12 Expensive Recipe Ingredients You Can Easily Replace

With the holidays quickly approaching, there may not be much time left before your house is filled with hungry holiday revelers. Baking or cooking super fancy, impressive dishes can seem like an intimidating task to take on but is usually more straightforward than it looks. After all, you’ve been on Pinterest for a month solid, finding awesome and easy ideas to try, right?

The problem, of course, is while you may have Martha’s creativity and panache, you may be working with your decidedly less creative and panache-y budget. Well, have no fear! These great ideas for replacing expensive ingredients with much more affordable ones will help get you through the coming season without breaking the bank.


Regardless of what your recipe calls for, there are usually less expensive choices available for you to choose from. One common problem may be that if you don’t regularly drink wine, most of the bottles will go to waste.

If that is the case, you can replace that expensive bottle with a cheaper bottle of cooking wine. Even better, you can use fresh juices or broths (cranberry juice to replace red wine or chicken broth can be used instead of white wine) to give your dish an extra hint of flavor.

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup can often run you upwards of $15 for just a few measly cups. In some recipes where you’re really only after that sweet maple-like flavor, you can substitute the syrup with a mix of brown sugar and water. Simply combine the two until you’ve found the right consistency, and use it instead.


Saffron is one of the most ridiculously expensive spices you can buy, costing as much as $300 an ounce. It’s made by hand, which explains the price, but isn’t it nice to know that turmeric can be used as a substitute?

If you decide to save on the price using this method, you should use a bit less than what the recipe calls for, since turmeric has a much stronger taste. Or you can also try a combination of paprika and turmeric to replace that pricey saffron.


This expensive ingredient can cost anywhere from $10 to well over $100, depending on the kind you are shopping for. But you can use peanut butter as a substitute in most recipes, which is a far cheaper alternative to tahini. You may need to thin it out a bit by adding a little water through.


While cardamom may not be all that expensive, it is not a very common spice to keep in the cupboard. When a recipe calls for cardamom, you can either use cinnamon or a combination of cinnamon and nutmeg. Plus, I just saved you a trip to the store to get an ingredient you may never use again!


Famous for their cost (up to $3600 per pound!!!), truffles are a luxury that few can afford. No need to worry, though, because we’ve found a much less expensive alternative. Porcini mushrooms can be used as a substitute in your recipe, or if you only need the flavor, you can use truffle oil in your recipe.

Worcestershire Sauce

Not only is this one tough to pronounce correctly, but it can also be a little tough on the pocketbook as well. Luckily, soy sauce (much more easy to say and less money to pay) is similar in flavor and can be used instead. Also, you’re less likely to waste the remainder of the bottle.

Vanilla Beans

Vanilla is another of the more expensive spices. Its manufacturing process is a very time consuming one, which drives the cost of the finished product up. To add to this, most vanilla is grown in Madagascar, which is far and isolated, so getting it to our North American markets is costly. Vanilla extract is an excellent substitute, making it the affordable version of vanilla that you can use in all your baking needs.

Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar can be a bit costly, so using other kinds of vinegar is a more affordable option. Many specialty kinds of vinegar can be found in the grocery store, like brown rice vinegar, Chinese black vinegar, sherry vinegar, and fruit vinegar. You can also use red wine vinegar combined with sugar or honey to give it a sweeter taste.

Dijon Mustard

Yellow mustard’s more affluent cousin, Dijon mustard, has practically the same flavor but is much more expensive. You can just use regular mustard in your recipe and get the same result most of the time.

Risotto Rice

Here is another case of fancy, upscale version of ordinary food, making us spend more. Using long-grain rice instead of risotto will yield just about the same results without breaking your budget.

Fresh Lemons and Limes

Depending on how far north you live and what time of year it is, these sweet fruits can be pricey. Using a few squeezes of lemon or lime juice will usually get you the tartness your recipe is calling for, at a fraction of the cost.

This holiday season, if you’ve got big plans for making some delectable treats to serve your family and friends, but are working with a tight budget, don’t worry. These simple substitutes for pricey ingredients will keep your food tasting top-notch without breaking the bank.

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