How to substitute potatoes

19 July 2017
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. 🥔