I’ve personally tried and tested a range of different ladyfinger substitutes to find the best one.
Whatever your reason for avoiding ladyfingers is and whatever dish you’re cooking.
Here’s the quick answer.
The best substitutes for ladyfingers are the homemade version, sponge cake or pound cake, and Pavesini biscuits. You can also go with biscotti for a crunchier bite. Speculoos, Nilla wafers, and graham crackers are solid options too. For unusual but tasty choices, try Twinkies, brownies, or waffles.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I made tiramisu to put all the ladyfinger substitutes I could find to the test.
Ladyfingers are Italian meringue-based cookies that are lightly crisp and have a sponge-like texture. They’re amazing at soaking up liquid and are commonly used in desserts like trifles, tiramisu, and charlotte cake.
I was looking for something with a similarly sweet flavor and on-par soaking abilities.
Here’s what I tested and the verdicts:
|Homemade ladyfingers||1 lb ladyfingers = 1 lb homemade ladyfingers||10/10|
|Sponge cake||1 lb ladyfingers = 1 lb sponge cake||10/10|
|Pound cake||1 lb ladyfingers = 1 lb pound cake||10/10|
|Pavesini biscuits||1 lb ladyfingers = 2 lbs pavesini biscuits||10/10|
|Biscotti||1 lb ladyfingers = 1 lb biscotti||9/10|
|Speculoos||1 lb ladyfingers = 1 lb speculoos||9/10|
|Nilla wafers||1 lb ladyfingers =2 lbs homemade ladyfingers||9/10|
|Graham crackers||1 lb ladyfingers = 1 lb graham crackers||9/10|
|Panettone||1 lb ladyfingers = sliced and toasted panettone/pandoro||8/10|
|Biscuit rose de reims||1 lb ladyfingers = 1 lb biscuit rose de reims||8/10|
|Twinkies||1 lb ladyfingers = 12 pieces of twinkies||7/10|
|Waffles||1 lb ladyfingers = 5 pieces of waffles||7/10|
|Brownies||1 lb ladyfingers = 12 pieces brownies||7/10|
|Cereal||1 lb ladyfingers = 1 lb cereal||6/10|
Common uses for ladyfingers and their substitutes
Here are some popular ways to use ladyfingers and the best substitutes for those situations:
- As a snack on its own – homemade lady fingers, nilla wafers, biscotti
- For tiramisu – homemade ladyfingers, sponge cake, Pavesini biscuits
- For trifles, parfaits, and icebox cakes – homemade ladyfingers, pound cake, madeleine cookies
- For charlotte cakes – homemade lady fingers, nilla wafers, pink champagne biscuits
Substitutes for lady fingers
Here are the best options for replacing lady fingers in your desserts.
When it comes to tiramisu, nothing beats ladyfingers’ lightly crisp, spongy texture, so why not try making them from scratch if you can’t find them?
Gemma from Bigger Bolder Baking has an easy recipe that only needs six pantry staples. In 40 minutes, you’ll have a delicious batch of ladyfingers.
It’s that easy!
Piping the batter is the most time-consuming part of the process. If you don’t have any time to waste, you can bake the batter as a single sheet cake instead.
You’ll then need to liberally brush the lady finger sheet with your coffee mixture because you can’t dunk the whole sheet!
How to substitute: replace the ladyfingers in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with your homemade version.
A sponge cake’s tender crumb and delicate structure closely resembles the texture of ladyfingers, making it a good substitute (especially in tiramisu).
You can easily buy it pre-made at your local store or whip up your own from scratch if you’re in a baking mood.
If you’re using this substitute for tiramisu, I highly recommended cutting the cake into cubes and baking it for 10 minutes.
This extra step ensures the cake remains firm and won’t become mush when you layer on the cream.
For an even lighter and drier option, consider making a genoise sponge cake.
It’s quite tricky to get right though. My first few attempts weren’t successful!
How to substitute: replace the ladyfingers in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with sponge cake.
Pound cake is another great alternative to ladyfingers (you might see it labelled as loaf or bundt cake in the shops).
It’s pretty similar to sponge cake, but has a denser texture that sets it apart.
Again, the key to using pound cake as a substitute is to slice and dry it overnight to help it stand up to the coffee mixture (thank Nigella Lawson for the tip!).
Or, if you’re in a rush, simply bake the pound cake for 10 minutes to remove excess moisture.
How to substitute: replace the ladyfingers in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with pound cake.
Meet pavesini, an Italian cookie you can think of as the younger (uglier) sibling of ladyfingers.
These biscuits are smaller and thinner than ladyfingers, and they’re not as airy. But they pack a subtle sweetness that’s perfect for dipping in your morning coffee.
Their petite size also allows for more creative layering options, making your desserts stand out in taste and presentation.
How to substitute: 1 lb ladyfingers = 2 lbs Pavesini biscuits
These twice-baked Italian cookies are an interesting replacement for ladyfingers.
They’re drier and crunchier than ladyfingers. And they have a delightful nutty flavor that offers a wonderful contrast to the tangy-sweet mascarpone and bitter coffee of tiramisu.
I found the biscotto took longer to soften than lady fingers, so the tiramisu was better once it had rested overnight.
Biscotti can be easily found in most supermarkets, but making your own will allow you to get creative with the flavors.
My go-to recipe? This fun cherry pistachio biscotti!
How to substitute: replace the ladyfingers in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with biscotti.
Cookies and biscuits
There are so many cookie and biscuit brands to pick from these days. And pretty much all of them can be used as a replacement for ladyfingers in your desserts.
Or for just dunking in drinks!
Here are some of my favorites:
- Speculoos: popularly known as Biscoff, these are an excellent alternative to ladyfingers. Their spiced flavor adds a unique, complex twist to your desserts. And they’re a fan favorite.
- Digestive biscuits: a simple, slightly sweet biscuit that easily adapts to any desserts flavors for a fuss-free substitution. Go with the plain version, because the chocolate ones might be too sweet.
- Gingerbread cookies – spice up your desserts with these zingy, festive cookies. They’re perfect for using in the holiday season.
- Amaretti cookies – these sweet Italian almond cookies can add a delightful nutty dimension to your desserts. And they’re amazing in tiramisu.
- Margherite cookies – these are long Italian cookies with a drier texture and a firmer bite than ladyfingers, so they’ll need more soaking time to soften.
- Shortbread cookies -these buttery cookies are the perfect complement to a tiramisu’s coffee flavors. They can be crumbly, so be careful when soaking them.
- Madeleine cookies – these have a spongy texture reminiscent of ladyfingers but they’re thicker. These French cookies are great for soaking up liquid, and their shell-like shapes make them a versatile choice for tiramisu and Charlotte cakes.
- Oreo cookies – everyone’s favorite cookies! You can scrape the filling off or leave these cookie sandwiches intact for a sweeter, more indulgent dessert. Here’s a recipe for oreo tiramisu, and you can also use them for Charlotte cakes.
How to substitute: replace the ladyfingers in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with your chosen cookies.
Angel food cake
Angel food cake is another type of sponge cake, but it’s made without any fat.
It has a light and airy texture, just like lady fingers, so it’s good at soaking up flavors.
Here’s a delicious recipe for angel food cake tiramisu. One commenter said “I make this indulgent recipe year-round. It always gets wonderful reviews.”
High praise indeed!
How to substitute: replace the ladyfingers in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with angel food cake.
It’s hard to beat nilla wafers as a ladyfinger substitute when it comes to accessibility.
They’re everywhere, even gas stations!
They’re slightly sturdier than ladyfingers, so they’ll definitely hold their own when soaked. And their compact size and uniform shape make Nilla Wafers a convenient choice for layering.
These treats also have a lovely vanilla flavor that goes really nicely with lots of flavors like chocolate, strawberries, and coffee.
How to substitute: replace the ladyfingers in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with nilla wafers.
Graham crackers can be easier to find than ladyfingers and will offer a delightful twist to your tiramisu adventure.
They have a subtle sweetness and a hint of cinnamon that adds complexity to your dessert.
And their rectangular shape is also convenient, especially when making treats in square pans and containers.
They’re crispier than your regular ladyfingers, I needed to soak them for a couple more seconds to give them a similar soft bite.
How to substitute: replace the ladyfingers in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with graham crackers.
Panettone is a solid substitute for ladyfingers, especially if you want to keep the Italian theme.
It’s far sweeter than ladyfingers, but the dried fruits and citrus zest baked into it offer an extra layer of flavor that brought a festive feel to my tiramisu.
Pro tip: if you don’t like raisins, you can use Pandoro instead!
These sweet Italian bread are a Christmas staple, but they’re available all year round in big grocery stores.
Here’s my favorite panettone tiramisu recipe.
How to substitute: replace the ladyfingers in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with toasted panettone/pandoro.
Biscuit rose de reims
Biscuit Rose de Reims is a traditional French biscuit with a pretty pink color.
These fancy treats may sound unfamiliar, but you can easily find them in major supermarkets – they’re also called pink champagne biscuits!
They boast a subtle sweetness and crunchy texture, making them a solid substitute for ladyfingers if you want to switch things up.
I’ve had huge success pairing them with alcohol-based desserts that involve champagne and prosecco.
How to substitute: replace the ladyfingers in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with biscuit rose de reims.
Twinkies may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re looking for a ladyfinger substitute, they can work wonders in a pinch.
I’ll admit, they do have a slight artificial taste, but the coffee soak worked its magic in my tiramisu to mask any unwanted flavors.
The real treat lies in the cream filling, which add a layer of decadence to your dessert.
And if you’re feeling extra creative, you can also include chocolate Twinkies in the mix like Spicy Southern Kitchen!
How to substitute: 1 lb ladyfingers = 12 Twinkies
Waffles are another unconventional choice for a ladyfinger substitute, but they’re worth a shot if you’re feeling adventurous.
When I made my waffle tiramisu, I was amazed by how well their fluffy texture soaked up the coffee mixture without falling apart.
The square pockets on the waffles also perfectly caught the mascarpone cream.
Or go with frozen ones for a quick and easy solution!
How to substitute: 1 lb ladyfingers = 5 pieces of waffles
For those looking to take their tiramisu to new, indulgent heights, consider using brownies as a substitute for ladyfingers.
With their rich, chocolatey taste, brownies will add an irresistible depth of flavor to your tiramisu or trifle.
Be mindful, though, as they are sweeter and denser than ladyfingers, so you may need to reduce the sugar content in other components of your dish.
Pro tip: I used a darker roast coffee to make my brownie tiramisu to help balance out the sweetness.
How to substitute: 1 lb ladyfingers = 12 small brownies
Cereal / granola
Okay this is the last weird substitute, I promise!
But think about it… your favorite cereal is great at absorbing milk, so why not coffee! Don’t soak the cereal for too long though because it can get soggy quickly.
Granola is a good option if you want a bit of crunch.
One downside with cereal is that you can’t arrange it as you would with ladyfingers. You’ll have more luck assembling your dessert in glasses when you use this substitute.
How to substitute: replace the ladyfingers in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with you choice of cereal.
Substitute to avoid – French cat tongue cookies
These biscuits look very similar to ladyfingers, but they didn’t work very well in my tiramisu tests.
They were either too hard having not absorbed enough coffee, or too soft! There was no real middle ground.
Best Ladyfinger Substitutes
- 1 lb homemade ladyfingers
- 1 lb sponge cake
- 1 lb pound cake
- 1 lb biscotti
- 2 lbs pavesini biscuits
- 1 lb speculoos
- 2 lbs nilla wafers
- 1 lb graham crackers
- 1 lb sliced and toasted panettone/pandoro
- 1 lb biscuit rose de reims
- 12 pieces Twinkies
- 5 pieces waffles
- 12 pieces brownies
- 1 lb cereal
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen ladyfinger substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.