There's nothing worse than being elbow-deep in an exciting recipe, only to realize it calls for an ingredient you don't have. But there is a way around the situation that doesn't involve keeping your kitchen stocked with items you won't get much use out of. Read on for six slightly unusual ingredients many recipes call for and an easy substitution for each.
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If a recipe calls for: Shallots
You can substitute: A combination of garlic and white onion
Shallots are closely related to onions and have a similar flavor but have more pungency and depth than a standard onion. Toss a minced clove of garlic in with your onion for a pretty close approximation of shallot's flavor.
If a recipe calls for: Pancetta
You can substitute: Unsmoked bacon
Pancetta is also known as Italian bacon, so it stands to reason that you can sub in plain ol' bacon for its European counterpart. Be sure you're using an unsmoked bacon, though, to match pancetta's flavor as nearly as possible and avoid overpowering your dish.
If a recipe calls for: Self-rising flour
You can substitute: Flour, baking powder, and salt
Self-rising flour isn't really a special type of flour; it's just ground extra fine and has leavening agents added, which helps eliminate a couple steps as you're baking. You can re-create it  by adding one and a half teaspoons of baking powder and half a teaspoon of salt to a cup of all-purpose flour.
If a recipe calls for: Meyer lemon
You can substitute: Half lemon, half orange
Meyer lemons are actually a hybrid between lemons and mandarin oranges. Their flavor is sweeter and milder than a regular lemon but more tart than a standard orange. Mix equal parts lemon and orange juice (or zest, depending on your recipe) for a close match.
If a recipe calls for: Buttermilk
You can substitute: Milk with lemon juice  or yogurt thinned with water
Strange as it sounds, buttermilk is essentially fermented milk, which is made by adding acid to the milk. Create your own version by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to a cup of milk, let it sit for five minutes, then use as the recipe directs. Alternatively, take plain yogurt and thin it with water to form a milk-like liquid.
If a recipe calls for: Sour cream
You can substitute: Greek yogurt
If you're a yogurt-lover who is far more likely to stock your fridge with Fage than with Daisy, there's no need to stress about buying sour cream for your recipe. Greek yogurt has the same tart flavor and works well in lieu of sour cream in most recipes, especially for baked goods.