15 Store-Bought Substitutions That Are Ina Garten Approved

From skillet-roasted lemon chicken to vanilla brioche bread pudding, Barefoot Contessa — and certified modern domestic goddess — Dame (we added that, but it fits, right?) Ina Garten, taught herself how to make everything we would ever want to eat. We picture ourselves living the Ina Garten life, waking up to fresh coffee from Jeffrey, the New York Times Magazine, and an almond croissant we sleep-walked to the kitchen earlier to pop in the oven for 30 minutes. We'll take our mid-morning snack on the veranda, overlooking the garden, lush with every herb and spice, a chocolate fountain, and spun-sugar swans, while the sound of the ocean waves gently crashes against the beach made of molasses cookie crumbs and macaron seashells.

But, as Garten crafts her flawless recipes, she keeps us amateurs in mind. Just because she can do it all from scratch doesn't mean she wants to. So, where does she draw the line between totally worth it and taking it one ingredient too far?

Ditch the peanuts, the Yukon Golds, and the bread crumbs. Chuck the egg yolks, the double broiler, and the hundred-dollar truffles. No candy thermometer, masher, or pie tin needed. And, don't you dare lay a finger on that cookie sheet! Kick back and relax ... these store-bought subs make every dish feel like a vacation in the Hamptons.

Peanut butter

As she measures out a generous helping of peanut butter chips to pour into her Chocolate Peanut Butter Globs recipe, Garten tells the rest of us, "Nothing's ever made worse with peanut butter, right?" Amen, Contessa, amen.

From her nostalgic, perfect PB&J to her beyond-decadent chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing, many of Garten's most chewy, gooey, comfort foods boast a big ole dollop of her go-to nutty butter of choice. And no, you don't have to source some type of heritage roasted nuts from a peanut farm in Tennessee.

We're not trying to one-up Garten. She gets her peanut butter from the jar. Which one? Well, when it appears on-camera during her show, you won't see a label. But, if you call yourself a peanutbutterficianado as we do (we're so wishing for a glossy print magazine for these fine tastes), you'd recognize that blue, Skippy brand screw-top lid just about anywhere.

Mashed potatoes

Next time you space out in front of the grocery store fridge section, thinking, "Am I really this person? Do I buy pre-made mashed potatoes?," you stick your arm out, proudly grab those microwave taters, and put 'em in the basket. Yes, you buy them. Even Garten does. At least sometimes. Mention it once, and we're sold!

Obviously, we crave the glory of sweating it out in the kitchen, peeling a million spuds, cooking and mashing them into lump-less oblivion, and folding in a luxuriously buttery cream sauce to finish. We have our award ceremony acceptance speech already written out for "Most Crying in a Scene Involving Potatoes," otherwise known as two whole hours of your life, shoveled down everyone's gullets in less than 30 seconds. Special thanks to little Penelope, for dumping them on the floor ...

What if you could nail all of the flavor in zero the time? For the record, Garten did this for (gasp) Thanksgiving, the most sacred meal of the entire year that involves turkey butts. To zhuzh up Bob Evans Mashed Potatoes, Garten adds cheese and sour cream to land them squarely in the neighborhood of her famous parmesan smashed potatoes. As she told the New York Times, "I think the goal for store-bought ingredients is that you don't know that it's store-bought, that it tastes just like you made it yourself." Mission accomplished.

Pound cake

If you've stood in line admiring the sweet, buttery Iced Lemon Loaf at Starbucks wondering if you should just make it at home, but then you never even tried it (most important qualification!) — we see you, and this one's for you.

Sometimes we bake to impress, and sometimes we screw the baking and grab a glass of wine. Garten also skips making everything from scratch, noting, while slicing a fresh loaf for her raspberry baked Alaska, "I mean, you could make your own pound cake, but why would you?" It's so important to ask yourself these tough questions.

Garten doesn't specify her number-one crush when it comes to pound cake, but we're guessing it involves a twee bakery in the Hamptons. Meanwhile, if we tried to pull one over on our favorite guests, we'd go for the Entenmann's All Butter loaf cake. At 11.5 ounces, it's an almost-a-pound cake that looks straight outta the oven.


So ... homemade mayo? Yeah, no. Not happening. In no world would we ever make this ourselves. Why? It already comes in a weirdly shelf-stable, squeezy, upside-down bottle that's best used by 2073 — no heroes necessary here. We'll happily leave this gloopy emulsion to the pros.

But, what about a stone-cold domestic diva? Garten's limitless bounty of recipes features a single basil mayo concoction with eggs, lemon juice, vegetable oil, and olive oil. But, even her seasoned buttermilk herb mayo calls for store-bought Hellmann's (which is the same as Best Foods on the west coast). Julia Child famously loved the brand, too.

In an interview with the New York Times Garten explains, "Mayonnaise is one of those things people think will taste better if you make your own. I don't think that's the case. If it's perfectly good prepared, why bother?" Sign us up for the easy A on this one.

Stuffing mix

If you grew up in the '80s, you'll remember the ads with the kids calling home to see if mom was making Stovetop Stuffing and not boring potatoes again. They even ate dinner twice when both moms made Stovetop, and always at 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. Those crazy kids, all full of bread.

Congrats! Today you graduated from Stovetop. Garten makes it easy on us stuffing stans by sending us out to buy the bread part. As part of her store-bought Thanksgiving, she skipped the stuffing and crafted her bread pudding recipe with Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Classic Stuffing mix. As she described it to the New York Times, "Instead of cutting up the bread, toasting it, seasoning it, I just use stuffing mix. It's already toasted, it's already seasoned, and it's absolutely delicious."

Garten dresses up that Pepperidge Farm haul as her impossibly divine mushroom and gruyère bread pudding. With a truckload of grated gruyère, chicken stock, eggs, rosemary, and heavy cream, P-Farm won't even know what hit it. And, neither will your dinner guests.

Chocolate syrup

We're 99% sure Garten isn't punking us with this one. Okay, maybe 98% ... solid 97%. When we heard that our favorite self-taught chef was cool with chocolate syrup from the store, we obviously pictured a glass jar of rich, dark chocolate from someplace like Williams Sonoma, sealed with one of those waxy stamp things that people used for letters in pirate times, and priced at $1 zillion.

Nope! Guys, Ina Garten likes Hershey's chocolate syrup. No special editions, no secret, off-market hookups from the Hershey family — just regular Hershey's chocolate syrup like you find on the shelf. Want proof? Check out her chevron chocolate cake or chocolate ganache cupcakes. Told ya. Crazy for Hershey's.

Yes, she drizzles her ice cream sundaes and warm, fudgy brownies with scratch-made chocolate sauce. But, while she prefers a topping of fancy gold leaf, her chocolate ganache cake recipe calls for over a cup of Hershey's chocolate syrup. No need to visit Hershey's Chocolate World in Hershey, PA, because this is the factory tour ride straight into your face.

Frozen pie crust

Can we just admit that we want the easy way out? It's already hard enough to decide on a pie flavor. (Grandma's already making apple. Blueberries are out of season. Any nut allergies? Wait, we thought grandma was making apple!) And, right there in the freezer next to the Choco Tacos sits a perfectly made pie crust. Two, actually. Why do they always come as two? Do they just assume that we'll screw up the first one? Because that's extremely rude, Marie Callender's Deep Dish Pastry Pie Shells, and also very correct.

Garten actually road-tested this one herself and had a homemade crust and a store-bought crust go head to head on her pecan pie recipe. Store crust won. She told the New York Times, "The homemade crust was, like, too rich for the pecan pie. So I really recommend; go to the store, buy a really good frozen pie crust, and it'll be delicious." You'll leave homemade crust in the dust with Garten's bourbon chocolate pecan pie.

Hot tip: Let the frozen crust chillax in the fridge overnight to thaw. When you're ready to bake, grab a fork and press it along the edge to crimp the crust like Totally Hair Barbie in the '90s.

Vanilla ice cream

We fully leaned into the viral homesteading trend a few years back. Besides the apocalyptic garden with a tomato plague and a Wicked Witch–looking sourdough starter, we also put our talents to the test with homemade ice cream. And, we low-key nailed it. We crushed salted butter caramel, we slayed rhubarb crumble with toasted anise, and we squeaked out a decent strawberry ice cream of our own. We thought of opening our own bicycle cart and riding up and down the boardwalk, ringing our bell and putting smiles on faces. It was a whole thing.

But, you know what's even easier than making ice cream? Not making ice cream. And, at least when we're talking vanilla, Garten agrees. She goes for Häagen-Dazs, taking it a step further than devouring it from the pint with a fork because all the spoons are dirty. As she clarified with the New York Times, "Ice cream is actually crème anglaise that's been frozen." She uses it to top a tart or level up the presentation as a five-star sauce. Ooh là là.

Her blue ribbon–worthy dessert tip? Forget about a pint of vanilla on the counter for a while, then dress the plate under a slice of pie with 2 tablespoons of melted ice cream to serve up Four Seasons vibes with Motel 6 money.

Frozen puff pastry

We've all watched professional chefs fold chilled butter into infinite layers of pastry dough like they're trying to qualify for the World Origami Championship. Mercifully, Garten spares us this medieval torture by advising us to opt for store-bought, instead. Sweet! Now we have more time for literally anything else.

Hit up the freezer section to find Garten's favorite brand, Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets. From there, fly like a buttery bird toward your greatest fantasy confections! If you need some ideas, we've got you.

Bring the party to the picnic with Garten's ham and cheese in puff pastry, layered with Swiss gruyère, black forest ham, and kicky dijon. Or, get your granny smith apple going with her apple tarts, finished with Calvados brandy and apricot jam. Garten also keeps it real with her hot dogs in puff pastry, where Hebrew National franks get the dijon treatment and are finished with fabulous Maldon flaked sea salt. Ooo ... puff pastry s'mores? Can't stop, won't stop.

Cranberry sauce

Fun fact: Three out of four Americans are on team store-bought cranberry sauce, according to a study from KRC Research (via Ocean Spray). And, just about the same number of us prefer to see it in its natural habitat, as a quivering, can-shaped blob adorning a tired leaf of iceberg lettuce. Three out of four people — we have clearly set a very low bar!

We can still buy our beloved Ocean Spray cranberry sauce, but we can also make it much better with a few stealth moves from Garten. First, grab a can of cranberry sauce with whole berries — skip the one with the rings. Heat the berries to a boil in a pan with fresh granny smith apples, orange juice, and zingy orange zest. Set a timer for a 15-minute simmer, then take it off the burner and add raisins, walnuts, or pecans. You won't even remember that depressing cranberry creature you used to serve as an actual side.

This recipe mimics Garten's cranberry fruit conserve recipe, which calls for fresh cranberries and sugar, instead of the canned stuff. But after a few of her bourbon-laced hot spiced apple cider cocktails, nobody is gonna know the difference.

Caramel sauce

The luscious sauce of the dessert gods, rich, buttery, and sometimes salty caramel makes everything better. (Somewhere out there, a meatloaf prays for a caramel sauce glaze ...) But, while we would eat caramel sauce out of a hose, Garten keeps things civilized by showing us how to make it.

Step 1: Buy it at the store. Step 2: Eat it. Real talk: Ina Garten makes her own, but she knows we can't be left alone with a boiling pot of hot candy on the stove, however delicious those caramelized, third-degree burns might be. Instead, Garten suggests a store-bought brand like Fran's, where fragrant Madagascar vanilla beans infuse every slow-cooked spoonful with an enchanting sweetness. We totally swear that we thought of that while we accidentally ate the whole $9 jar. ("Order again?" [Click.])

Garten suggests we top her salted caramel brownies with the sauce. And, she also claimed that she once bought Trader Joe's apple tarts, warmed them up, and drizzled them with caramel sauce for a dinner party. She even layers homemade panna cotta with the stuff. Garten also gifts Fran's candies whenever she can, telling People, "Nothing says the holidays like big boxes of chocolates, and Fran's are my favorite. One box is filled with their famous chocolate-covered salted caramels, and the second is filled with their decadent chocolate truffles." Dear Ina, hope you can make our last-min dinner party tonight ...


When you mangia la pasta, it's all about the sauce (and also, the family-sized amount of parmesan we grate on top of our own plate). With a garden that features literally all the ingredients she needs to make it, Garten would have no problem whipping up a magnificent marinara.

Still, she doesn't need to because a perfectly good jar of Rao's homemade marinara works just as well. She admits that this is one where scratch-made is her thing, but for the rest of us non-Ina's, Rao's does the trick. While we totally imagine ourselves stirring a steaming pot of fresh tomatoes and sprinkling in oregano like Salt Bae, let's just be honest ... we're way more Swedish Chef.

Store-bought pasta sauce can sub in all over Garten's culinary repertoire. Along with Italian nonna–like bottomless portions, we love it in Garten's real meatballs and spaghetti, where we get to focus on mixing the meatballs and not the sauce, or her eggplant gratin dish that actually calls for jarred sauce and all the ricotta and parmesan we could ever want.


Pssh, yeah — we can make jam! No problem. You just put some berries and sugar in an old Smucker's jar, and then wait for it to get, like, gooey and stuff. Is there honey in it? Do we microwave it? There has to be some kind of TikTok for this. We don't need a candy thermometer, do we?

Garten assures us that making our own fruit preserves is fun and even pleasurable, but buying it from the store is more our ... jam, TBH. Luckily, Garten approves, with this blessing: "Actually, homemade jam is really good and sometimes it's not hard to make, but store-bought is really good too, so whichever you like is fine." We like all the ones on the shelf.

While we fluff our feathers forking over close to $7 for Bonne Maman golden plum Mirabelle preserves, Garten's totally relatable pick involves a $28 jar of Eli Zabar raspberry jam. Whatever the price point, any jam tastes amazing dolloped on her jam thumbprint cookies, featuring shredded coconut and no less than three sticks of butter. Just 25 minutes of oven time between you and sweet, jammy heaven.

Truffle butter

Until recently, we blissfully spent our days spreading boring old whatever butter on literally everything. But, we soon begged for a life beyond salted and unsalted. Enter truffle butter, the 2015 hit by Nicki Minaj and a food. While those lyrics might have us clutching our pearls, we're spreading the actual butter on more suitable-for-work things, like bread. (Please, someone, reach out to Nicki and let her know it also works on food.)

With all the friends in the world, we expected Garten to have a few European truffle hunters on speed dial. Then, she would don a blue button-down and casually craft the most expensive, drool-worthy butter known to humankind. At that point, we just spontaneously combust from FOMO as she mmm's and oooh's over the final dish.

Garten loves this stuff just as much as we do, and just like us, she doesn't want to make it! She gets her white truffle butter at Urbani Truffles, and D'Artagnan specialty foods company, online. It's all fettuccini with white truffle butter and mushrooms and rainbows, from there.

Chocolate chip cookies

What is happening right now? Garten already does an insane chocolate chip cookie. Her giant crinkled chocolate chip cookies = freaking awesome. No way would she ever buy sub-par Chips Ahoy and then eat them. Impossible.

Well, if Garten's stuck waiting in the 15 items or less checkout and she spots a bag of Tate's Bake Shop chocolate chip cookies, she's useless against their crispy-crunchy, chocolate-chippy powers. She once confessed that if she hits up the grocery store on weekends, Tate's magically finds its way into her cart. She lovingly up the cookies in her 5-star mocha chocolate icebox cake. Sign us up.

But, in the beautifully buttery world of the Barefoot Contessa, Tate's isn't just the best cookie money can buy. In reality, her friend Kathleen King launched the brand, because of course Garten would have a BFF who also bakes killer chocolate chip cookies. Can we please marinate in the smell of Garten's fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies, while we munch on Kathleen's way-easier, store-bought version? For the must-bake fans out there, you can rock a mug cake with your fav Tate's, milk, a 90-second nuke, and some ice cream on top. As Garten would say, "How easy is that?"