American Cooking

... Ingredients













When confronted with an American recipe, a British cook will usually see unfamiliar ingredients, given in cups, teaspoons and tablespoons.

Cookery weights and measures have their own page, while the Weights and Measures page (and its associated table) provide a more comprehensive (and historical) explanation of the differences between American and British weights and measures. Here we're talking about cooking ingredients.

In the States and in Britain there are basically five categories of flour, mainly reflecting the gluten content of the flour (shown in the table below). So, very low gluten flour in Britain, intended for cake making, is called extra-fine plain flour, whereas in America it is called cake flour (which is not "self-raising flour", as some people think).

Self-raising flour in Britain is self-rising flour in America (that's a tough one to remember!), and British wholemeal flour in America is called whole-wheat flour.

Gluten content American flour British flour
very low Cake Flour Extra-Fine Plain Flour
low Pastry Flour Fine Plain Flour
normal All-purpose Flour Plain Flour
high Bread Flour Strong Flour
very high High-gluten Flour Extra-Strong Flour

Sugars and syrups
Ordinary granulated sugar is just plain sugar on both sides of the Atlantic. But the British caster sugar is superfine sugar in America, and icing sugar is powdered sugar or confectioner's sugar (which is used in America for making frosting and in Britain for making icing)

But sweet syrups are rather more difficult. Basically the only sweet syrup in Britain, Golden Syrup (made by Tate & Lyle), is not normally available in America. However, a number of supermarkets (particularly in areas with a significant British presence) do stock it in their British or "ethnic" section!.

Sweet syrup in America is mainly corn syrup and is a very common ingredient in American cooking and eating.

Karo Syrup is a clear or dark corn syrup that is nowhere near as sweet as Golden Syrup. It is used for sweet pies, such as Pecan Pie, and is particularly common in the southern states. It can be bought at a handful of specialist stores in Britain and online, but is otherwise quite difficult to substitute.

But by far the most common syrup in America is the pouring syrup used for pancakes and so on (sometimes just known as pancake syrup). This is usually a brown corn syrup, often flavoured with caramel, vanilla, maple syrup etc, comes in squeezable containers, and is found on many an American breakfast table. While Maple Syrup might be a suitable alternative, it is expensive, much sweeter, and simply not the same. Brands such as Aunt Jemima's Syrup and Mrs Butterworth's are available through stores catering to American residents in Britain, and also online.

There is another syrup, this time made from sugar, that is used largely in bars and coffee houses for sweetening drinks. Not surprisingly, it's often called bar syrup, and is nothing more than a highly saturated sugar solution (there's also Gomme syrup, which is an even more saturated version). Substituting these syrups is simply a matter of putting sugar and water (two parts sugar to one part water, by volume) into a pan and boiling until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid starts to turn like a syrup.

Fruit, vegetables and herbs
In this day and age, more or less any vegetable or herb available in America is available in Britain. And, with only a few exceptions, the names are even the same. Some of those that aren't are listed in the table below, and if you can't find what you're looking for here you could have a look in the American Lexicon.

American British
Eggplant Aubergene
Bing Cherry Black Cherry
Endive Chicory
Capsicum Sweet (red/green) Pepper **
Fava Beans Like Broad/Butter Beans
Lima Beans Like Broad/Butter Beans
Belgian Endive Chicory
Zucchini (small) Courgette
Cream of Wheat Semolina
Scallion or Green Onion Spring (or Salad) Onion
Green plum Greengage
Cilantro (also Chinese Parsley) Coriander leaves *
Coriander (spice) Coriander seeds *
Rutabaga Swede

* Coriander is known in America, but is usually used to refer to the seeds (used as a spice), whereas Coriander leaves (as a herb) are called Cilantro.
** Strictly speaking, Capsicum refers to any of the peppers (including chilli) but is sometimes used in recipes to mean sweet peppers. However, they are also known as bell peppers on both sides of the Atlantic.