Smart Substitutes for 3 Southern Pantry Staples

Is your cupboard bare? Try these easy stand-ins for buttermilk and more.

Self-Rising Flour

Essential for biscuits and layer cakes, self-rising flour is made with a special type of wheat that is softer and lower in protein, which helps produce baked goods that are more tender. But that's not all that's in there. Self-rising flour also contains salt and a bit of baking powder to help increase rise. If you’re in a pinch, you can make your own self-rising flour by combining 1 cup all-purpose flour, ¼ teaspoon fine grain salt (place coarse-grain salt in a plastic ziplock bag and crush it with a mallet, if necessary), and 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder. DIY self-rising flour won’t give you quite the same results as the real thing, but it will be far better than using regular all-purpose flour.

Herbed Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Alison Miksch


There’s nothing like the creamy tang of buttermilk, but if there isn't a carton in your refrigerator, you can make a decent stand-in by combining liquid dairy with an acid. While many recipes call for a mix of milk with vinegar or lemon juice, our Test Kitchen says half-and-half and lemon juice will get you the closest approximation to the real deal. Stir together 14 Tbsp. (1 cup minus 2 Tbsp.) half-and-half and 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice in a small bowl. Let the mixture stand 10 minutes before using.


Whether you’re a Duke’s or Hellmann’s fan, this condiment is an essential ingredient in so many Southern dishes, from chocolate-mayonnaise cake to pimiento cheese. In some recipes—specifically those that aren’t baked, like dips and dressings—you can substitute an equal amount of full-fat plain Greek yogurt with good results. Obviously, yogurt is a bit thicker and more acidic than mayonnaise, so you may want to adjust the seasonings a bit. Some cooks prefer substituting sour cream for mayonnaise, which can also work in some recipes. Or you can try equal parts plain yogurt and sour cream.

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