5 Healthy Baking Substitutions



By Jo Hodson

So, you love baking… but now you have allergies, intolerances or vegan friends and family to cater to. Or maybe you simply want to change things up a bit in your life, or want to know what to do when you are half way through a recipe and realize you are out of eggs!

Don’t worry, here is a little guide of substitutions for you. It’s by no means exhaustive and – as with everything else I do – I encourage you to experiment and explore for yourself. It very quickly becomes intuitive as to what a cookie or cake mixture needs, it just takes a little practice.

Tip: Make a small amount the first time you try a recipe and if it goes wrong there is minimal loss (I know this from experience!). It also helps you hone in your skills and find which subs you prefer.

1. Eggs


I typically use a “flax egg” or “chia egg.” Mix 1 tsp of ground flax or 1 tsp chia with 1-2 tbs of warm water and allow it to sit for a minute to allow it to gel. Other good ‘binders’ are fruit purees (such as banana or apple). The other property of an egg in a recipe is using it as a rising agent. Generally, for recipes that call for no more than 2 eggs, the ‘binder’ will work along with a ¼ tsp of extra baking powder (I can’t promise the results for recipes that call for more than two eggs as this method will not replicate them exactly if the eggs form a central part of the recipe).

2. Oil/Butter

There are, of course, lots of “good fats,” but in general, we could all benefit from reducing the refined saturated fat content in our diet. I typically use coconut oil (either in a solid or liquid form, depending on the recipe requirements). In addition to this, I also reduce the amount of oil stated in a recipe by substituting up to ½ of the amount with apple puree, banana puree or non-dairy yoghurt. Most recipes can accommodate this sub with little difference in taste. There are some recipes – such as crisp cookies – that struggle with fat substitution.

3. Dairy Milk

There are plenty of non-dairy milks to choose from. I would imagine that pretty much any milk-alternative could be substituted for most recipes. Some milks have slightly different tastes and viscosities (i.e almond milk is lighter and sweeter, whereas coconut milk is thicker and richer).

4. Flour

In baking, whenever a recipe calls for all purpose flour, the easiest option for wheat-free is using spelt flour, as this behaves very similarly to regular wheat flour in most recipes. However, spelt is not gluten-free. To achieve the best texture, opt for a recipe lower in flour to start with (to make it easier for yourself) and explore with combining different flour types (i.e heavy and light flours) to see what you prefer.


For gluten-free baking, I have had a lot of success with this substitution:

1 cup regular flour = ⅓ cup each of: almond meal, tapioca flour (or other starchy flour) and buckwheat flour, plus a pinch of xantham gum if necessary to help bind.

This works well for a denser product. I also sometimes use brown rice flour for lighter baked goods, which is gluten-free. Also to note, there are a lot of recipes where beans/chickpeas can be used to substitute the flour, making ooey-gooey treats (black bean brownies are incredible and so easy).

5. Sugar (For Baking ‘Refined Sugar-Free)

Where possible, use natural, whole food sweeteners in the form of fruit purees, blended dates and natural syrups. Sometimes, I will substitute refined white sugar with an unrefined granulated sugar, such as rapadura (sucanat) or coconut sugar. I always aim to reduce the quantity of sweetener called for in a recipe by approx. half and add a few drops of pure stevia to bump up the overall sweetness. Adding vanilla or cinnamon also helps trick the brain into tasting a greater amount of sweetness in a recipe.

Tip: Taste the batter as you go and adjust to your own taste. The best excuse ever for licking the spoon!


Jo Hodson

Jo Hodson

Holistic Health Coach at Including Cake
Jo Hodson lives in England and is the Holistic Health Coach behind Including Cake, empowering individuals to ‘get curious’ in seeking a path to optimal wellness in both body and mind.She is also the creator of the health food brand, Wholeplus and when she is not creating healthy recipes, she is dreaming up even more.
Jo Hodson

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