in the kitchen

How to Adapt Recipes

Readers' Questions at Go GinghamThis question comes from a friend who was asking me about how I make changes to a recipe.  I thought I’d share with you my steps so you can do this in your own kitchen.  The real secret is that it’s just all trial and error.  Your willingness to make healthy food that tastes great is all you really need to adapt recipes, but here are my steps.  Having willing taste testers is another useful tool in this process but testers need to be honest.  Keep notes to see if it worked out and what changes you might make the next time.  This list is mostly for baking but I’ll change any recipe.

Find a recipe that sounds good and follow the directions exactly for the first time.  This creates your basis from which you can make modifications…

  • Use whole wheat flour. I use Bob’s Red Mill whole wheat flour and recommend this product.  I’m too efficient and don’t have much room in my kitchen, so I only use one type of flour.
  • Don’t double the butter. When baking, double the recipe but don’t double the butter.  I use the same amount of butter a single batch calls for and substitute non-fat, plain yogurt for the remainder.  For example, if a recipe calls for 2 sticks of butter for a single batch of cookies, I double the recipe but still only add 2 sticks of butter, I just add 1 cup of yogurt.
  • Don’t double the sugar. Most cookies, cakes and other recipes call for too much sugar.  Most recipes taste great (especially if you’re adding chocolate chips) by using half the amount of sugar.  For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of white sugar and 1 cup of brown sugar, and I double the recipe, I still only put in 1 cup of white sugar and 1 cup of brown sugar.
  • Add flax seeds. I generally add 1/4 or 1/3 cup flax seeds (either ground or whole) to most of my baked goods.  Flax seeds are full of dietary fiber and Omega 3 fatty acids.  I like Bob’s Red Mill, either packaged or in bulk section.  We all need more of these in our diets and no one will notice a little in their cookies.  My taste testers don’t!
  • Substitute for pecans. When a recipe calls for pecans, substitue a less expensive nut.  Pecans are expensive.  Peanuts, walnuts and sunflower seeds are good substitutes, if you want to make a recipe but are looking for a less expensive alternative.  Now, if I’m baking a pecan/pumpkin pie for my husband’s birthday, then I’m buying pecans but otherwise I check prices, first.

Don’t be afraid to change a recipe.  If you don’t like how something came out, just try again.  If you don’t make too many changes, your food will still taste good and get eaten by your family.  Experiment and have fun in the kitchen.  Get your family in on it and write your recipes down.  A cookbook and a love of cooking are both wonderful family gifts to pass along.

What’s your method for adapting recipes?

Go Gingham related links:

Frugal grocery shopping – without coupons!
Pantry basics for the home cook – what’s in my pantry
Refrigerator basics for the home cook – what’s in my refrigerator
Confessions of a leftover food lover – that would be me!

3 thoughts on “How to Adapt Recipes

  1. Such a good post.

    I respect that you don’t have room for much flour in your kitchen, not a problem for me. I have substituted whole wheat pastry flour for white flour and found no discernable difference. I have also found that lessening the sugar has no real discuernable taste difference. But we don’t like or eat really sweet things anyways.

    I am intrigued about trying the yogurt trick. I am sensitive to milk so I am not sure how much I will be able to tolerate. And we don’t often double recipes because of being just two of us.

    Thanks for the post.


    1. Thank you. I’m curious to see if the yogurt would bother you. As far as not doubling recipes, you could try this same trick with butter and sugar in a regular recipe and half it. Try it and let me know how it works.


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