The Ultimate Guide to Vegetable Substitutes

A few weeks ago I got some feedback that hurt.

Two of my long term Simple Meal Plans customers left comments saying they found my recipes lacking in vegetable variety.

Too much broccoli and cauliflower!

Asking me to mix it up.

Which got me thinking…

I do use a lot of broccoli and cauliflower and kale in my recipes.

Because that’s what I LOVE to eat.

But just because a recipe calls for a certain veg, doesn’t mean you can’t use something else.

So I’ve made a note to always include alternative veg ideas in my variations.

And I also thought it would be fun to empower you to try a little vegetable substitution on your own…

The Ultimate Guide to Vegetable Substitutes

Leafy Herbs

parsley = mint = coriander (cilantro) = basil = sorrel

Woody Herbs

thyme = rosemary = sage = oregano = lemon grass = lemon thyme = kaffir lime leaves

Leafy Veg

spinach = chard = silverbeet = collard greens = kale = cavolo nero = beet tops = cabbage = bok choy

Root Veg

potato = sweet potato = parsnip = beets = turnip = celeriac = swede = rutabaga = carrots = mushrooms = zucchini = cauliflower


broccoli = broccolini = cauliflower = cabbage = brussels sprouts = chinese broccoli

Crunchy Veg

celery = snow peas = carrots = radish = kohlrabi = cabbage

Green Veg

zucchini = peas = green beans = broad beans = broccoli = asparagus

Summer Veg

tomatoes = red bell peppers (capsicum) = eggplant (aubergine) = zucchini = mushrooms

Aromatic Veg

onions = celery = carrots = garlic

Salad Veg

lettuce = radicchio = rocket (arugula) = baby spinach = baby kale = leafy herbs

EXAMPLE: Beautiful Broccoli with Creamy Tuna Sauce

Lets put this into practice with my Beautiful Broccoli with Creamy Tuna Sauce.

Looking at out substitution guide above, broccoli appears in the Brassicas. So you could substitute any of those vegetables.

Broccoli is also under Green veg. More options there.

On a more general note, you could substitute any cooked veg or legumes.

So maybe some roast eggplant or zucchini or mushrooms? Or saute some leafy veg like kale or spinach and use that instead.

There are always options.

Just trust your instincts.

We’ll turn you into a substitution pro in no time :)


Like More Ingredient Substitute Ideas?


Join 39,339+ readers of my weekly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy of my printable Ingredient Substitute ‘Cheat Sheet’ and my 102 page eCookbook…

It’s all FREE!

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Also see the The Simple Guide to Ingredient Substitutes.

What about you?

Do you love broccoli and cauliflower? Not so much?
I’d love to hear about your favourite vegetables in the comments below :)

Have fun substituting in the kitchen!

With love,
Jules x

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  • There’s something to be said for vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage: it’s harder to get tired of them than some other veggies. When my husband cooks, it’s always broccoli and green beans, unless I happen to suggest something else. A couple of weeks ago I did grocery shopping for him because his hip was hurting too badly. I couldn’t find broccoli, so in a moment of brilliance I bought asparagus, which looked really good. He wasn’t thrilled with my choice, because even though he likes asparagus, we’d had it enough recently that he was tired of it. For us, the bottom line is that the Brassicas are the best. For the record, rutabagas and turnips are also Brassicas (please forgive the botanist in me – it won’t ever go away).

    • I agree Susan – I think the brassicas are much harder to tire of. I love them so much that I was toying with the idea of changing my middle name to brassica. Maybe I should still do it!

  • The cheat sheet is great. I need vegetables while my husband is not too keen on them at all but knows he must have some. So I look for different ways to prepare them (or disguise them). Broccoli is a favourite for me but not for him!! Kale is off the menu for both of us – sorry Jules :), but any other leafy green works for me. Therefore I often end up making soups in order to get more vegetables into the menus. Advice on different sauces or additions to add or methods of cooking would be good.
    Thanks for all the hard work.

  • I -have- been doing this, Jules! You eat way more cabbage than my men will. (grin) Thanks for prompting us with more ideas. Also, I recommend shallots in your aromatics list. Technically leeks fit too, but shallots are seriously delicious.

    • I do love my cabbage Wynne :)
      And yes leeks and shallots could be on the aromatics list.
      I don’t cook with them often though because onion tends to be so much cheaper and just as delicious

  • Lovely list. Thanks. My Dad has diabetes type 2 and can’t eat greens so much even though my mum loves them – especially cabbage! If I cook for them i try to get leeks or green beans in instead.
    For myself I try to vary veg as much as possible and get as many colours in each week- for variety in colour, texture, hot / cold dishes and for all the different goodness they each bring.
    By the way, I also wondered where cucumber would be on your list – crunchy veg? summer veg?
    thanks again

    • Hi Aoibheann!

      I’m curious why your Dad can’t eat greens with his diabetes?

      I have type 2 and greens are a huge huge part of my diet.

      Cucumber could be either crunchy veg or summer veg – depending on the use :)

      • I have type 2 diabetes as well but a lot of cauliflower and cabbage upsets my guts. I also have to eat low fodmap which is a nightmare!

  • I love broccoli! But I’ve always been one to randomly substitute, and here’s why:

    First, I’m in the opposite hemisphere from you…
    Second, the vast majority of veg that I get comes from the farmer’s market, or gets delivered from the farmer’s market. I get whatever is in season – so it doesn’t matter if I want broccoli when it’s arugula and cucumber season.

    • Chicken broth from the carton,teduc d salt.I save all bits of leftover vegetables in a bowl covered in the freezer.Better soup.Lrarned this from my Granny.She made the best soup ever Roast th beef bones for soup rack & remove the marrow.Chopthis and return to kettle you are making soup bin.Summerin broth add bones.Add 1-2 large cans chop. ed tomatoesAdd large chopped and sautéed onion.Add4 ribs celery chopped add browned stew beef chopped and browned add 3-4 chopped carrots,Add 3 ears corn kernels freshly cut off the earsAdd 1T butter simmer and stir often.during the last hour add barley1/2 c,or the starch you prefer.I don’t use potatoes because they don’t freeze well.Also I must be gluten free.Serve with a skillet of corn breadSs the broth starts to boil add 1:4 to1/2 smaller cabbage finely chopped,hotA favorite of my girls and all their friends.Freezes well.when one of my grandchildren was on the way,Mama couldn’t keep much in.Until she requested this soupI also add green peas and Lima beans .I often took this to my elderly friends.A meal in a bowl.Good for all ages.I’ve been making it for almost 50 yearseasom soup to taste with salt and pepper I often add a half to a full bunch of fresh parsley you may add chopped leftover chicken or beef to the soup.a dad 4 little shakes of Tabasco may also season with Laury’s seasoned salt instead of plain dalt

  • Jules, you are amazing! What a positive response to negative feedback.

    I was surprised to hear about the comments from your clients complaining about the frequent rotation of certain veggies. Clearly, they haven’t been with you long enough or haven’t been paying attention. I have learned so much from the substitutions lists that you include with all your (free!) online/emailed recipes, and and have become quite an adaptable cook as a result!

    Having the suggestions all in one cheat sheet makes it just that much easier.

    Thanks again for your wonderful service.

    • You say the nicest things Jean!

      And so glad you’ve become an adaptable cook from using my free recipes and variations :)

  • Hi Jules,
    Like you, my favorite veggies are broccoli and cauliflower! I do try to mix up my choices with parsnips, rutabaga, snow peas, spinach, summer squash, bok choy and onions. I don’t now how to cook without adding onions and garlic to a dish! And lots of avocados although it’s technically a fruit. I sprout my own mung beans and eat tofu often. I use dried beans and lentils weekly to make ahead stews and soups and have a large patch of rhubarb I have been coaxing to grow in our East Tennessee heat. I like most veggies, but turn to those listed most often, with corn, peas, carrots and poblanos making up the second string. I love your recipes and have always subbed what I like, what I have or what I want no matter what the ingredient list indicates. I have always considered recipes as guidelines and usually alter them to make them my own. And as I am a vegetarian I am constantly subbing meat for veggies. Keep up the good work – and keep including broccoli and cauliflower!

    • Thanks Linda!

      I’m wondering what do you do with your rhubarb? I have a thriving patch but don’t use it often because I always think of sweet things when I see it

  • Hi Jules,

    I’m getting your meal plans already for 3/4 year. And my boyfriend bought me for Christmas the life- long membership, which made me incredibly happy!

    I usually follow the recipes and make substitution, if I can’t find certain ingredient. But your substitution guide will be really good as my boyfriend complains about lacking variety of vegetables – he’s not thrilled about cauliflower & broccoli duo as I am.

    Thank you for your great work & looking forward to my life filled with your tasty recipes.

  • How many cups does a 16oz bag of fresh kale yields?

    How many cups does an 8oz bag of fresh spinach yield? What’s the difference if it’s baby spinach?

    • Sorry Katrena

      I don’t really work in cups for measuring leafy greens because it’s so difficult to be consistent with the amount of fill.

      I’m sure there is another website out there who will know though :)

      • I do not like beans and carrot. Even whenever I am served with these respective vegetables, I make it a point to throw them out. However, long term abandonment of carrot and beans from my meals has resulted in some health problems especially eye problem. Is there any substitute for these two vegetables?

  • Hi Jules from far Bulgaria :-)
    I am following you for more than 5 years, because I really like the simplicity of your recipes, and also the flexibility with the substitutions you provide. Still, I must admit, the Australian cuisine differs a lot from European, particularly from the Bulgarian one (which is an unique mixture of Mediterranean and Oriental). My prompt to your veg list is the cucumber! We love it as a summer veg and use it in a lot of dishes. Also, I would add green onion and green garlic leaves – both of them are faviourites on the Bulgarian table, especially in the summer.

  • Thank for posting this! I am working more and more towards a whole food plant based lifestyle but I cannot have cauliflower and so many recipes call for it! E.g dressings and sauces, etc. But, I have no idea if I swap equal volume/weight? I bought a zucchini to sub for the cauliflower in a dressing I’d like to make but am unsure if it’s equal. Hmm…

    I’ll also have to explore your recipes, too! Thank you. I also have a relative who has PCOS and insulin resistance. I’ll forward your blog. :)

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