Ingredient adaptations

As a Dutchie with a strong American influence in her life and a love for international cuisine, I cook a lot from ‘foreign’ recipes. This means that often enough I have to search for the Dutch equivalent of whatever ingredient I need or have to figure out how much a measurement actually is. Now life’s easy for me in a number of cases, where I just ask my dad, or other visitors, to bring me a bag of this or a package of that from the US. At other times I’ll just have to wing it with what I can get here.

For your convenience, I’m starting a list with substitutions or explanations of the products I use. Some of the info is taken from other blogs or websites. Some things I’ve found on my own. Either way, this is an ever-growing list of ingredients that are hopefully helpful for international cooks trying to find their way around foreign ingredients. If you happen to have tips on what to substitute where, please feel free to comment here!

A great tip however is to get a kitchen scale that does grams as well as ounces, I use both grams and cup measures in my recipes after all. (And if you don’t have cup measures, you really, really need them in ‘international’ cooking. I personally love this set, you’ll have every size you might ever want or need.

A last note: my ‘translations’ of ingredients (or substitutions) are between Dutch and American, both/either in language as in product. I wish I spoke JApanese or Chinese or whatever-language-you-could-use, but I don’t, for now.

The butter we have in Holland, even the lowest grade butter, is of a very high quality. As an American reading this blog, I’d suggest using what you call European style butter. It just tastes that much better.
That said, measurements can be tricky. I usually write down a number in cups or grams. Since the sizes of packages of butter in different countries are different, bear in mind:
1 stick of butter = 1/2 cup of butter = 113 grams of butter

There are about a zillion types of sugar around. When talking about sugar, I mean regular white sugar, this can either be granulated or castor sugar. The only difference between the 2 is that one is a little courser than the other. I use whatever I have, when I use granulated sugar, I use a heaping amount of whatever measure it is, when I use a fine castor sugar, a scant amount. This works fine for me and I suggest you just experiment.

  • granulated sugar = gewone suiker/kristalsuiker
  • castor sugar = fijne kristalsuiker
  • powdered sugar, icing sugar, confectioners sugar = poedersuiker
  • brown sugar (unspecified) = either dark or light brown sugar or a combination = licht of donkerbruine basterdsuiker of een combinatie
  • dark (or light) brown sugar, when specified = donkerbruine (of lichtbruine) basterdsuiker (precies gebruiken wat er staat)
  • cane sugar or raw sugar = rietsuiker

Most nuts in my recipes are easily obtainable in many countries. Good to know though is the way of measuring specified.

  • A cup of nuts, chopped means you measure the unchopped nuts, then chop however much that is. A cup of chopped nuts means you chop the nuts first, then measure them. This can make about a 50 to 75 percent difference in the amount of nuts you use, depending on how finely you chop.
  • Slivered almonds in the US and in Holland are different. In the US they are halved almonds cut into a couple of pieces lengthwise, (almost like a minature julienne). The Dutch amandelschaafsel are very thin little slivers of almond (amond-shaped, basically). I usually use either, and change it up a bit, unless I clearly specify how I want the almonds to look.
  • Nuts in my recipes are by default raw, unseasoned nuts. If you have to use toasted or seasoned nuts, I’ll specify that (And will probably tell you to do it yourself, as toasting or roasting and seasoning nuts is different in every country.)

I’m a Dutch girl and buy my cocoa here. The cocoa I use is per definition Dutch processed. To the Dutchies I say: cocoa is cocoa, buy droste powder or Bleeker and you’ll be fine!

A good or bad ground cinnamon (or old) makes a ton of difference. Unfortunately in Holland there isn’t a huge variety unless you go to specialty shops. However, whenever I can get my hands on it, I prefer Vietnamese Saigon cinnamon. Store it in an airtight container, or your whole kitchen (or house) will be overpowered by cinnamon smell!

You can’t get many different kinds of vanilla in Holland. Please NEVER use ‘vanilla sugar’ or ‘vanille’ that’s sold in the little paper pouches at the grocery store. They are pure chemicals and will give you an artificial taste.

  • To make vanilla sugar, put some sugar and a vanilla bean (sliced open) in a sealable jar. Stir or shake occasionally. Within days you have a beautiful, fragrant vanilla sugar. Just top up with more sugar whenever you run low and leave the vanilla pod in.

Vanilla extract should be made from vanilla (not from ‘flavoring’). If you can’t find good vanilla extract (the nice dark colored Mexican vanilla extract, for instance) don’t substitute by using artificial flavoring.

  • Put a vanilla pod (sliced open) in a little sealable jar or bottle with some very clear, clean tasting vodka (the less the vodka tastes, the better!), shake daily. After about 2 weeks it’s useable. (The longer it’s sitting, the stronger the flavor. Again, top up whenever you run low. Those pods last a LONG time, as long as you can still smell them, they’re still useable!)
  • For a non-alcoholic version combine 3 parts glycerin and 1 part warm water and place a vanilla bean (slid in half) in this mixture. shake daily. It’ll be useable after about a month.

Most spices are available everywhere, but often names differ, sometimes significantly. Here’s a list of some common used spices and their different-language-counterparts. Peppers are named here too, because pepper and paprika (in American cooking) can confuse people from other countries.

  • (ground) cloves = gemalen kruidnagel = tjenken
  • (ground) ginger = gemberpoeder = djahé
  • (ground) cumin = gemalen komijnzaad = djinten
  • coriander = gemalen korianderzaad = ketoembar (let op, verse koriander is in de Amerikaanse keuken cilantro!!! Als er coriander staat gaat het dus ALTIJD om ketoembar!)
  • paprika = paprikapoeder (een verse paprika is in de Amerikaanse keuken een (bell) pepper (met vaak de kleur erbij vermeld)
  • pepper = rode, groene of gele paprika, tenzij er een type voor staat, zoals chili, jalapeno o.i.d. (whole, ground, etc)
  • peppercorns = peperkorrels (gemalen, heel, o.i.d.)

Vegetables and (fresh) herbs
Vegetables and herbs can be confusing, because the exact same word can mean something completely different in the other language. Sad but true, this can completely screw up your dish. A cup of chopped up peppers can result in a terrible terrible inedible dish, when you think you’re supposed to cut up (how do you even do that) a full cup of peppercorns!

  • When I use the term peppers without a specification of a type (chili, jalapeno, habanero etc.) you can use either red, green or yellow bell peppers, also known as “rode, gele of groene paprika” in Dutch.
  • Celery, which I use in many dishes, is ‘bleekselderij’. it is not to be confused with the Dutch word ‘sellerie’(as in ‘selleriesalade’) which is ‘knolselderij’ or celery root.
  • Cilantro (either fresh or dried) = (verse of gedroogde) koriander (maar geen poeder dus!!!!)
  • Savory (summer or winter, I don’t know the difference) = bonenkruid

When I’m baking I often use American recipes that ask for baking soda or cream of tartar or cake flour. These are things that aren’t usually used in Holland. However, most of them are available or at least easy to substitute.

  • Baking soda = natriumbicarbonaat = zuiveringszout (GEEN bakpoeder!!!)
  • Baking powder = bakpoeder
  • Cream of tartar = wijnsteenzuur
  • Corn syrup is similar to glucosestroop. It is different though, so I advise you to go by an English or American store and buy some real corn syrup, as the results with Dutch “glucosesiroop” will probably be completely different!
  • Molasses = melasse, but be ware! Dutch “melasse” is sometimes much stronger than American molasses, so try a bit and if the taste is overpowering, substitute up to half of the needed molasses by a very mild honey)
  • Cake flour = not available in Holland!!! (Don’t think that cakemeel is the same, please don’t, it has sugar added and other additives that’ll flunk your cake!) The substitution method is easy as, well, cake.
    The composition of cake flour is 7:1 AP flour to corn flour. So for every cup of cake flour proceed as follows. Take 1 cup of regular all purpose flower, minus 2 tablespoons (just measure it, then take 2 Tbsp out). Then add 2 Tbps of corn flour (maizena). (2 cups of cake flour = 1 3/4 cup of AP flour, 1/4 cup of corn flour, etcetera)
  • Chocolate chips are hardly sold here and if they are, they’re crazy expensive. Just chop up a bar of chocolate, that’s the easiest substitution ever. For milk chocolate chips use good quality melkchocolade, for semi sweet use good quality pure chocolade, for white chips good quality witte chocolade and for butterscotch chips use caramac (not available in a better quality and not exactly the same, but the closest substitute I can think of.

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