin, but that won’t make it taste terrible and, well, you can just add cumin if you want it more cumin-y.

Mrs. J. substituted blackberries for four-and-twenty blackbirds in the pie she just made.

I approve. It’s hell trying to net all those birds.

Are you sure you put the Scotch in the bolognese and didn’t just give it to your wife?

I must say, that is a brave substitution, but I guess it depends on the blended scotch. I mean, there’s vodka sauces, and alcohol carries some tomato flavors but, wow, I would not have had enough confidence in the residual scotch flavor working with the sauce. Kudos it worked out! In those situations, I just routinely skip the wine part of the bolognese.

“sweetloaf” made me laugh.

My contribution: I once added red wine, chianti, IIRC, to an alfredo. It was delicious and I have not ever recreated it, sadly. I’ve tried, many times.

Grabbed the wrong bottle once and poured Torani syrup on the rocks instead of rum. Hazelnut snow cone!

I once attempted to make gravy (ie the brown stuff you put on a roast dinner) while on holiday with no stock and no flour. It had a good deal of red wine, hot water, various seasonings like garlic powder and herbs, and bread ground up in a pestle and mortar in an attempt to thicken it. Wouldn’t do it again, but it was surprisingly palatable.

I first read it as: “I had a good deal of red wine…

Which is often the cause and the solution to many cooking horrors.

I used a crab cake recipe I’d used a few times, always to great success, but substituting Krab for Crab. I actually prefer Krab over Crab for salads and such. Turns out it totally ruined the Crab Cake recipe.

Is Krab the same as Loobster?

Heh. I guess. The fake Crab made from pollock, aka surimi?