Bold, simple cooking sometimes hinges on having just the right high-flavor ingredient. Unfortunately, our inspiration and cravings don’t always match what’s in our pantry. Maybe we’ve run out, or we might be reluctant to invest in something we’ve never tried before.

For those times when the right ingredient isn’t handy, it’s good to know some simple substitutions that draw on kitchen staples. With that in mind, we experimented to find similar-tasting alternatives for some of Milk Street’s favorite—albeit less common—flavorings.

To make sure our substitutions passed the taste test, we did side-by-side comparisons of recipes that prominently feature the original ingredient. Some of our substitutions came together fairly intuitively, such as our formula for hot paprika. Others proved to be more challenging.

For example, while we concluded that there’s no faking the distinctive, complex tang that comes from fermentation in ingredients such as red miso and gochujang, we found that more widely available white miso could serve as the backbone for creating taste-alike substitutes for both of these ingredients.

Ingredient Substitutions

Ingredient (1 T) Substitution
Aleppo Pepper1 T sweet paprika + ¾ t cayenne
Gochujang 1 T white miso + 1 t Sriracha + ½ t molasses
Harissa 2 t Sriracha + 1 t extra-virgin olive oil + ½ t red pepper flakes + ½ t chili powder
Hot Paprika 1 T sweet paprika + ¼ t cayenne
Pomegranate Molasses 2½ t aged balsamic vinegar + ½ t honey + ¼ t molasses
Red Miso 2½ t white miso + ½ t soy sauce + ⅛ t cocoa powder
Sumac2 t finely grated lemon zest + 1 t fresh lemon juice + 1 t minced dried cranberry
White Balsamic1 T unseasoned rice vinegar + ½ t honey
Za'atar1½ dried thyme + ¾ t sesame seeds + 1 t finely grated lemon zest + ⅛ t salt