Filed Under: Baking Science

Why I Hate Baking Substitutions

Recipe By Tessa Arias
November 4th, 2019

As a professionally trained chef and cookbook author, I’m discussing Why I Hate Baking Substitutions in recipes and why most of them just don’t work well. Please read the full post!!

I have never written a post like this before and to be honest… I’m a little scared. I’m about to say a few things that most bloggers never would.

I’ve been blogging for over 10 years (!) and in that time I’ve been asked thousands of questions and have received a lot of comments about baking and recipes.

The most frustrating question I get is definitely about baking substitutions: swapping out ingredients, techniques, or equipment.

It’s even more frustrating when the comment isn’t posed as a question but instead goes a little something like this:

“I made this recipe and followed it to a T except [insert substitution here] and it didn’t turn out. Disappointed.”

Granted, this is more rare. Luckily the amount of positive comments I receive far outweighs these ones.

But I’ve refrained from speaking my true feelings on this subject for fear of offending someone. Or fear of bringing even a hint of negativity to my usually joyful corner of the internet.

But as my audience grows (which I’m eternally grateful for) this theme has become increasingly common.

So I want to say once and for all…


They drive me crazy.

They simply won’t achieve the same taste and texture as the original ingredient, equipment, or technique called for in the recipe 90% of the time. They basically just waste YOUR time, money, and food!

DISCLAIMER: I realize some of you are working with serious food allergies and I understand that substitutions can’t be avoided in those cases. For those of you dealing with that, you probably know what will work, what won’t, and how the results will be different than the original. You don’t expect identical results without using identical ingredients unless you undergo rigorous testing with trial & error.

I feel the need to underscore something because it’s a question I get asked often: I don’t publish allergen-free recipes. I don’t publish diet recipes.


Because right now at this time in my career I don’t want to. I only publish recipes and content I’m actually passionate about and excited to share.

I don’t have much experience with these other topics. There are PLENTY of bloggers and publishers online who do and have far more expertise and their advice would be much better for you than my educated guesses.

But I also simply can’t accommodate every recipe for every allergen or diet.

One – because I simply don’t have the resources.

Two – because I know baking is a science. And swapping out even one ingredient can completely alter the chemistry of the recipe, often with less than stellar results. Just check out my infamous Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies.

This is something I address specifically and in depth in my Magic of Baking online class. Take a peek at a few baking substitutions side by side below:

Diving into Cake Flour 101 - A fun visual guide to cake flour including what it is, how to substitute, and side-by-side comparisons so you can see how it works in action!

(Learn more about Cake Flour here, and why the DIY sub doesn’t really work.)

Muffins made with oil vs. muffins made with applesauce. Applesauce muffins are tough and chewy in texture
(From my Ultimate Muffin Guide.)

Once you understand how baking ingredients work you’ll understand that something as simple as reducing the sugar in a recipe, for example, doesn’t just reduce the sweetness or calories.

Sugar can also contribute moisture, tenderness, lightness, and is involved in complex chemical reactions that give us flavors and textures that are essential to some sweets.

Occasionally you can reduce the sugar (typically by no more than 20%), but sometimes even a small reduction will completely compromise the integrity of the recipe.

Often someone comes along and reduces the sugar then complains the cake turned out dry and doesn’t understand the connection. Which of course is frustrating for both of us! This is just one example.

I’ll say it again: Baking is a science. The more you understand that the more you can customize recipes and tweak them with success.

But when you come to me asking about subtitutions, it’s disheartening.

I work tirelessly on developing my recipes. I have a whole process that involves a lot of time and effort to make sure I’m creating recipes that will be successful for my readers.

Tessa in the kitchen pouring flour into a bowl

When you want to change something to a creation that I’ve worked so hard on, and when I know the result likely won’t be as good, it’s hard not to get disappointed.

Especially since it’s a challenge to keep up with the amount of comments and questions I get on ALL the platforms at all hours every day.

That’s why I’m enacting a NO SUBSTITUTION POLICY.

Moving forward, if I know a substitution will work because I have personal experience with it, I will include that information in the recipe post.

However, if I haven’t personally tested that substitution then I can’t in good conscience give an answer to your question because I can’t guarantee it will be accurate.

It would simply be my educated guess and would likely require you to trial and error your way through it which takes time and ingredients.

So when I say “no subs” I simply mean I won’t be making it a habit of attempting to answer questions on this topic.

You, of course, are free to bake my recipes any way you want and use Google as your tool to get possible answers to your specific questions!

It would be impossible for me to test every recipe to see if it would work without eggs, gluten, or dairy, or to try out a vegan, keto, or other dietary version.

Luckily I have a few seasoned readers in my community who like to share the results of their allergen-free or special dietary baking. Join my Facebook group if you’d like to see their tips and posts.

I also have a baking substitutions guide you can download here.

However, as I mentioned, I can’t guarantee any substitution will work as well as the original ingredient.

Little details are what makes the difference between average desserts and stellar desserts. That’s what the experts know. So when you don’t want to go back to the store to get an ingredient in the recipe and try to make something else work instead, just keep that in mind.

You can also search the comments of a recipe to see if anyone has reported success using a substitution.

TIP: use Control+F, or Command+F on a Mac to bring up the Find feature so you can pinpoint any mention of “gluten free” or whatever you’re looking for on the page.

If that’s a problem for you, I’m sorry. There are PLENTY of bloggers focused on creating content that might be a better fit for you.

My hope is that enacting this policy will allow us to continue to cultivate a positive and joyful community of people who love traditional baking.


First image by Constance Mariena. Portraits by Lauren Hansen.

Tessa Arias

About Tessa...

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Find Tessa on  

Leave a Comment & Rating

Add a Review or Question

*Please select a rating to complete your comment.

  1. #
    Julia — November 4, 2019 at 6:28 am

    Love this!! As a chemist and passionate home cook these kinds of comments drive me INSANE when I read them (not the people asking, but the ones complaining or trashing a recipe that didn’t turn out because of substitutions).

    You also do such a lovely job on educating people about the importance of certain ingredients. I hope this change gently nudges more people towards your guides instead of complaining about failed substitutions 🙂

    • #
      Tessa — November 4, 2019 at 10:00 am

      Thank you SO much, Julia! I truly appreciate your comment + support on this 🙂

      • #
        KEYONTAY BANKS — November 6, 2019 at 11:42 am

        This is wonderful!! As a baker I have always did what a recipe said, but have been on the curious side if I did this or that to it. How would that come out. But later stepped back and said to myself, “If the recipe didnt called for that then it would say it in the recipe.” Lol!! People ask me to do things that is sometimes not possible. Me and my face says it all when I’m in that person face. “I’m sorry you asking me to do what again?” So you dont what no flour, eggs, sugar, or flavor! Hmmmm, so you want no cake, right!! Lol!!

  2. #
    Phyllis — November 4, 2019 at 10:11 am

    I can only imagine how difficult this must have been to post, but I applaud you for doing so. I am gluten intolerant. I didn’t take any offense to what you wrote. I actually found it puzzling as to why you’d be ask for substitutes. I can only imagine the time and resources it must take to not only make a recipe but also post it! Half the fun for me is to take a recipe and see what I can use to make it gluten free. Thankfully, I use a gluten free baking flour to sub in for all-purpose flour and have found it to be just fine. My family actually prefers the gluten-free version to be honest. Like any recipe I use, I print it out, scan through the comments to read what others have done to make it “their” own, then make those notes, and finally add my changes. I encourage your readers to do the same. I look forward to many more delicious recipes from your kitchen!

    • #
      Michelle — November 5, 2019 at 5:06 am

      I love that you posted this – it truly needed to be said! Your understanding of baking science and dedication to recipe testing is precisely what keeps me coming back again and again to your recipes. These types of negative reviews frustrate me as a reader, as well. I do occasionally change a recipe but would never dream of blaming the author for something that was clearly my own error! Good for you for speaking up!! 🙂

    • #
      Tessa — November 6, 2019 at 8:07 am

      I appreciate you sharing your perspective, Phyllis!!

  3. #
    Jean H — November 4, 2019 at 11:28 am

    This isn’t really a question about substitutions but “downsizing” a recipe. Learning to bake back in the 60’s I was made aware that if you were cutting a baked goods recipe in half (one that required baking powder or baking soda), that it was not correct to merely cut these ingredients in half. But I have read many bloggers since, who seem to claim that it is perfectly ok to do just that. What is your experience and take on this question ?

    • #
      Tessa — November 6, 2019 at 8:11 am

      It can depend on the recipe! My friend Christina over at is the queen of downsizing recipes, her blog would be a great resource for you.

  4. #
    Cheryl Newton — November 4, 2019 at 6:21 pm

    I’m not a blogger, but I’m sure there are plenty of them reading this and thinking, “Amen, sister!” Good for you, Tessa.

    • #
      Tessa — November 6, 2019 at 8:15 am

      Thank you, Cheryl!

  5. #
    Amanda — November 4, 2019 at 10:16 pm

    I could see why you would be hesitant to post this due to everyone being so sensitive in this day and age, but I totally agree with you. You cannot say you followed a recipe to a T, then change something. That’s NOT following it to a T!!!
    When changing a recipe due to dietary reasons etc, people need to expect it’s not going to come out the same as you made it. The worst is when people are out of an ingredient and just substitute with something else they find in their kitchen. Just wait to go to the store to make it with the correct ingredients or expect it to come out wrong.

    • #
      Tessa — November 6, 2019 at 8:17 am

      That last sentence!! So true.

  6. #
    Danielle — November 5, 2019 at 9:08 am

    I can understand your hesitation in posting this but I’m so glad you did !t needed to be said. I don’t quite understand the statement “I followed the recipe to a T but it didn’t work”. There are so many small details in a recipe that can make or break a cake or cookie or pastry. It’s frustrating when people get angry that their cake wasn’t stellar. When I have a not-so-great result, I become determined to figure out where I went wrong. I really enjoy your recipes and support you wholeheartedly!

    • #
      Tessa — November 6, 2019 at 8:06 am

      I’m so glad to have people like you around, Danielle!! Thanks so much for your comment 🙂

  7. #
    Josh — November 5, 2019 at 1:07 pm

    Thanks for this post. I am sure it wasn’t easy, given your very kind and fun personality. Baking is a science….that was a big lesson I learned in my years of trial and error. You are one of my favorite sources for AMAZING recipes! Looking forward to many more amazing bakes with your guidance.

    • #
      Tessa — November 6, 2019 at 8:04 am

      Thank you so much!!

  8. #
    Donna — November 6, 2019 at 8:21 am

    Amen!!! Drives me bonkers when people criticize a recipe when they made substitutions and it doesn’t come out well. Good for you, and thank you for taking a stand. Love following you and making your amazing recipes. They have become family favorites. Love you even more for your honesty.

  9. #
    CL — November 6, 2019 at 8:24 am

    Amen! I *hate* reading reviews where someone says they made the recipe but changed X, Y, and Z and it didn’t work at all then they blame the recipe. No, the recipe is not the problem. You didn’t make the recipe.

    And thank you for reminding everyone that baking is a science. That’s an important part of understanding why something does or doesn’t work.

  10. #
    Jamie — November 6, 2019 at 8:26 am

    I agree. Substitutes should not be used in baking unless you have food allergies, but there are recipes for people with food allergies. So you can’t say I followed the recipe to the “t” and you bomb on it. You bombed on it because you didn’t follow the directions. Besides we all know if you follow the recipes and use quality ingredients the only complaints you should hear are”why didn’t you make more”!! Happy baking people!!!!!

  11. #
    Nancy S. Elsworth — November 6, 2019 at 8:30 am

    I also hate using substitutions in receipes that I use. The only time I do is if the ingredient that is called for I don’t have stocked and don’t have time to hit the grocery store to obtain it. That is RARE in my kitchen and I bake many custome-designed Cheesecakes for my clients, so my “pantry” is stocked really good and often. I’m with you, substitutions for the sake of saving calories, (or as you stated, due to food allergies etc.), is unnecessary and totally ruins the flavor and texture of the baked items, let alone less attractive eye-appeal.

  12. #
    Pamela J Neumann — November 6, 2019 at 8:42 am

    I respect everyone but I now respect you MORE. You have the courage to ‘speak your mind,’ and are willing to live with the consequences. I am a old fashioned, make it from scratch kinda of person. I make many substitutions in cooking but very few in baking, because it is a science. A recipe is a guideline if you follow it you should have good results, if not you are gambling. We each have tastes and flavors we like more than others and from our own experiences with these we should be able to know what result we will get. Keep up the good work that you do and feel free to ‘speak your mind’ when ever you fell the need.

  13. #
    Margaret — November 6, 2019 at 8:47 am

    I would like to second all of these comments. I also get frustrated with the non-conformists.

    Perhaps the people who have special dietary needs could crowd source a list of reputable bloggers who address these issues and they could make the list available to your fans.

    I’m getting tired of reading those complaints.

  14. #
    Susan — November 6, 2019 at 8:50 am

    understand you were nervous but you have nothing to apologize for! If people are looking for applesauce cookies then you are not the person to ask! So keep baking yummy stuff! Have a great day!

  15. #
    Emcee — November 6, 2019 at 8:51 am

    Bravo. Thank you Tessa, for your refreshing honesty. I agree completely with all the other comments that are support your position. One of the main reasons that your site has become my go-to baking site is because it is so exact and accurate, especially in your use of baking by weight. Your Baking Guides already provide much more accurate information about various substitutions than any other website I’ve found, all beautifully illustrated
    with photos and videos. Keep up the good work!

  16. #
    Cindy Walker — November 6, 2019 at 8:55 am

    Oh, Tessa, you poor thing. Good for YOU for finally snapping! Sometimes I do change recipes, I’ve been a baker/cook for a long time and I have a general idea what I’m doing. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but if I changed the recipe, it’s no longer anyone else’s responsibility. It’s mine. I’d never DREAM of posting a “disappointed” comment to a recipe that was never written! (Eejits). Stand straight on your no-substitutions soapbox, I for one will support you completely 🙂

  17. #
    David — November 6, 2019 at 8:56 am

    Tessa, thanks for posting your feelings about substituting ingredients and the negative results that basically say your recipe is at fault. I really dislike comments from people that try your recipes and add or subtract or substitute ingredients and blame you for it’s failure. Keep up your wonderful work. I really appreciate your recipe.

  18. #
    Trish P — November 6, 2019 at 8:57 am

    Tessa, Your blog about substitutions was written so beautifully – with the perfect spirit behind it. I am so grateful to have found your site. You are positive and your intention is to help us all learn. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!

  19. #
    Toni — November 6, 2019 at 8:58 am

    Yep! Totally agree.

  20. #
    Dorothy Pugh — November 6, 2019 at 8:58 am

    I agree with you completely. I have been baking most of my life(73 yrs) and those negative comments after changing recipes drive me crazy. If you don’t or can’t use what is indicated, move on. Baking is exactly that- a science, which I am ill equipped to always understand.
    Bravo for you to make your stand-NO SUBS

  21. #
    Meena — November 6, 2019 at 8:58 am

    So much YESSSS! It drives me crazy reading comments like the ones you posted. I’m so glad you said this, it needed to be said. Not everyone realizes that baking is indeed a science so thank you for the reminder. I started baking after reading and following your posts and I’m so grateful for all of the work you put into your recipes and all of the tips and tricks you provide. I look forward to making many more of your delicious treats!

  22. #
    Danielle — November 6, 2019 at 9:00 am

    Tessa, your blog is my go-to for delicious baked goods because of all the work you put into developing your recipes. I know when I choose to bake something from Handle the Heat and follow the recipe as written, it will ABSOLUTELY turn out amazing!

    Thank you so so much!

  23. #
    Dennis Gander — November 6, 2019 at 9:02 am

    You go girl, I’m so glad you brought this up. My wife and I laugh at the comments of the people that do this, and just shake our heads. With love Dennis &Jo

  24. #
    Donna — November 6, 2019 at 9:06 am

    Tessa, It is obvious that you take great pride in your website and blog and the recipes you create for your readers. I applaud you for your no substitutions policy for answering reader comments, and for letting us know that if you are aware of a substitution you will include that in your recipe notes. This will work the same as your helpful comments about pan substitutions and the modifications to baking times if a different pan is used. Your Magic of Baking class has been such a help to me as a new baker. Perhaps if you expand the class in the future and share your experiences with recipe substitutions you know work and the whys, it might be another way to share your knowledge with your readers. Keep up the great work!

  25. #
    Sheryl K — November 6, 2019 at 9:07 am

    Great policy. KUDOS!! I always shake my head at people who are “rating” a recipe, yet they’ve changed it right out of the gate. You can’t rate a recipe if you don’t make it the way it is given. I agree that if people who need specific foods, or can’t have specific ingredients, they will know what to substitute. I am 150% behind you on the not giving substitutions to everybody who asks for them. You give us fantastic recipes, and I thank you for that!

  26. #
    Sophia T. — November 6, 2019 at 9:08 am

    I think this is a great decision on your part! 100% agree with you. After reading books and watching docs like Salt Fat Acid Heat, you learn that every component of a dish or a recipe is there for a reason and substituting it or changing it for something else, detracts from the initial thing your trying to make. I live in Venezuela, and sometimes some ingredients are hard to come by. The only substitution I fully stand behind is the vinegar/lemon juice in milk to make buttermilk. Anything else, I simple move on to a different recipe or desist altogether. Luckily for me, I don’t have to stop making your bakery style chocolate chip cookies! Keep up the great blog, I’m a big fan!

  27. #
    Scott — November 6, 2019 at 9:12 am

    This is one of my pet-peaves, as well. I’ve shared recipes over the years and heard the same thing. “Your recipe wasn’t that good”.
    “Did you follow it exactly?”
    “Yep, except I substituted agave nectar instead of sugar.” THAT’S NOT FOLLOWING IT TO A ‘T’.
    Instead of telling me my recipe sucked when you substituted things, how about you tried my recipe, but did the substitution and it didn’t turn out so well OR, it turned out great.

    I’ve really been into baking the last 7-10 years. I’ve always baked cookies (for 45+ years), but in the last few years I got into cakes/cupcakes, pies and pastries. I’ve learned tons…..much by mistakes and substituting things. MY FAULT, but I learned and I DIDN’T BLAME the recipe. There have been recipes that I knew wouldn’t work as stated because of the ingredients; then I’ll try something different.

    A few things I’ve learned from reading (especially here) and trying things out – DON’T CHEAP OUT. Good, quality ingredients and good, quality pans, etc. are worth their weight in gold.

    Tessa – thanks so much for your recipes, insight and help. I really appreciate it.

    The Bald Baker

  28. #
    Lane — November 6, 2019 at 9:16 am

    Thank you so much for having the guts to admit this. It drives me crazy when someone “reviews” a recipe and then lists all the substitutions they made and then have the nerve to say it was terrible. And more often than not they obviously know little about cooking as the substitution(s) make no sense.
    Tip: if you don’t like or can’t eat many of the ingredients in a recipe, find another recipe!!

  29. #
    Angela — November 6, 2019 at 9:18 am

    Good for you! Anyone who has read your blog should know how much time and effort you put in to making sure your recipes are perfect and should work for everyone if followed as written. It’s frustrating for your readers to see the comments that say someone make the recipe as written “except”… When I read comments it’s because I want to see what people thought of the recipe they are commenting on, not on their version.

  30. #
    Carolyn Seeley — November 6, 2019 at 9:23 am

    I applaud you for this statement! The recipe is the recipe. One of my others pet peeves on recipe comments in general is that following a posted recipe there are many who say how good something looks, but you have to dig to try to find someone who actually made it and has a comment based on the results. I like where you ask people to check of if they made something. Questions are good unless they ask abbot substitutions. My two cents.

  31. #
    Judith Bruesch — November 6, 2019 at 9:25 am

    Bravo!! do NOT substitute ingredients, people! find a different, appropriate recipe if you can’t us it as written. Baking is chemistry, it really really is. Unexpected and sometimes really bad things happen when you put the wrong stuff or proportions in combination. I have been baking a long time, and can assure you Tessa’s recipes are solid chemistry. As written. As tested. As duplicated. Thank you Tessa for the great new things you have posted every month!

  32. #
    Judy White — November 6, 2019 at 9:29 am

    Please don’t worry about your comments offending someone. This is YOUR show sweet girl. The reason you have so many faithful followers and growing, is that we love you and your amazing recipes for sweets, sweets and more sweets. We should all have respect for your tips and recommendations because you are the expert. . . period. It’s a shame that some people have to eat gluten-free, or must use sugar substitutes in their recipes, but they have other options to follow from experts in that arena. It’s true, the results of certain specialty recipes cannot perfectly mimic the original, but it’s a price some must pay I suppose. Keep doing what you are doing and I fully support your “NO SUBS” policy.

  33. #
    Daphne — November 6, 2019 at 9:31 am

    I’m actually shocked that there are people who are disappointed with results when they change the original and somehow connect that to the actual recipe! Whatever- I guess people can never blame themselves when things don’t go well!
    That being said, THANK YOU TESSA, for posting great recipes and all the hard work you put into perfecting them!
    I recently made your peanut butter filled brownies and had to make several substitutions just because I’d have to buy different pans, or materials etc. My results weren’t quite up to par with yours, but it was still enjoyable for me, and I realize it was to be expected! Hopefully I can share those results in the comments soon so readers can know what to expect!


  34. #
    Karen — November 6, 2019 at 9:41 am

    I agree with your decision to post this!
    I am always reminded of the funniest post from a long -ago site about making ice cubes and all the questions about substitutions and method changes from posters! Was hilarious except it seems so true !
    Good for you!

  35. #
    karen — November 6, 2019 at 9:42 am

    You go Girl!! It is about time someone made a stand. It angers me to see people change your recipes and then complain. If they are not happy they should just find another recipe. Boy does that strike a nerve.

  36. #
    Kaete — November 6, 2019 at 9:46 am

    Well said!!! I love your recipes and they’ve always turned out amazing. And baking is totally a science! If they’d taught baking instead of chemistry in school I might have grown up to be a scientist LOL

  37. #
    Carol — November 6, 2019 at 10:11 am

    Tessa, I truly love all your detailed instructions & videos. I’ve been baking since I was a kid (with my mom & aunts) and still love it. (I’m 65yrs) You have taught me so much about the exact science behind baking that I never realized & I think it makes a huge difference, so Thank you . I NEVER substitute any ingredient and maybe that’s why everyone always wants me to bring the baked goods to every occasion. In my book, you’re the best one out there, so once again, thanks for all the time you take to do what you do, and thanks for all your knowledge. You are appreciated.

    • #
      Carol — November 6, 2019 at 12:43 pm

      I totally agree. (I wrote a similar comment but it seems to be lost somewhere “out there”!!!)

      • #
        Carol — November 6, 2019 at 1:16 pm

        Hi Carol, so funny, when I was posting they sent me a message stating “slow down, you’re posting too fast”, so maybe cuz we are both Carol and must have been typing at the same time, it thought we were the same person??

        • #
          Carol — November 7, 2019 at 11:57 am

          Perhaps so, Interesting!

  38. #
    diane taylor — November 6, 2019 at 10:12 am

    I agree with you completely.
    I can only imagine how difficult this must have been to post,it truly needed to be said Good for you, Tessa.
    LOVE your recipes

  39. #
    Gloria — November 6, 2019 at 10:23 am

    It must really have been bugging you. Thank you for being courageous enough to write this post. I usually substitute if something is not available where I live. Fortunately, nothing has turned out disastrous yet. Thank you for all the effort you put in your recipes. It is well appreciated. Keep well!

  40. #
    Marianne Hossler — November 6, 2019 at 10:25 am

    Kudo’s Tessa

  41. #
    Ann — November 6, 2019 at 10:35 am

    Three words: good for you.

  42. #
    Elizabeth Johnson — November 6, 2019 at 10:39 am

    Bravo! This blog post has been needed for a very long time! I want to second and third all of the comments made above!

  43. #
    Nancy Peterman — November 6, 2019 at 10:42 am

    Tessa, I think you have made excellent points, as well as taking into considerations those with allergies. It IS a science, and if we don’t care for a particular recipe of yours, there are many other recipes out there. Yours are pretty tried and true, though, which is why you have such a large following! Good choice on your part! The rest is up to us ;=)

  44. #
    Debbi Sherer — November 6, 2019 at 10:44 am

    I totally agree with your substitution blog. Reading “I followed your recipe to a T, but substituted…….”. Well, honey, then you didn’t follow the recipe to a T!!! I’ve seen this on other recipe sites, too, not just yours. Way to be brave and step out there. There is no way that you can know everyone’s allergies, preferences, eating styles, etc. Just keep on creating your recipes just the way you are.

  45. #
    Kathleen Lazarowski — November 6, 2019 at 10:58 am


  46. #
    Heather — November 6, 2019 at 11:07 am

    Well said! x

  47. #
    Jackie — November 6, 2019 at 11:17 am

    OMG!!! THANK YOU!!! I absolutely hate reading reviews when someone changes any ingredient and doesn’t follow the recipe as written…then bashes the recipe. Make the recipe as written, comment and if you don’t like it tweak it your way and let us know. I would hate to be you answering all the questions I see. It is time consuming for you. You can do a lot of research on the internet yourself! Thank you for always sharing!

  48. #
    SHIRLEY YOUNG — November 6, 2019 at 11:18 am

    DEAR TESSA, you are absolutely spot on with your ideas about substitutions. I go onto the NYTimes cooking pages, and the only comments are about substitutions. No kudos to the creator of the recipe for providing us with an opportunity to try something great. Like you Tessa, you are a wonderful, creative, lovingly verbose individual, who provides us with some very pleasing entertainment, and commentary. Believe me, people who complain about the recipe not turning out, get what they put into it. Substitutions and all. I am sorry you have to be the recipient of such wrong thinking individuals, but, being humans, well, we are that way. Thanks be to you for giving to us your thoughts, ideas, and wonderfulness, from your kitchen, and beyond!! Please keep up the fabulous work. I, for one, am very appreciative for your lovely work!!

  49. #
    Claudia Preciado — November 6, 2019 at 11:22 am

    Love your site and totally agree with you. You take a lot of time developing a recipe and the results are great. If we want to substitute any ingredient, we all should give it a try. Pretending to get everything solved, is not fair or fun.
    Cheers and keep up with that awesome work.

  50. #
    KEYONTAY BANKS — November 6, 2019 at 11:41 am

    This is wonderful!! As a baker I have always did what a recipe said, but have been on the curious side if I did this or that to it. How would that come out. But later stepped back and said to myself, “If the recipe didnt called for that then it would say it in the recipe.” Lol!! People ask me to do things that is sometimes not possible. Me and my face says it all when I’m in that person face. “I’m sorry you asking me to do what again?” So you dont what no flour, eggs, sugar, or flavor! Hmmmm, so you want no cake, right!! Lol!!

  51. #
    JOYCE — November 6, 2019 at 11:43 am

    I agree with you 100%. It makes me so mad to read a recipe then see a post “well i make this with ____”. That is great but NOT what the original post of recipe was about. IF you follow a recipe to the T and it still fails then ask questions…

    Thanks for being true to your blog!!!!

  52. #
    Sarah Carver — November 6, 2019 at 11:51 am

    Thanks for this article on no substitutes! I love your recipes and follow them exactly. I have learned so much from you. I now measure by grams, sift my flours and confectioner’s sugar, bought better pans, and use an oven thermometer, etc. all because of your great advice. What a difference it has made In my baking! I appreciate your opinion on substitutions. There are no shortcuts to great baking!

  53. #
    Janet — November 6, 2019 at 11:57 am

    I admire your courage at speaking your thoughts…You said what needed to be said in a thoughtful and pleasant manner. It is a shame that some people are not happy being happy!
    There are many recipes that you share that I cannot make due to lack of stand mixer or whatever..however, I enjoy reading each one, and filing it away for a someday.
    Thank you for standing up for yourself in todays, “offended” world.
    Keep up the great work, we do appreciate it and you.
    A Baker at heart.

  54. #
    Diane — November 6, 2019 at 12:01 pm

    Good for you for being true to yourself and the integrity of your recipes. If I choose to “embellish” a recipe with changes, then that is on you. Not the recipe which is clear, concise, and should be followed.

  55. #
    Blair — November 6, 2019 at 12:03 pm

    Amen! As a chef and recipe developer, I find these questions equally frustrating and a lot of culinary recipes offer a lot more bandwidth for substitutions than baking ones. Good for you for taking a stand! What you do is wonderful and it doesn’t have to work for everyone. Keep up the good work!

  56. #
    Susan A Terry — November 6, 2019 at 12:46 pm

    Tessa – I totally understand where you are coming from! Your blog, your rules! I know how upset I get when something bombs and I’ve wasted money on something that is going in the trash. I can’t imagine doing it over and over – on purpose to create a recipe! I also am a yarn crafter, and when I use a pattern, I make it exactly as written. I don’t add random stitches and then complain when the sweater or hat doesn’t fit.

    I love your blog and recipes and you are my first go-to for baking recipes.


  57. #
    Bill Mulready — November 6, 2019 at 12:57 pm

    Agree completely and thank you much

    Love you and what you do to


  58. #
    Valerie Holstein — November 6, 2019 at 1:02 pm

    Hi Tessa – Thank you so much for your recent post WHY I HATE BAKING SUBSTITUTIONS. I couldn’t agree with you more and this needed to be said. Your recipes are tested over and over again, and written in a way that pretty much guarantees an excellent final product. This requires not only scientific knowledge as to how ingredients work or don’t work together, as well as a lot of time and money for ingredients used. Thanks for all the work you do in providing us with delicious recipes.

  59. #
    Esther Sims — November 6, 2019 at 1:26 pm

    Tessa, thank you for saying what I truly believe when making a recipe. it’s a big source of aggravation when at the end of a recipe, the comments will say I substituted this for that and that for this and I never listen to them.
    I am 76 years old and have been baking for many, many, many years. There are a million recipes in this world , so just find one that fits your lifestyle and leave the perfect ones alone..
    You go girl! I’m proud of you!

  60. #
    Lisa Jones — November 6, 2019 at 2:10 pm

    Well said Tessa! x

  61. #
    Marian — November 6, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    Amen, sister. You go girl!!! Love your recipes and will continue to bake. YOU’RE THE BEST!!!

  62. #
    Marian — November 6, 2019 at 2:23 pm

    Amen, sister. You go girl!!! Love your recipes and will continue to bake them. YOU’RE THE BEST!!!

  63. #
    Kate — November 6, 2019 at 2:31 pm

    THANK YOU for posting this! Its my biggest pet peeve when I read the comment sections of blogs or recipe sites like Allrecipes, and people complain that their recipe didn’t turn out when they veered from the directions as printed. Recipes are in many ways like medication prescriptions, and I can’t imagine the poor outcomes when you try to outsmart doctors with home remedies!

  64. #
    Renee-Ann — November 6, 2019 at 2:42 pm

    Hi Tessa. Great post. I can so relate. I used to bring some of my ‘new creations’ to work. My co-workers loved it Except this one person who’d ALWAYS say “You know what I would use instead? I would use or add [fill in the blank].” It became so bad, another co-worker actually asked me to STOP bringing baked goods to work because she was tired of listening to that one. 🙁
    You have a great blog and amazing recipes. Don’t change a thing.



  65. #
    Trisha — November 6, 2019 at 3:07 pm

    Excellent post! About time someone put it out there in plain & simple terms about substitutions.
    I substitute ingredients all the time in my own recipes to change it up, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but it is never the fault of the original recipe. Like you said, every substitution CHANGES the recipe and CHANGES the end result. If a few of your followers don’t understand that then they should find a blogger more suited to their style of baking. Keep up the great work!

  66. #
    John Nelson — November 6, 2019 at 3:09 pm

    Dearest Tessa,

    Rather than comment on each of your points, I will simply say, BRAVO! One of the reasons I started following you is BECAUSE you made a point of emphasizing that baking is a science. I have not been disappointed by anything you have posted. Thank you.

    John Nelson
    Knoxville, TN

  67. #
    Rebecca — November 6, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    I totally get it friend, no worries. I come here to get the best of the best of the baking recipes and yours do not disappoint. I needed brownies last week and tried your easy brownie recipe and didn’t have the pan you recommended, I baked them in a ceramic pie plate and while they were delicious, they weren’t stellar, and I do not hold you accountable for that 🙂 Keep up the good work!

  68. #
    Paula Painter — November 6, 2019 at 6:14 pm

    I agree Tessa! Whenever I have to make substitutions, it usually doesn’t turn out as well as I would like. The finished product is only as good as the ingredients used to make it! Thanks for all of your tips and wonderful recipes!

  69. #
    Yulana Low — November 6, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    What a wonderful, thoughtful article on No Substitutions. I agree wholeheartedly that you make substitutions at your own risk. I appreciate the hard work you put into these recipes and I love your handy guides to chocolate chip cookies, muffins, etc.

    Baking is a science and I appreciate the lessons.

  70. #
    Michelle Ortiz — November 6, 2019 at 7:37 pm

    Hi Tessa! I have been following you for many years now and I just love you! Your insight and expertise to baking is invaluable! Thank you!!
    I totally agree with you on this subject. It unnerves me to no end when people change a recipe or comment on how it could be better if you add this or add that. Just leave it alone! If the ingredients suit you then make it as is, if not find a different recipe! I have dietary issues myself, but I would NEVER comment to an author of a recipe my advice on how to make it dietary issue specific! I look for ingredients in a recipe that work for me, if not I will either make it for my family to enjoy or I will keep looking and find a recipe that will work for me!
    You keep doing you Tessa, we true followers love you and will always support you! Thank you so much!!

  71. #
    Suz K — November 6, 2019 at 7:37 pm

    BAKING IS A SCIENCE . . .can you say it a few thousand times more for those who were too slow to understand it the first hundred times? There is nothing more incredible than an artist that stands FIRMLY with their beliefs and doesn’t let ‘popular’ influences change who they are are what they do. You are a creative genuis and should NEVER HAVE TO apologize for anything on YOUR BLOG, EVER! Keep baking and know those of us who appreciate you, do so more now than ever!

  72. #
    David — November 6, 2019 at 11:18 pm

    Tessa, you’re the greatest! That was very well said. I personally follow a “Whole Foods Plan Based” diet. That basically makes me vegan for the most part and rules out white flour (oh no!). That’s completely my problem and like you said, although I can still make and enjoy baked goods, they’ll never be as good as your unadulterated recipes (which, like you, are the greatest!). Don’t apologize for a single second. You do your thing and we, if we must, will do ours ;-). Keep it up!

  73. #
    Susan Logan — November 7, 2019 at 5:03 am

    Amen to that. Love you and your work

  74. #
    paige ward — November 7, 2019 at 5:27 am

    Good for you! I never respond unless I have tried the recipe….. I only read comments from folks who made the recipe as looking for any guidance I can get before trying a new recipe so I love it when I don’t have to wade thru all the sounds good, can’t wait to try. Geez, how would you know about substitutions anyway??? Go Girl!

  75. #
    Sherri — November 7, 2019 at 6:32 am

    Hi Tessa! A few years ago I stumbled across your posts on substitutions for cookies and cupcakes. It was one of the most invaluable posts I have ever read and I saved it. I love the way you took the time to compare the results with each substitution. I still use this guide today. Fast forward, and I stumbled across an awesome recipe on Facebook… link to your blog, and started following you. No idea that you were the same person who posted that awesome substitution info years ago! I do sometimes have to substitute ingredients. Money can be an issue, but I still want to make something yummy for my family and do the best I can with what I have. I understand that when I do swap something in a recipe, the results will be different! I’m not a professional baker, and although I’d love to have picture perfect results every time, my goal is usually just to put a smile on my kids face. Xox

  76. #
    donna — November 7, 2019 at 6:48 am

    This is wonderful!

  77. #
    Andrea Schmidt — November 7, 2019 at 8:20 am

    Tessa, you have nothing to be scared about voicing your opinion. My feeling is that if someone comes along and sees your recipe then they should use common sense that the recipe is how you made it. I really hope that made sense. I absolutely love the passion I see in your videos and love your recipes. As a novice baker, I do appreciate everything that you have made available. Not to mention that it is a great stress reliever.

  78. #
    Claudia Garner — November 7, 2019 at 8:22 am

    I have followed you for at least 5 years and I tell so many of my friends about you. You have encouraged me to try things I have never attempted. I love you honesty and knowledge about substitutions. Your blog was perfect! Thank you for your courage to go out on that limb and truly be yourself. Thanks again for all you do to help me learn the art of baking and also get great compliments. Just love Handle The Heat,

  79. #
    Christina — November 7, 2019 at 8:56 am

    I am a fan from Germany and i can absolutely relate to your post. It must be exhausting that people think you have to satisfy everyone.
    Love your work!
    Regards from Germany 🙂

  80. #
    Laura Katz — November 7, 2019 at 9:22 am

    Tessa, as a long time follower, your blog is my go-to site when I’m looking for a recipe, as I know how thoroughly you research your recipes. I love the emphasis you make on weighing the ingredients and show side-by-side comparisons of how a single ingredient change can change the results, like in your cookies, pie crust and frostings. Keep your standards high, just like you have from the beginning. You have an audience that appreciates that about you.

    One thing I’ve been looking for is a good recipe for a white wedding cake, with fine crumb and good flavor. I’ve yet to find it anywhere. Also, could you explain the difference in AP flour vs cake flour and how it impacts the texture.

    You’re the best and have a big audience that loves you!

  81. #
    Laura — November 7, 2019 at 9:24 am

    Tessa, as a long time follower, your blog is my go-to site when I’m looking for a recipe, as I know how thoroughly you research your recipes. I love the emphasis you make on weighing the ingredients and show side-by-side comparisons of how a single ingredient change can change the results, like in your cookies, pie crust and frostings. Keep your standards high, just like you have from the beginning. You have an audience that appreciates that about you.

    One thing I’ve been looking for is a good recipe for a white wedding cake, with fine crumb and good flavor. I’ve yet to find it anywhere. Also, could you explain the difference in AP flour vs cake flour and how it impacts the texture.

    You’re the best and have a big audience that loves you!

  82. #
    Brenda Staple — November 7, 2019 at 9:49 am

    Thank you for this post! Personally, I think it is about time you put on your big girl oven mitts and stood up for your hard work and talents. When I joined your group, you said that it was not a “diet” site. I know where you are coming from and it isn’t my recipe! I have family and friends that ask me to make less carb treats. My response it make the portion size smaller. I am not substituting anything! Keep up with the amazing recipes and posts!!! And other Followers, keep posting your productions. I love seeing the inspirations!

  83. #
    dianna — November 7, 2019 at 10:52 am

    This is wonderful!

  84. #
    Susan A Budzinski — November 7, 2019 at 10:58 am

    I hear you sister, it makes me crazy when I read those negative comments. There is no “I followed it to a T except”. Baking is absolutely a science. You can’t expect perfect results if the chemistry is altered. Thank you Tessa for all your insights but especially for your sharing them.

  85. #
    Jane — November 7, 2019 at 1:16 pm

    I have just recently started baking, approximately one year ago. I LOVE YOUR WEBSITE! I enjoy reading about the chemistry of baking. Thank you for your honesty and the great recipes.

  86. #
    Paula Spencer — November 7, 2019 at 3:19 pm

    Rant NEEDED and Appreciated
    I hate it when people trash a recipe that they have altered

  87. #
    Darlynn — November 7, 2019 at 5:50 pm

    I agree with you. Thanks for your input on this topic.

  88. #
    Angela — November 7, 2019 at 7:00 pm

    Good for you! i learned a long time ago that speaking my mind reduces my stress level. I usually complain to my daughter when I read reviews that blame the recipe that the person didn’t actually follow. I sell baked goods from home and run into similar issues with some clients with over the top requests. I either say I don’t do substitutions or charge extra for each substitution. I have lost a client or two but I have my piece of mind. It’s really a shame that we have to be nervous about expressing our feelings in this day and age but it is what it is.
    Stand in your beliefs.

  89. #
    Angie — November 7, 2019 at 9:23 pm

    Love , love your blog. Totally agree with what you wrote. I myself have stopped reading negative
    reviews of recipes as soon as they start listing the changes they’ve made. Basically, people be crazy..
    Rock on girl !

    Angie D.

  90. #
    Emily Larsen — November 8, 2019 at 7:59 am

    I hope you get many messages like this, but I couldn’t not tell you thank you for your honesty, bravery in speaking your true feelings and for working tirelessly to develop such wonderful recipes for all of us!
    I completely agree that no one should ever complain about a recipe not turning out of a substitution was made! Not just in baking even. I always try to make a new recipe exactly as written before even considering any changes, baking or cooking.
    I’m fortunate not to have any dietary restrictions myself or in my immediate family, but when I bake or cook for those who have restrictions or allergies, I specifically seek out recipes that were written to accommodate.

    Anyway, I wanted you to know I appreciate you and hope that your new policy makes your daily experience with commenters more enjoyable.

    Happy baking!

  91. #
    Jeff Wilde — November 8, 2019 at 8:12 am

    I,m an old boomer of 70 years and I can tell you for sure, YOU ARE SO RIGHT! It doesn’t just happen to you but it is seen all over the internet. Recipe after recipe with substitutions followed by ” I will never make this again” I believe there are some who want to try to prove you wrong or show it can be done differently just to toot their own horn. Keep the great knowledge coming, we all love you and what you do.

  92. #
    Jeff — November 8, 2019 at 8:14 am

    I,m an old boomer of 70 years and I can tell you for sure, YOU ARE SO RIGHT! It doesn’t just happen to you but it is seen all over the internet. Recipe after recipe with substitutions followed by ” I will never make this again” I believe there are some who want to try to prove you wrong or show it can be done differently just to toot their own horn. Keep the great knowledge coming, we all love you and what you do.

  93. #
    John Dickey — November 11, 2019 at 2:32 pm

    I understand perfectly about not doing substitutions. There are SO many variables and one cannot cater to everyone’s tastes or issues. Having said that, I do create alternatives for some of my friends and customers. It is a lot of work requiring calculation and experimentation. It is wonderful when it works, but along the way there a number of tossed batches. Not all failures exactly, since something is learned along the way. There are other sites catering to those specialties or revealing clues. Science marches on! Thank you for your recipes and hints.They are very helpful, entertaining and insightful.

  94. #
    Margo — November 11, 2019 at 10:36 pm

    I love your honesty about faking desserts using substitutes. I once shared a shortbread recipe with a co-worker She said it was the best she ever had, and would I share the recipe. Well, I shared and instead of using real butter, she used margarine they were awful. when I share recipes now, I make sure to tell them do not substitute any of the ingredients.

  95. #
    Hasti Sanghani — November 12, 2019 at 2:06 am

    So true! Although I do tweak recipes a bit, I do it knowing it won’t be as good. I love your recipes!!!

  96. #
    Hasti — November 12, 2019 at 2:09 am

    So true! I love your recipes. They are amazing. I know how it feels to work hard on something just to have someone change it.

  97. #
    Terry — November 12, 2019 at 7:35 am

    This may sound daft, but I never considered baking to be a science. Since learning that, I consider how ingredients will perform. Substitutions have never worked for me, and now I know they just don’t perform the same way as the intended ingredient. I have tried using substitutions, like applesauce, in order to make something low sugar for my husband, but it does not work. Perhaps it’s my lack of baking skill. I am not sure. Artificial sweeteners, like Equal, are out of the question. They just don’t deliver the same result. Now I know it’s more than just the difference in taste – now I know that chemically, substitutions just don’t perform like the real thing. Other people have told me they bake very well with artificial sweeteners, so I don’t know what I am doing wrong. Husband likes the (expensive) low sugar cookies and pies the supermarket sells, so I will leave it to their bakers.

  98. #
    Cindy — November 17, 2019 at 2:21 am

    Amen! Great post!
    I would however, love to see a once a month “blooper” post on the craziest “sub” comments. Cause really they can be so humorous! It’s NOT fair to give a recipe/chef a low rating on a recipe when you don’t follow the step by step instructions.

  99. #
    Cindy Torelli — November 17, 2019 at 8:19 am

    Good for you! We live your recipes!

    One of my grandmothers made great pound cakes that everyone loved. She shared the recipe with everyone and even stood beside several of them to watch them make her recipe. They would be upset because the ones they made at home weren’t the same. Took one of my cousins to figure out 1) Granny’s sugar cup was a Fiesta that actually help 1-1/4 cups and 2) she was using duck eggs instead of chicken (they cracked both kinds of eggs in a measuring cup and adjusted the recipe). Granny let everyone know the changes and all were happy.

  100. #
    Angie — November 17, 2019 at 8:40 am

    I have loved your recipes. I have substituted with my own because I know what works and what doesn’t. As you said, “Baking is a Science.” and it is true, I have been told that my entire life. Change one thing and you compromise the entire dish. You have spent so much time perfecting your items to share with us, I don’t know why people would ask you half the things they do. I even had food allergies and would never go on a site and ask someone to make something different to see if it works. It’s my allergy, I’ll figure it out. Luckily my allergy doesn’t affect my baking. Thank you for all you time and effort you put into this blog.

  101. #
    Cathy — November 17, 2019 at 9:00 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for addressing a HUGE pet peeve of mine. I have never understood how people can honestly give a recipe a bad review when they state in their review that they did not make the recipe as written. So, THANK YOU for saying what needed to be said. ♥️♥️♥️

  102. #
    Kim Nitchkey — November 17, 2019 at 11:24 am

    Please know that I am currently standing in my kitchen, at my baking island, giving you a standing ovation! The dogs are giving me side eye. Have you read ‘Delicious: A Novel’ by Ruth Reichl? You’d love it.

  103. #
    Noel Williams — November 17, 2019 at 2:14 pm

    I agreed with your stance on the issue. I am not an expert in baking. If anything, I am a hacker. But I have long understood that I should not expect my recipe to come out precisely as demonstrated. I usually substitute ingredients to make the recipe my own.

  104. #
    Su Maneck — November 17, 2019 at 2:39 pm

    Just wanted to say we have a “rule” in our house that you always ALWAYS bake (cook) a new recipe as written. No substitutions. If you don’t have everything, don’t make it! After that, if you find there are things you didn’t like, either don’t make it again, or substitute at your own risk. My sister, and daughters all follow this rule, and it works.

  105. #
    Rebecca — November 17, 2019 at 3:25 pm

    I live in a third world country and many common ingredients are unavailable in my area, so sometimes I am forced to make a substitution. I had to do DIY cake flour for the longest time until I found a store that sold it. So yes, I make substitutions, but I would NEVER leave a bad review on a recipe I didn’t actually follow. ‍♀️ I just keep searching for recipes that I like…. and yes, it took me over 2 years to find a pizza dough recipe that was good without bread flour. but well worth the efforts. I promote that recipe frequently

  106. #
    Seth — November 17, 2019 at 10:18 pm

    It takes courage to post a blog like this one. Taking a stand for what you believe in and not wavering because of followers. I too agree with you because by the time you post a recipe, you have done endless hours of experiments and research. I for one wouldn’t want to use baking substitutions but it’s because of the country that I live in, we don’t get most of those “rare” ingredients. Yes, Everytime I use substitutions they come out perfect for me because I haven’t had the chance to use the actual ingredient

  107. #
    Dee_G — November 18, 2019 at 6:48 am

    Tessa – I’ve got your back. When I find I recipe I’m interested in making, I’ll go to the comments to see what others thought of it. The minute I see,”well I substituted” or any other comment that mentions changing the recipe I skip right over the comment. What I have found though – when I see a recipe of yours, I don’t need to check the comments because I know your recipe will work and always works.

  108. #
    Tony Alexander — November 18, 2019 at 11:39 am

    I’m totally on board with this thought. What you present is what you want to present – IT’S YOUR BLOG. Keep doing what you do, and what you love. You have good reasons, not least of which is “this is my space”.

    If I decide to change things later because I want to substitute something, then it’s my fault – not yours or your recipe’s – if things don’t turn out. Imagine telling an automotive blogger “I tried your suggestion, only I used the 8mm box wrench instead of the 11mm socket. It didn’t come off. DISAPPOINTED.” HA! People are funny.

    And if I do substitute something that works well, I’m happy to share my results so others can do the same if they like – and thankful for those who do share their work.

    Keep doing you. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.

  109. #
    carol — December 3, 2019 at 10:46 am

    Preach it, sister!!

  110. #
    team sportswear|custom team jerseys} — December 18, 2019 at 4:17 pm

    Very good

  111. #
    Wendell Ball — December 19, 2019 at 10:34 am

    Thanks for the useful info.

  112. #
    Gilbert Poet — December 19, 2019 at 12:18 pm

    Incredible story there. What happened after? Take care!

  113. #
    Jessica — January 4, 2020 at 12:49 pm

    YES! THIS…!!!

    “I made this recipe and followed it to a T except [insert substitution here] and it didn’t turn out. Disappointed.”

    Or, “I made this recipe and it was SO GOOD, except I added x, y, and z”.


    Sorry for “yelling”, this is just one topic that I am very passionate about as well. 😉

  114. #
    Patricia — July 24, 2020 at 3:53 am


    I just received your email about substitutions on July 24, 2020, but comments here are from Nov 2019. Now that was slow internet service.

  115. #
    Julie — July 24, 2020 at 4:22 am

    Well stated! You are an artist, whose obviously studied baking and understand it, that’s why people like me go to your site. You do the work and we benefit so thank you very much! I do read reviews of recipes before I try them out, I hate those that switched ingredients. This is all part of the education process in baking just as your recipes are.
    I’ve always heard baking a science, have fun with ingredients in cooking not baking! Thank you for all your hard work!

  116. #
    Diane Meibauer — July 24, 2020 at 5:05 am

    I rarely leave a comment but couldn’t help on this one. I, too, go nuts when someone makes a recipe to a “T” except substituted one or another ingredient and it did not come out good!! Of course it didn’t!!! You substituted!! You changed it!! Not to a “T”. Cracks me up!! I usually pass up the rest of the comment when the word substituted or except is used because it is a useless review.
    Thank you for all your hard and very yummy work. It is certainly appreciated in our home.

  117. #
    Rita Zelig — July 24, 2020 at 5:11 am

    The one thing I know about ANY & ALL recipes…including yours Tessa; is I practice a “Rule of Thumb” to get SPECTACULAR RESULTS…EVERY SINGLE TIME!
    1) Patience
    3) RE-READ RECIPE THROUGH A 2nd, 3rd & 4th time if necessary! You might just find your skipping over steps just reading through the first time. Now imagine what you’re doing once you’ve actually done the recipe & it doesn’t turn out correctly? YOU MISSED SOMETHING VERY IMPORTANT!
    5) FOLLOW ALL INSTRUCTIONS & USE CORRECT INGREDIENTS! Stop blaming the recipe author for using substitutions without THOROUGHLY checking to make Absolutely certain that particular substitution will work.

    I agree with you Tessa. And THANK YOU once again for your unwavering self discipline in creating recipes & in taking the time to explain things so very well. I have only one more piece of advice for those who struggle…if you are not watching Tessa’s videos, try watching videos posted by others on You Tube. You’ll begin to understand just how uncomplicated Tessa is making things!

  118. #
    Bill Mulready — July 24, 2020 at 5:35 am

    Agree completely. Great stand. And yes baking is a completely scientific experience even down to atmosphere conditions (which change regularly here in the North East Coast. Even boiling an egg. At sea level take one time, at higher elevations take drastically different times. Thank Tessa

  119. #
    Jodi — July 24, 2020 at 6:18 am

    I was on KETO for 3 1/2 weeks and had to use the almond flour etc… Nothing tastes the same. The original ingredient is always the best!

    Thank you for your recipes!

  120. #
    Theresa — July 24, 2020 at 6:19 am

    I think it’s really great, that you write about your dislike for substitutions! You are the expert and your own boss and are allowed to set boundaries. 🙂

  121. #
    Lynda O’Hara — July 24, 2020 at 6:27 am

    It always amazes me when people state they followed your recipe exactly, HOWEVER made a few changes to substitute ingredients. Common sense should come into play and one should realize your end product will NOT be the same as the original. If you have an allergy problem maybe you should not be using a particular recipe. Another option, if you don’t have exact ingredients, wait until you do !!

    Tessa you are a very talented young lady and I have learned a great from you. PLEASE do not take offense at negative remarks, just not worth it.

    Lynda O’

  122. #
    RJohnson — July 24, 2020 at 6:33 am

    #1. I rarely read comments on blogs.
    #2. Even more rarely do I post a comment.

    Thank you Tessa for tackling this issue and clearly stating your “no substitution” policy. Now, don’t wring your hands or whine about it. There will be folks who are offended and those who will still make substitutions and ask for help or post comments. Get on with what you do; you can not control them but maybe, you can teach them. No recipe is fool-proof. Baking is an evolving science that takes time and attention to do it well. Thanks to your process of recipe development, you put in the initial time and thoughtfulness allowing those who use your recipes and tips to focus their energies better. Thank you.

    #3. Time for a cookie.

  123. #
    Lauren Klopfenstein — July 24, 2020 at 6:39 am

    Nicely said Tessa! Hopefully some will get it.

  124. #
    Randi Macdonald — July 24, 2020 at 6:40 am

    While I agree with you on substituting flours, I believe you can substitute yogurt for sour cream. I’ve also “soured” milk in place of buttermilk and made “buttermilk” with some yogurt thinned with milk.

  125. #
    Scott Miller — July 24, 2020 at 6:44 am

    This all sounds too familiar.
    I’m an aging powerlifter. I get people that complain all the time about this exercise that hurt them. NO. It’s not the exercise that hurt you, it’s your terrible form. Had you learned how to do that exercise correctly and practiced it with light weights first (leave your ego out of it), then you’d wouldn’t have hurt yourself.
    Learn first and follow instructions first.
    The same goes with baking. FOLLOW THE RECIPE TO A “T” first. As you learn more about baking, you’ll LEARN what you can and can’t do. I watch most of the baking shows and see many bakery owners and self-proclaimed professional bakers make mistakes I KNOW (in my very limited experience) won’t work.

    Tessa, there will always be haters, no matter what you do in life. Keep treating them with the grace and humility that you always do and you’ll always be the better person for it.
    Thank you for all you do for us, sharing your recipes, tips and tricks. I know I speak for the vast majority of us – WE APPRECIATE YOU!

    The Bald Baker

  126. #
    Melissa Morgan — July 24, 2020 at 6:55 am

    Tessa, love this. Nothing i hate more than reading a review by someone of a recipe who says “I substituted this for that or that for this.” Well then you didn’t make the RECIPE!! I always say make the recipe as it is first. That way you know how it is suppose to turn out. Then go off the rails if you want and how it didn’t turn out right! Your great!!!

  127. #
    Sue — July 24, 2020 at 7:16 am


    If I may, a few additional pet peeves.
    Questions from people who don’t have a clue about basic measurements. They could Google their question instead of bothering you with it.
    I read comments to learn if the recipe worked for bakers. I don’t like reading through scores of comments from people who think it looks good and may want to make it someday in the future. I understand their desire to compliment you, but it doesn’t add to the discussion.

  128. #
    Kuba — July 24, 2020 at 7:17 am

    From your Email. Once you make a sustitution in a recipe it is no longer the same recipe. It has changed. Some visual and taste change my occur. But it’s now a new recipe.
    Some just don’t get it.

  129. #
    Lisa Mendoza — July 24, 2020 at 7:35 am

    I’m very glad you made this post. I am very new to baking. I have avoided flour almost all my cooking life. Then came the pandemic and everyone was showing off what they made so I thought I would try.
    I learned this: “Baking like a pro means respecting that baking is a SCIENCE and using the right ingredients is key.” I respect this. Thankfully my sister has been explaining stuff to me and I just laugh at myself for all the tiny details that really matter, that I knew nothing about. I totally respect this post!
    (One joke I would share though. I followed a recipe (not yours) that said ‘a stick of butter’ and wasn’t pleased with the result. Came to find out that an American stick of butter is half the size of the one in my country!) Lesson learned… don’t go with the first googled recipe. Check here first! Thanks for this.

  130. #
    Nancy — July 24, 2020 at 7:53 am

    Finally… someone with the courage to say this.. swapping out and changing the ingredients makes it an altogether different recipe. Don’t blame the recipe or the creator when it fails to produce quality results. Baking is a science that requires exactness.

  131. #
    Terri G — July 24, 2020 at 8:08 am

    Love your post! As a baker I appreciate all of the hard work you put into each recipe. I always follow your recipes exactly and they turn out perfect!!

  132. #
    Kat — July 24, 2020 at 8:38 am

    I think you are completely justified in your feelings on this. I believe many readers also find it taxing to sift through these types of comments because they are not helpful. We don’t need to hear about failed results occurring from NOT following the recipe.

  133. #
    Muna Sidan — July 24, 2020 at 9:09 am

    Noted Tessa. Can’t help but laugh as I read through the article. Your frustration shines through in your words.
    I can’t even begin to imagine the loads of mails you have to go through daily and all the hard work you put into your recipes. Keep up the good work.
    Best wishes,

  134. #
    Carol G — July 24, 2020 at 10:39 am

    Tessa, I totally agree with everything you said about substitution. I’ve been baking for many years, as I am 66 years old, and when people change ONE ingredient it makes a huge difference. (People always comment on how good my baked items are and what is my secret – I say “follow the recipe”). I NEVER substitute. If there’s something in a recipe I know won’t agree with someone in my family, I move on to a different recipe. There are zillions of recipes out there, so in my opinion, bakers should look elsewhere when an ingredient is not gonna work for their health/allergies/whatever reason. Tessa, keep up the good work. I appreciate all your scientific knowledge!

    • #
      Valerie Holstein — July 24, 2020 at 9:10 pm

      Carol, I agree with you 100%.

  135. #
    Susan Olson — July 24, 2020 at 11:35 am

    Agree with you totally! Thank you!

  136. #
    Karen Anderson — July 24, 2020 at 12:50 pm

    Oh, Tessa, don’t listen to the nay-sayers. You are doing the rest of us a great service. I always wonder why people try to change a recipe written by someone else. If I don’t have the ingredients, or can’t get them, I make something else. The only subs I make are basic: dark chocolate chips for milk chocolate or pecans for walnuts.
    Keep up the good work!

  137. #
    Beth — July 24, 2020 at 1:32 pm

    I think you are right on – the person with the responsibility for the recipes has the right to make the rules.

  138. #
    Peggy Nelson — July 24, 2020 at 2:34 pm

    Well said! You have done all the hard work to test these recipes and you know best what works and what doesn’t. I just made your Brownie Cookie recipe this week and it was AWESOME (and I followed the recipe to a ‘T’). I appreciate all the recipes you have published and support your decision completely!

  139. #
    A.L. Chan — July 24, 2020 at 4:54 pm

    I fully agree that substitutions can affect the taste especially if key ingredients like eggs,flour,oil and sugar are involved.
    Those who need to do so e.g vegans or for health reasons will have do bear with the compromised results
    I do use subsititions occasionally eg using digestive bisciuts as a crust ingredient because Graham Crackers is an American product. – not found in my country and I could not find it on the supermarket shelves even in Australia.

  140. #
    Patty — July 24, 2020 at 11:40 pm

    I agree with you. I’ll read the recipe, and then I read the comments, and some will say, “ I made this last night, and it was yummy, but I substituted this for that, I left that out, cause I don’t like that, and I added some more spices.” So I’m thinking to myself, they made up another recipe, basically, if I were putting on recipes, like you are and someone said the above things, I’d be pretty aggravated with that person.Either follow the recipe as it was written or don’t send a comment how you did 4 or 5 different things to do it your way, that’s an insult

  141. #
    Maria Victoria C San Juan — July 24, 2020 at 11:58 pm

    This is a very good article. As much as I would want to bake a certain recipe I wait until I have right ingredients. No substitution for me. What I love about your recipes and articles is that they were created because it is a science by itself. Thank you Tessa.

  142. #
    Susan — July 25, 2020 at 6:21 am

    I agree with you 100%! I don’t like it when someone asks for your recipe because it was really good and then tell you how they made with changes/substitutions and it was much better. Good for them but I didn’t realize that by sharing a recipe I was automatically in a bake-off competition!

  143. #
    Bettie Blauser — July 25, 2020 at 5:34 pm

    I am known for the cookies I bake. I make them often for the locate Sheriff’s Department. They know me so they will eat them. (especially now a days.). I’ll give someone my recipe and they com back and the cookies didn’t come out as good as mine. Why did I give them the correct receipt. HAHAHAHAHAHAHHA. yeah, they made the substitution. I just roll my eyes at them and laugh. Most of them get it right away…..

    Thank you for your amazing recipes. I love them. And follow them to a T!!

  144. #
    Vickie — July 27, 2020 at 6:25 am

    I love your post! I agree that baking is a science, it’s not like cooking a meal where you have the liberty to change the recipe, like adding something or taking something out I come from a family of professional bakers. Each ingredient plays a part in of how the recipe will turn out. So I am totally with you on following the recipe as written.

    Or at least don’t complain if you decide to change said ingredients and it doesn’t come out the way you expected. Because if ingredients where changed how could anyone say, I followed the recipe to a T……but… actrually did not follow it to a T, if said ingredients were changed.

  145. #
    Alice — July 27, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    I agree with you .
    Don’t blame you if the sub.
    They are young bakers not the seasoned bakers, lol

  146. #
    Cynthia — August 28, 2020 at 5:05 am

    I couldn’t download the baking substitution 🙁

  147. #
    Habiba — September 2, 2020 at 10:59 pm

    I’m one to use substitutes. Do it all the time although I do try to stick to the recipe the first time around. Then I customize for my personal taste. But i did find it interesting to read your view on this.


  148. #
    Emma — January 7, 2021 at 1:15 pm

    I’m in the UK; do you know what “cake flour” is known as here? I’ve never heard of it before and I know your stance on substitutions so I just want to do things right!

  149. #
    RnTexas — January 16, 2021 at 11:23 pm

    Thank you. Well said. Amen.

  150. #
    Rah Alena-Maria Hornbaker — February 18, 2021 at 10:50 am

    Thank you so much for your eloquence, vulnerability and knowledge! We appreciate you!

  151. #
    Lourdes Heinzle — February 28, 2021 at 12:48 pm

    Love this article. I agree. Oftentimes, I’ll look up a recipe and it’ll be rated 5 star or 3 star or 1 star and then I read the reviews and the reviewer has changed the recipe. It definitely skews the ratings! Reviews should be on actual recipe, not someone’s corrections.

    • #
      Tessa — March 1, 2021 at 11:40 am

      So glad you feel the same!

  152. #
    Carolyne Holland — March 28, 2021 at 12:44 pm

    BRAVO!!!! I am NOT a baker, but I still try. I know how sensitive well-written, well-researched recipes are when it comes to baking. I want to learn from TRUE BAKERS, like yourself. Everytime I scroll down to comments/questions areas of a recipe, I see EXACTLY what you’re talking about. I SO GLAD that you take a stand so that my money, time and efforts are NOT wasted. I’ve ALWAYS achieved great results with your recipes.

    • #
      Tessa — March 29, 2021 at 12:16 pm

      You absolutely just made my day, Carolyne! I’m absolutely thrilled I’ve helped you with your baking! It is my JOY in life, and I’m so glad to share it with you!

  153. #
    Beth Davis — June 4, 2021 at 3:45 pm

    I absolutely agree with you on this, and please dont hate me for asking, but I am so curious on your opinion. I’m a chef, and I never sub anything besides buttermilk which I simply never have, and I tend to bake for myself on a whim. In this one case I have been told that using milk with lemon juice or vinegar curdles it and scientifically has the same result. I have never had a problem with it, and even if I did I wouldnt dream of commenting on a recipe I had changed, other than to say that I loved it or warn other readers against trying it. Does this sub count in your no sub rule or is it an exception for you too?

  154. #
    Elizabeth — September 17, 2021 at 3:01 pm

    Just stumbled on your blog with this post & I love it! A friend just advised me to sub out sugar with applesauce or pureed dates and felt frustrated. They were mixing up basic reasons to sub these things- applesauce isfor oil sub, not sugar. (Nor have I done either, the chemistry issue plus didnt see value of subbing fructose for sucrose health wise). Also hav friends who simply never follow a recipe, e.g. if it calls for a yolk or just whites, they consider wasteful and just throw in whole egg then don”t understand why it didn’t work. If asked will explain but often they think I’m being a geek and continue the weird subs lol.
    I might decrease sugar as u mentioned, esp for some Southern recipes that are super sugar heavy, but that’s it.
    I did attend pastry school then was diagnosed with Celiac, had to relearn how to bake sans gluten, still in progress. Many of the commercial mixes like Cup4Cup seem to work well as straight across swap, depending on what the product is. I love love love trying to adapt recipes and I don’t particularly flow gluten free blogs, I like technique blogs!!! Thabks for this post it’s awesome Following u now

    • #
      Emily — September 20, 2021 at 4:46 pm

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Elizabeth! It definitely sounds like you’re in the right place! We love sweet treats sprinkled with science! 🙂 With any of our recipes that you experiment with, please comment on the recipe post with the changes you made as it may help other readers!

Join the Handle the Heat Community

Cookie Customization Chart
Do you want a more delicious life?
Instead of digging through cookbooks and magazines and searching the internet for amazing recipes, subscribe to Handle the Heat to receive new recipe posts delivered straight to your email inbox. You’ll get all the latest recipes, videos, kitchen tips and tricks AND my *free* Cookie Customization Guide (because I am the Cookie Queen)!
As Seen On....
NPR People Time Glamour Readers Digest The Huffington Post BuzzFeed