How to substitute potatoes

Potatoes are a very popular vegetable in Australia. Those of us of European descent who cook our traditional family food often use potatoes in the food we cook and there are many potato-based foods that are commonly known, not just here in Australia, but in many other countries too.  I'm thinking of mashed potatoes, potato salad, hot chips, baked potatoes, potato bake, colcannon, potato and leek soup, wedges, frittata, shepherd's pie, cottage pie, fish pie, potato pancakes and many others. Surprisingly, to me at least, China is the world's largest producer of potatoes. The top five producers are China, India, Russia, Ukraine, USA. We grow very good potatoes in Australia, and a lot of home gardeners plant them every year, but Australia isn't in the top 25 potato-producing countries.

There was a time not too long ago when we used to grow a lot of potatoes.  Like many home grown vegetables, they taste much better fresh and just out of the ground.

Potatoes are one of the "good carbs" so they're frequently featured in family meals as a side dish, as a ingredient in frittata, salad or soup, or they're the main feature in vegetarian and vegan food. But one of the problems with this popular vegetable is that it's subject to price fluctuations because they're susceptible to rot after prolonged rain and prone to quite a few diseases. I thought it might be helpful for all of us, especially younger and new cooks, to discuss how we can replace potatoes with other common foods. After all, our job as homemakers is to not only cook nourishing food when we have all the ingredients we want but also when times are tough or we need to substitute ingredients to stay on budget. Don't forget to have packs of rice, pasta, polenta or couscous in your pantry. They'll sit there on stand by for a few months and you'll know you have that backup should you need it.

A sweet potato putting on shoots before being cut into chunks ready for planting.

 Purple sweet potato above, orange sweet potato pie topping below.

Sweet potato is the easiest replacement vegetable when potatoes are too expensive. You can mash, bake, or fry them and I think that they could easily slip in to replace potatoes in almost every potato dish. I prefer sweet potato as a pie topping and as a baked vegetable. If you have some room in your backyard, sweet potatoes are fairly easy to grow and usually produce an abundant crop.

Rice and salmon salad

Rice and pasta are obvious potato replacements in stews, curries, soup and salads. Both can be served in a stew or soup or on the side of a curry or stew. Rice salad and pasta salad, made with a variety of vegetables, is a good substitute for potato salad.

Dumplings are also great in a stew or soup if you don't have potatoes or are saving them for the Sunday roast.  They're easy to make, being very much like scone dough. Make them up about ½ hour before your stew or soup will be served.

Beef stew and herb dumplings.
Ingredients:

  • 65g cold butter, cubed
  • 1 ½ cups self-raising flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chives or green onion tops, chopped
  • 150 mls milk or cold water
Rub the cold butter into the flour with your finger tips so they look like course breadcrumbs. Add the salt, pepper and herbs and mix to combine. Add the milk or water and make into a dough. Divide the dough into 6-8 small balls, remember, they'll puff up when cooked, and place the balls on top of the simmering stew or soup. Put the lid on the saucepan. They'll be cooked in about 20 - 30 minutes.

Sweet potato, pumpkin or any root vegetable can be added to frittata.

Polenta can be fried, grilled, baked or creamy. Creamy polenta is an excellent replacement for mashed potatoes so it can also be used as a pie topper. Simply make it up according to the instructions on the packet. When making creamy polenta you'd add butter and cheese to the final product, if you want to fry or grill the polenta, make it up according to the instructions, pour it into a flat tray with sides and refrigerate overnight.  The following day it will be set and can be cut into chips or squares for frying or grilling.

Couscous can be used to add texture to a thick soup.

Couscous can be used in salads, with curries or stews, with roast meats, as thickeners in soups and stews, as part of a stuffing for poultry or vegetables or as the starch component in fish cakes or meatloaf.  Homemade breadcrumbs can also be used to bind fish cakes and meatloaf so never throw out your stale bread.

So now it's over to you. I'd love to know what you replace potatoes with when you don't have any or want to save them for something else. 🥔

24 comments

  1. My mother makes a very good curried sweet potato salad, which makes for a nice alternative to a standard potato salad. I like to make sweet potato oven fries as well, with basil (used to be basil-salt but we have to cook low-sodium now) and a garlic aioli dip on the side.

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  2. I look forward to reading the replies. After a fairly big surgery I hated potatoes. I can tolerate a little now but they are far from my favourite. Thanks everyone.

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  3. I eat sweet potato all the time. Mashed with lemon juice is delicious.
    I've actually been scanning the internet over the past week as I'm planning on making sweet potato gnocchi.
    Kylie

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  4. Forgot to mention polenta chips with parmesan cheese.
    I like the dumpling idea too.
    Kylie

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  5. In Germany, potatoes are very cheap, while sweet potatoes are rather expensive. You get at least four kilos of "old" potatoes for one kilo of sweet potatoes. The new ones, where the harvest has started a few weeks ago, are a bit more expensive, but will be cheaper when more can be harvested.

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  6. Polenta, couscous and sweet potato are favourites of mine. I've been thinking about cutting down on white potatoes so thank you Rhonda for this timely post:)

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  7. I often substitute potato with sweet potato.
    And if I have a craving for homemade potato chips and don't have potatoes I'd use sweet potato, yucca or plantains.

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  8. I'm wondering how everyone stores their potatoes and/or sweet potatoes? Especially when you grow them yourself. That's a lot of potatoes all at one time and I wouldn't want then to go to waste by storing them incorrectly.

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    1. They need some humidity to help them keep; so I usually put them in my refrigerator and only harvest what I can use within the week, to save room in the fridge. The rest are left in the ground and harvested as needed.

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    2. Our potatoes and sweet potatoes are always stored in a basket in a dark cupboard, never in the fridge. Make sure you store only undamaged potatoes. If you buy them, remove them from the plastic bag. As hopflower says, just harvest what you need. Unless you have continuous rain and have bogging soil, they'll store well in the soil until you need them.

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  9. I am not much of a rice eater so I tend to use dumplings or parsnips or sweet potatoes and the like when I need to substitute. I have plenty of home grown potatoes coming out of the garden now though. Love those potatoes almost any way they can be cooked.

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  10. I always keep some frozen cauliflower on hand. It's nice riced with butter and seasoning, as a faux mashed potato dish, or even as a cold potato salad-type dish. Not the real deal, but a nice substitute.

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    1. Thanks Tim and Chris, I forgot about the wonderful cauliflower. They can be mashed, baked, boiled or steamed and are always delicious.

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  11. I love potatoe! My favorites sure scalloped potatoes and homemade French fries. (chips) I actually have to work to use up my potatoes before they go bad. I store them in a wooden bin that I bought at the Salvation Army. I buy them on sale: ten lbs. for one or two dollars. They are so inexpensive here in California. Most are grown in the fertile soil of Idaho. I grew them one year, and they were delicious! I plan to try your dumpling recipe.

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  12. Potatoes are very popular in our house. I make homemade rice pilaf which is a great addition to dinner and buttered homemade egg noodles are also a hit. Thanks for the above suggestions. The herb dumplings look scrumptious!

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  13. We sometimes have Yorkshire pudding batter instead of potato - if we have Toad in the Hole ( sausages cooked in a pan of Yorkshire pudding) there is no need to have potatoes as well. Another alternative is Puy lentils which will soak up the sauce from a casserole just as well as mashed potatoes will - not really a cheaper option but a nice change.

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  14. I love potatoes in all their forms, but our son has an intolerance to them (much to his dismay) so when he visits I tend to substitute for sweet potatoes. I haven't tried polenta, I fancy trying it creamed. Lovely to find your blog xx

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  15. Recently I made a huge bowl of soup with sweet potato as the main ingredient. It was curry based (can use thai mix) and thickened with coconut milk. Honestly, it's been a while since any soup disappeared so quickly. It was delicious and wholesomely nutritious. We love sweet potato here and use it a lot. We also eat a fair amount of rice but prefer the basmati. Pasta we eat sparingly even though we love it. It's just that I find it a little heavy but as much as I hate to say this, we all here find the italian made pasta lighter.

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  16. Oh, and lentils too. White cannelini beans are so good and when softened, it can thicken any dish.

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  17. I mainly use sweet potato or cauliflower as a substitute now, or even fresh pumpkin sometimes mashed with potato. Couscous is nice for a change as is barley.You remind me Rhonda that I have a packet of polenta in my pantry, so I must use that.

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  18. Wonderful post as always Rhonda. Thank you. I am too busy gazing at your delicious food to think of an answer to your question! Warmest regards to you, Hanno and the family including that little black minx! I always enjoy reading your blog. x

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    1. Lovely seeing you again, Wendy. I hope all is well in your neck of the woods. xx

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  19. I often use barley in soups and stews. I use rolled oats as a thickener in meatloaf rather than bread crumbs.

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  20. i can no longer eat potatoes so i've replaced them with the orange sweet potato. used in everything i cook just about esp stews.
    great post!
    thanx for sharing
    selina from kilkivan qld

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