Stay out of a cooking rut by trying new ingredients with our produce substitution guide.
One sure-fire way of getting dinnertime cooking fatigue is to cook the same old thing over and over. Or perhaps you cook for kids or other adults who don't like to try new things? Challenge yourself or others in your house to try something new and use this list of produce as a guide. We've got some common substitutions that may make expanding your culinary repertoire a cinch.
If you like zucchini and squash, try baby squash like pattypan and scallopini squash, which resemble flattened, scallop-shaped saucers (see picture at left). Baby squash boast mildly sweet, buttery flavor and tender flesh. Try them in Sautéed Baby Squash with Basil and Feta.
If you like water chestnuts, try jicama. This edible root resembles a turnip, is often called a Mexican potato, and its crisp, juicy flesh is a cross between water chestnuts and a pear. It's available year-round and is a great addition to crudités platter, as a filling for sushi, and in quick-cooking methods like stir-frying that allow it to maintain its crispness. Try it in Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Peanut-Miso Sauce.
If you like lima beans, try fava beans. Also known as broad beans, fresh fava beans have a fleeting season—from late March to early May—but their emerald green color, firm texture, and subtle nutty flavor are worth waiting for. Try them in Fava Bean Risotto with Fresh Mozzarella and Prosciutto.
If you like basil, try mint: Mint isn't just for garnishing dessert plates and adding to fruity cocktails. It's bursting with flavor and freshness and can impart delicious complexity to many dishes—both savory and sweet—the way basil does. Try it in Shrimp with Lemon, Mint, and Goat Cheese.
If you like pineapple, try mango. Mango's taste has been likened to a cross between a pineapple and a peach, and this tropical fruit can add sublime sweetness to salsas, relishes, smoothies, and salads. Try it in Mango Shrimp Kebabs.
If you like lemons, try Meyer lemons. Meyers are a cross between regular lemons and mandarin oranges, but they are much sweeter and less acidic that regular lemons. The floral essence of a Meyer is unlike any other citrus. They're only available March through May, but they're worth the wait. Try them in Meyer-Lemon Chicken Piccata.
If you like potatoes, try turnips or rutabega, which hold up to most popular potato cooking methods. These root vegetables can be boiled and mashed, or roasted and pureed. Try them in Braised Root Vegetables and Chicken Thighs.
If you like spinach, try arugula. Although arugula is decidedly more intensely flavored than spinach (it has a peppery flavor), its texture is similar to spinach. If you'd like a change in salad, sides, and mix-ins to soups, go bold and try arugula. It pairs well with vinaigrettes and wilts quickly much like spinach. Try it in Mediterranean Barley with Chickpeas and Arugula.
If you like apples and pears, try a quince. This round- or pear-shaped fruit looks and tastes like a cross between an apple and a pear, but they are inedible raw. Once cooked, they develop a grainy texture similar to pears and a lovely rosy amber color. Try them in Caramelized Quinces.
If you like cabbage, try Brussels sprouts. Put any preconceived notion of Brussels sprouts aside. Buy the freshest sprouts available (look for small, firm sprouts with compact, bight-green heads) and cook them as quickly as possible to avoid their flavors from getting too strong. And choose the right cooking method: They should be tender but still slightly crisp and their color should remain intense; olive-drab sprouts have been overcooked. Try them in Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Ham and Garlic.
If you like onions, try shallots, which are petite onions that look like large gloves of garlic. They have lower water content than onions, so their flavor is more concentrated than that of onions. When you want full onion flavor without the bulk of a full-size onion, shallots are ideal. Try them in Roasted Butternut Squash and Shallot Soup.
If you like peaches, try fresh apricots, which are among the first fruits of summer. They have delicate flavor and creamy texture. They are great in crisps or tarts, much like peaches, but they're also good in savory dishes like Arugula Salad with Chicken and Apricots.
If you like green beans, try okra. We know. Okra might be a tough sell for many, but it has a mild flavor and, once cooked, a viscous texture similar to the ever-popular green bean. Try it in Indian-Spiced Okra.
If you like green onions, try leeks. Leeks look like overgrown green onions, but they are actually milder and sweeter. Unlike green onions, they are best cooked since they're very fibrous when raw. Try them in Halibut with Leeks.
If you like cooked carrots, try parsnips. The two look very similar but parsnips have pale, cream-colored skin. Its tough, woody texture softens with cooking. They should be added in the last 30 minutes of cooking when preparing soups and stews to keep them tasty. Try them in Butternut Squash and Parsnip Baked Pasta.