It’s time to put this “parsley or cilantro?” question to bed, once and for all.
1. Evaporated Milk vs. Sweetened Condensed Milk
Evaporated milk is a shelf-stable milk with 60% less water (thus, 60% less volume) than regular milk. Stabilizers and vitamins are added, but no sweeteners or flavorings. It’s often used in savory baking recipes (like bread); if a dessert recipe calls for evaporated milk, it will call for some kind of sweetener as well.
Sweetened condensed milk, on the other hand, is evaporated milk plus sugar. After 60% of the water is removed from the milk, sugar is added to create a thick liquid that’s super sweet and more like syrup than milk.
IN A NUTSHELL: Sweetened condensed milk is evaporated milk with sugar added.
Can I substitute one for the other? No. Evaporated milk is thin and savory, sweetened condensed milk is thick and syrupy sweet.
2. Radish vs. Beet
Radishes and beets look similar, with red bulbs roughly the size of golf balls (though sometimes much bigger), but have totally different tastes and culinary uses.
Radishes (pictured left) have bright red skin and white flesh. They have a spicy flavor and are usually sliced thin and served raw, with the skins still on.
Beets (pictured right) have dark, reddish-purple skin with flesh the same color. They have a sweet, earthy, and slightly metallic flavor. Some people think they taste like dirt. Usually they’re served roasted, as that brings out their intense sweetness, but sometimes they’re served raw (shaved super thin). Either way, beets are always eaten without the skin.
IN A NUTSHELL: Radishes are raw salad veggies, beets are something you cook.
Can I substitute one for the other? No. Radishes are spicy and usually eaten raw, beets are sweet and usually eaten cooked.
3. Pure Cranberry Juice vs. Cranberry 100% Juice vs. Cranberry Juice Cocktail
Pure cranberry juice is only cranberry juice (usually from concentrate) and water. Because cranberries are so tart, the juice is super sour and not at all sweet.
Cranberry 100% juice is made of cranberry juice (from concentrate) and water, plus other sweet fruit juices (usually apple and grape) for sweetness. So, it’s 100% juice, but not 100% cranberry juice.
Cranberry juice cocktail is the most common of the three, and it’s a mixture of cranberry juice and water, plus sugar and asorbic acid (to enhance the tartness of the cranberry juice and balance the sweetness of the sugar).
IN A NUTSHELL: The dark one is the only one that’s actually the juice of cranberries — the cranberry juice cocktail is the one you probably know and love as a drink.
Can I substitute one for the other? Sort of. There’s no substitution for pure cranberry juice, but cranberry 100% juice and cranberry juice cocktail essentially taste the same.
4. Parsley vs. Cilantro
Parsley (pictured left) is slightly grassy but extremely mild tasting. The stems are good for adding flavor to soups or broths. The leaves are slightly rough and more resilient than cilantro leaves, which means they don’t wilt or get soggy as easily.
Cilantro (pictured right) has a stronger, slightly soapy taste very similar to coriander (since cilantro leaves actually grow from the coriander seed). In fact, adding the stems to a soup or broth will add a coriander flavor. The leaves make a very flavorful garnish, but are really soft and wilt easily.
IN A NUTSHELL: You will never have to stop looking closely to tell the difference, but the one with the little rounded tips is cilantro.
Can I substitute one for the other? Sort of. Using the wrong herb will change the flavor profile of your dish, but it’ll still be totally edible and possibly even delicious.
5. Lemon vs. Meyer Lemon
Lemons are lemons.
Meyer lemons are less acidic than regular lemons and have a subtly sweet, floral flavor. They are also more orange in color than regular lemons, are softer to the touch, and have smoother skin. They’re great in desserts, and are delicious for making preserved lemons, but they’re more expensive (about $4 per pound, vs. $1–2 per pound for regular lemons). So only use them for recipes that specify “Meyer lemon.”
IN A NUTSHELL: They’re similar, but Meyer lemons have smoother skin and are less tart.
Can I substitute one for the other? Sort of. Regular lemon will make a recipe more tart, but it’ll still come out fine.
6. Baking Soda vs. Baking Powder
Baking soda, also called bicarbonate of soda, is a pure alkaline, so it needs to be mixed with an acid (buttermilk, citrus juice, vinegar, etc.) in order to work. When it’s mixed with an acid, gas is released, which causes baked goods to rise. But, baking soda has a strong, metallic flavor that can ruin a recipe if you use too much.
Baking powder is a mix of baking soda, acid, and corn starch. Because it already has acid mixed in, it only needs to be mixed with liquid and heat for gas to be released and rising to happen. Baking powder has a much milder flavor than baking soda too.
IN A NUTSHELL: They’re different so you should always have both in your pantry if you want to bake.
Can I substitute one for the other? No, because they react differently to the other ingredients in the recipe.
7. Scallion vs. Shallot
A scallion is a long green leaf with a tiny white bulb (usually with part of the root still attached). Usually they’re used as a garnish and not cooked, but if you do cook them they’re treated like other leafy greens, meaning they only get cooked for a minute or two.
A shallot is sold as a bulb, with no leaves. It’s like an onion but smaller and with a milder flavor. And, like onions, they are used to add extra flavor to cooked dishes, or raw as garnish to add sharpness and crunch.
IN A NUTSHELL: Shallots are like small, subtler onions that are pale pink; scallions are at like tiny leeks.
Can I substitute one for the other? Sort of. You can use the white part of the scallion pretty much the same way you would use a shallot, but if you want greens, you’ll need scallions.
8. Red Cabbage vs. Radicchio