Healthy Recipe Substitutions For Dummies

healthy-recipe-substitutionsI mess up recipes… a lot.

You might not believe it from looking at the pretty pictures I post here.

cookie-stackPeanut Butter Chocolate Chip Protein Cookies

But for every one of these delicious, healthy recipes, there are about ten more that went horribly awry.

cocolate macaroonsCan I interest you in a Leg-less Chocolate Spider “Macaroon?” No?

I’m not a chef, and I don’t pretend to be.

I’m just a gal with a passion for nutrition, who tries to bring that out in the kitchen and sometimes succeeds.

Where I go wrong is making too many healthy substitutions. I’d find a Paula Deen recipe that looks delicious and think, “Oh I could totally make that healthy by substituting the butter, the half and half, the sugar, the canola oil, the unbleached flour, etc. What I end up with is often a pile of brown mush.

In an attempt to step up my game in the kitch, I’ve recruited the help of my best friend Katie (who I fondly refer to as The Masterbaker) to give us the rundown on which healthy recipe substitutions work for which ingredients.


Katie is a trained chef, professional cake maker, and now an entrepreneur. She and her lovely twin sister Emily are currently opening a bridal shop in my hometown of Tucson, AZ called J Bridal Boutique, and I highly recommend you check it out if you’re in the market.

Katie has broken down the sometimes confusing world of baking for me and compiled this list with everything you need to turn a calorie bomb into a healthy baking masterpiece.

In addition to following the guidelines on the chart, Katie has this tip for making healthy recipe substitutions:

“When it comes to recipe substitution, some recipes work with a bunch of substitutions and some may only work with one. Try not to replace more than 60% of the ingredients in a recipe, or you’re much more likely to end up with a flop.”

I hope this list helps you avoid any catastrophic holiday cookie mishaps!

*If you use this healthy recipe substitution guide to makeover a recipe, I want to hear about it! Leave a message in the comments below or share the recipe and tag me @whitneylenglish. This post is linked to Show Off Fridays.

Weigh In: What other healthy substitutions do you use? Anything we missed? Do you have any questions? I’ll get answers from my Masterbaker!


  1. Thanks this is great! The only substitutions Ive successfully done are apple sauce for oil and whole wheat flower instead of white.
    Ashley @ BrocBlog recently posted…My Eating Habits LatelyMy Profile

  2. I’ve used a lot of these substitutes but I always have to look it up and make sure. Pinning this useful graphic for future reference. :)
    zozo recently posted…The Sunscreen PostMy Profile

  3. Such a good idea! I’m always trying to find replacements for eggs and butter. This chart is such a help!
    Nichole | Green Cuisine Queen recently posted…Hazelnut Pumpkin PieMy Profile

  4. I’ve used yogurt in place of oil in banana bread recipes, and it still turns out just as good without all the extra calories from oil!

    You look so pretty ! Love those bridesmaid dresses
    Pam S @nutsfornutrition recently posted…Rock n Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon Race RecapMy Profile

  5. DUDE!!!! Nice work on the chart!!! It’s so cute, and easy to read – even DUDES can use it! ;)
    GiGi Eats Celebrities recently posted…Evil Weight Gain Doesn’t Stand a Chance!My Profile

  6. I have some baking to do this month (who doesn’t?) and we roll with a pretty health nut crowd. I’ve used applesauce, mashed bananas and Greek yogurt in place of oil, but some of these are new to me. Thank you for the handy guide!

    And btw you make a gorgeous bridesmaid!! I love those dresses. Do you remember the designer? My cousin just got engaged, so I’m paying extra close attention to all things wedding for her ;)
    Kristina @ Damn Ten Pounds recently posted…I think she’s trying to kill meMy Profile

  7. This great! Helps around the holidays! I enjoy your blog

  8. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am not a cook or baker so this is great!
    Jody – Fit at 56 recently posted…Barbra Streisand, Healthy Recipes & a GIVEAWAY, Underwear Again – Warning – Random Post Ahead!My Profile

  9. Oh yeah.. I’m no good unless I follow a recipe exactly. I tried to sub out so many things for so long and finally I’m just like I will add the sixteen sticks of butter to this cookie recipe and not care. And they turn out perfect haha.

    That chart is really handy! The masterbaker nickname is awesome, btw haha!
    Anastasia recently posted…Five On FridayMy Profile

  10. Great substitutions list! We like your “health oriented” blog!
    Sarah & Arkadi recently posted…Quick Sausage and Mushroom LasagnaMy Profile

  11. Claudia Rosenbaum says:

    Thanks for the chart! Those cookies you baked the other day were AMAZING! Who would think they would still taste good without all the bad stuff. But they did!

    • Whitney English says:

      I hope it helps you and Leigh with your healthy cooking!

      I’m so glad you guys liked the cookies…there’s more where those came from :)

  12. I love to substitute other ingredients like mashed banana and apple sauce into my baking too. As well as chia seeds and flaxseeds to replace eggs etc.

    I’ve had my share of disasters with trying to be too ‘clever’ with replacements. I once made a mug cake with apple sauce and I put way too much in and it was mushy and just tasted wrong!
    Jan @ Sprouts n Squats recently posted…Friday FavouritesMy Profile

    • Whitney English says:

      Haha, yeah you would think mugcakes are pretty much no-brainers. Not so. I’ve messed up several as well!

  13. the flax egg also works! great for vegan recipes. oh and garbanzo bean flour! love that one. Great tricks friend! i think you are a chef.
    lindsay recently posted…Friday’s FOR by FOUR: Food, Fitness, Holidays, and more.My Profile

    • Whitney English says:

      Oh yeah flax eggs! That’s a good one.

      And I love all the brownie/blondie recipes out there using garbanzo and black beans. I’ve yet to make one, but I definitely want to try one soon. I’ll have to keep expanding this chart every time I get a new rec, like this one!

  14. I had no idea about some of these substitutions and it’s good to know that even you have some recipes go wrong, because you cook all the time. It’s so much pressure too since you have to take pics of it. I just tried baking some granola the other day and burned it. lol. I want to try the Macaroons!

    And congrats to your friend and her twin sis on their new bridal boutique

    Dale Janee recently posted…10 Lifestyle & Dating Secrets of European MenMy Profile

    • Whitney English says:

      Yes, they go wrong all the time! And yes, it’s even more upsetting for me considering when I bake something new, I’m usually hoping to blog about it. So I’m not only out the ingredients for the recipe but also a blog post I was counting on. But, you just gotta keep trying!

      I would give you the Macaroon recipe, but it was NOT tasty haha!

  15. Love this! I am exactly like you. For every great recipe there are at least 10 failed. But with times it’s becoming fewer and fewer fails thankfully. The worst is when they taste amazing but look terrible!
    Davida @ The Healthy Maven recently posted…{MIMM} Weekend Recap 12/06-12/08My Profile

    • Whitney English says:

      I know! It’s so sad because I totally want to blog about the recipe but I know people will take one look at it and be disgusted, haha!

  16. Ahhh THANK YOU for this!! I’m always trying to make healthy substitutions but they never turn out quite right and then I have a ton of wasted ingredients….womp womp. I will definitely be referencing this in the future!
    Erin @ The Almond Eater recently posted…Your Go-To Holiday OutfitMy Profile

Mentioned Elsewhere:

  1. […] took my own advice this weekend and whipped out my handy Ultimate Recipe Substitution Guide to make a batch of extremely delicious and totally healthy Christmas […]

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