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How To Revamp Recipes

Updated on November 1, 2012

Culinary Basics: Interchangeable Recipes


You may think that if you see a recipe, you are ‘locked in’ to that particular meat, fish, or chicken choice. Actually you’re not.

If you know a few facts about the process of how recipes work, you can easily interchange ingredients.

If in doubt, you can always consult the Internet or cookbooks to check what goes with what to avoid a cooking disaster.

For the most part, certain meat, poultry, and seafood ingredients are interchangeable – with the note that you might need to change up the spices or accompanying ingredients.

For instance, you can substitute many kinds of fish for meat in tacos.  However, instead of lettuce, you might want to go with cabbage.  Any kind will do but the flavor of the cabbage enhances the fish.

Let’s say you want to do a lamb or veal stew instead of beef stew. The process is basically the same.  Dredge the meat in flour and then brown a bit in oil or cooking spray. You add vegetables to complement the meat.

Carrots and red potatoes let’s say work for all these stews – but herbs bring out the best in all these meats.

Bay leaf works well for beef. Marjoram or tarragon work well with both veal and lamb. Thyme works well with all.

Peas work well with some stews and soups while green beans work better in others. Let creativity be your guide!

Adding a wine such as Marsala to a veal stew is an excellent choice to bring out a different flavor in that particular meat.  Adding beer to a beef stew is yet another way to enhance that particular meat.  White wine for chicken works wonderfully.

You can take a basic recipe for a soup or stew and change it up to add dumplings. Again, the herbs you use for the dumplings will enhance that particular meat stew or soup.

While sage and thyme are favorite herbs for chicken soup, if you want to do a minestrone instead, add macaroni noodles rather than traditional noodles. 

You can revamp the recipe to add veggies such as zucchini and add spices like basil and oregano.

On that subject, you can do a chicken chili (again adjust seasonings).  You can do a tortilla bake that was meant for beef and you can revamp it to include chicken or turkey.  I would keep basic seasoning such as cumin the same and change it up with the other seasonings that enhance poultry such as sage and thyme.

Revamping pot roast for example can be done and changed into turkey pot roast.  It is as simple as taking all the ingredients and cooking them stove top in a large soup pot.  Or you can cook them in a roasting pan just as you do pot roast.

Add the vegetables to the bottom of the pan with plenty of broth and/or water.  Top with a whole chicken stuffed with perhaps an onion.  Cook on low simmer until done – and you have yourself a pot roast chicken.

Similarly, use a crock pot to cook up lunch meat and adjust the seasonings according to the meat.  If you want to make pulled pork sandwiches, you use certain spices and might add root beer for flavor.

For pulled beef, you skip the root beer and opt for real beer.  It gives a wonderful flavor to the meat.

Basically any recipe that you find might be a potential candidate for a revamp. Some are easy, substituting grilled chicken in a recipe versus leftover chicken, substituting chicken for beef.  Always use your own judgement but I like to use what ingredients I have on hand and sometimes it has led to the creation of some great alternative recipes.

Think outside the box to get the correct spices to enhance meat, chicken or fish.  You may need to stick with 'traditional' spices to ‘make’ the dish. However, recipes are a virtual melting pot for ideas and the more you experiment, the better you become.

More Thoughts On Substitutions

Salmon can be substituted for using mackerel or other fatty fishes.

Canned tuna can be substituted with grilled ahi tuna flaked. Chicken breasts can be substituted with skinless chicken thighs or legs in most recipes.  It is all about the ingredients fitting the recipe and the other ingredients you can use as is or swap out.

Substituting skinless chicken for chicken with skin on is also a great way to reduce calories and fat.

Substitute cheaper cuts of meat but adjust the temperature to keep from overcooking.

Substitute skirt or hanger steak for flank steak

Use lower priced roasts and cut up for beef stew.  Do the same with veal and lamb.

Purchase a meat grinder or attachment to add to a mixer.  Grind your own meats to make ground beef, veal, lamb, chicken or turkey.

Try different types of fish with recipes to see if you like the flavor. Try fluke, flounder or turbot.

Sometimes price precludes us buying a certain meat or fish – experiment with others and make it your own recipe.

Most cuts of beef if cooked properly you can swap out.  With beef, it is all about the doneness of the meat and about the preparation such as marinade or tenderizing.

With fish, it is all about the flavor and using the right herbs or spices to bring out the flavor. Likewise, as with beef, it is about not overcooking or fish will be dry. Using such techniques as basting in vermouth or other methods add a wonderful flavor for many kinds of fish.

Chicken is all about the correct mix of herbs but you can also substitute chicken with turkey providing you do not overcook either. Use the right herbs and poach with things such as Marsala or white wine.


Summing It Up

In short, I like to think of cooking as my chance to test my culinary basics muscles!  I like to think of any possible way I could make a dish and even if I like it the way I made it the first time, I always think about how I might enhance it - or make it just a little differently the next time.

Part of that wondering how things would taste if makes me very comfortable swapping out ingredients that I think would go better or that might become a whole different recipe if combined.  That ingredient swapping has helped me create some of my personal favorite recipes over the years!

Usually though as a back-up plan, the Internet is alive with more recipes than we can ever use in our lifetime.  If you get on-line and you type in the basic ingredients that you have and want to use, you can pull up at least 5-10 recipes in seconds.  The sky's the limit - happy adventures with cooking ingredients!


Substitution Ideas for Dairy Products and Eggs


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    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Central Oregon

      viraybo - Thanks for stopping in - my fridge has a magnet on it about me using wine, etc. in cooking - and sometimes how I even put some of it in the food! Too hilarious - glad to be of service!

      Holle - yes - kinda like life - ya gotta go with what ya got!

      Hello, hello - too much; I hope that cauldron has more than water and bread in it!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      You are super and given a few ideas to give a bit of variety into my everyday cooking of water and bread.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Very good ideas for cooks! I think the true measure of a cook is being able to work with what ya got!

    • viryabo profile image

      viryabo 7 years ago

      I absolutely love cooking and creating new ideas of dishes is always exciting for me. Good thing though, i don't eat that much, but i enjoy seeing people eat and enjoy my food.

      I learnt a few great tips here aKirchner. First about interchanging recipes, and secondly that i can use beer in some recipes. WoW! i cant wait to try that out. (no i'm not a beer drinker! LOL!!! I'm more of a wine person). I have always used white wine in recipes and only with fish and some red with beef.

      Will try it out and come back and tell you my results...LOL!!!