NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Revising Recipes

Revising Recipes


Eating less fat, sugar, and salt while eating more fiber are not new recommendations for Americans to take to heart.  Nutritionists have been making these same recommendations for several decades now.  How to match those recommendations with your favorite recipes though can be difficult.

Recipes specify the ingredients, proportions, and methods necessary to produce a quality product. Companies and publishers spend time and money testing recipes for consumer use. Any change made in the recipe will produce a slightly different product from the one that was tested and published. Some changes you may like and others you may not.

Recipes for combined foods, such as casseroles and soups, are more flexible than others. A cookie recipe is more adaptable than a cake recipe. Recipes for most baked products can be altered, but recipes for any preserved product, such as pickles, salsa, jellies, or candies should not be changed at all. Modifying a recipe may produce a product that doesn’t meet your expectations. For example, a cake made with less fat will not have the same flavor or texture as the high-fat version. Cookies with less sugar or fat will still be acceptable but might not look or taste the same as those made by the original recipe.

Following are a few revisions that can save you many calories and grams of fat without losing the flavor that makes the recipe special to you.

-Reduce sugar by one-third. For example, if a recipe says to use 1 cup of sugar, use ⅔ cup. This change works best in canned and frozen fruits and in making puddings and custards. In cookies and cakes, try using ½ cup sugar per cup of flour. For quick breads and muffins, use 1 tablespoon sugar per cup of flour. To enhance the flavor when sugar is reduced, add vanilla, cinnamon, or nutmeg.

-Reduce fat by one-third. If a recipe calls for ½ cup of fat, use ⅓ cup. This method works best in gravies, sauces, puddings, and some cookies. For cakes and quick breads, use 2 tablespoons fat per cup of flour.

-Omit salt or reduce by one-half. If a recipe calls for ½ teaspoon salt, use ¼ teaspoon. This method may be more acceptable if you gradually reduce the amount of salt each time you make the recipe. Herbs, spices, or salt-free seasoning mixes can also be used as flavor enhancers. Do not eliminate salt from yeast bread or rolls; it is essential for flavor and helps the texture.

-Substitute whole grain and bran flours. Whole wheat flour can replace from one-fourth to one-half of the all-purpose flour. For example, if a recipe has 3 cups all-purpose flour, use 1½ cups whole wheat flour and 1½ cups all-purpose flour. Oat bran or oatmeal (that has been ground to flour consistency in a food processor or blender) can replace up to one-fourth of the all-purpose flour. For example, if a recipe has 3 cups all-purpose flour, use ¾ cup oat bran or ground oatmeal and 2¼ cups all-purpose flour.

Remember that all fats are not always interchangeable. Oil is 100 percent fat; margarine is an emulsion containing 80 percent fat and 20 percent water. Substituting 1 cup oil for 1 cup margarine adds more fat than the recipe intended. Consequently, cookies made with 1 cup of oil in place of 1 cup of margarine will feel and taste greasy.

A stepping off point for your recipe revisions might include a revised casserole as follows.


Hashed Brown Potato Casserole

(Original: 2 pounds frozen hash brown potatoes, ¼ cup chopped onion.  1 teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon pepper, 8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese, 8 ounces dairy sour cream, 1 can cream of chicken soup, ½ cup corn flake crumbs, 2 tablespoons butter)



2 pounds frozen hash brown potatoes

 ¼ cup chopped onion

¼ teaspoon pepper

Omit salt

8 ounces reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese

8 ounces light dairy sour cream

1 can reduced fat cream of chicken soup

½ cup crushed bran cereal

Omit butter

Spray a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with non-stick spray coating. Add potatoes, onion, and pepper. Combine cheese, sour cream, and soup; stir into potato mixture. Sprinkle crushed cereal over the top. Bake, covered at 350 °F for 50 minutes.

Yield: 12 servings Approximate nutritional values per serving: 225 calories for original, 166 calories for revised. 14 grams fat for original, 6 grams fat for revised.

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