Baking powder is a surprisingly simple ingredient. It’s a mixture of a base, a weak acid, and some type of buffer ingredient, like cornstarch. The base and acid react with each other to create carbon dioxide, which then helps to leaven your baking. Some products are even double acting, where you get an initial carbon dioxide reaction and a second one later one.
The leavening effect is what gives your cakes, bread, pancakes, and other treats their light fluffiness. Without it, they’d be dense little lumps. That’s all well and good, until you run out of baking powder. Then you’re faced with a big problem.
Thankfully, there are plenty of substitutes for baking powder. These ingredients still give you the lift you need, although the effect does vary depending on the substitution you use and the type of baking you’re doing.
In particular, many of these substitutions will give you less of a rise than baking powder. You’ll also need to tweak some of the ingredients in your recipe and perhaps experiment to get the effect you’re looking for. Still, experimenting is one of the best parts of baking.
Substitutes For Baking Powder
Baking Soda With An Acidic Ingredient
Most baking powder substitutes start with baking soda. Baking powder and baking soda both help to chemically leaven your dishes through the production of carbon dioxide.
Both ingredients do this through an acid-base reaction. Baking powder consists of an acid, a base, and a stabilizer, so it can lift your baking all on its own. Baking soda is simply the base. So, to make it effective, you need some source of acid, like the options below.
The catch is that because there’s no buffer, you’ll just get a fast leavening effect from these substitutions. There isn’t a second leavening effect later.
Baking Soda And Buttermilk
Buttermilk is an acidic ingredient, acidic enough that combining 1/2 cup of buttermilk with 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda will give you the same leavening effect as a teaspoon of baking powder.
If you don’t have buttermilk, you can also turn to sour milk. This is basically regular milk that has some type of acid added to it, such as lemon juice or vinegar. The process makes the milk sour and acidic without any fermentation.
For baking, you’ll generally add the baking soda in with the dry ingredients and the buttermilk in with the liquids. Also, because you’re adding liquid, you should decrease other liquids in your recipe to make up for it.
Baking Soda And Plain Yogurt
Yogurt is also acidic, so it can activate baking soda in the same way as buttermilk. The substitution works in an identical way too, where you need a 1/2 cup of yogurt and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. Again, you mix the yogurt with the wet ingredients and the baking soda with the dry ones.
You’ll need to look for plain yogurt here, as any flavors in your yogurt will mess with the taste of your recipe. The yogurt will add plenty of moistness to the recipe, but your baking mightn’t rise as high as when you use baking powder.
Baking Soda And Molasses
While molasses isn’t often used as a baking soda substitute, it is acidic enough to do the trick. This time, you’re looking for roughly 1/4 cup of molasses and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda to replace each cup of baking powder in your recipe.
You’ll need to adjust the amount of liquid in the recipe again and perhaps find ways to decrease the amount of sugar as well. Think about the type of recipe you use here. After all, molasses is very sweet and it will only work well in some recipes.
Baking Soda And Lemon Juice
The citric acid in lemon juice makes it highly acidic, so it plays the acid role when paired with baking soda. For each teaspoon of baking powder in your recipe, you will need 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice (a ratio that should start to look familiar).
You’ll need to adjust the liquid in your recipe again, especially if your recipe originally called for a decent amount of baking powder. Think about the flavor of your recipe too. Lemon juice has a strong taste, so it can completely change the flavor of your baking.
You could get this effect using lime juice too or any other acidic juice. The best choice will be influenced by your recipe.
Baking Soda And Vinegar
We’ve been talking about acidic ingredients, so baking soda and vinegar is an obvious inclusion. White vinegar works best here, as this type of vinegar has the most neutral flavor, so it won’t affect your food too much.
There’s also apple cider vinegar to consider. While this has a stronger flavor, it’s often considered to offer more benefits, making it a useful choice.
However, all types of vinegar are strong, so it’s best to only use this substitution in recipes that don’t call for too much baking powder. Otherwise, you risk overpowering the flavors of your recipe.
Baking Soda And Cream Of Tartar
Cream of tartar is a powdered acid that you can buy in most grocery stores. This can be combined with baking soda to give you an easy baking powder substitute. If your recipe calls for a teaspoon of baking powder, you’ll need to use 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar for the substitute.
You can take this idea one step further and include 1/4 a teaspoon of cornstarch. The cornstarch acts as a buffer and means that you’ve basically created your own homemade baking powder.
Notably, including cornstarch means that your acid and base don’t start reacting with each other immediately. This gives you more flexibility in your baking.
If your recipe already uses flour, you can simply substitute this for an equivalent amount of self-rising flour, as this product already contains baking powder. Many products rely on a blend of 1 cup flour, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, although the ratios do sometimes vary.
Swapping from all purpose flour + baking powder to self-rising flour will change some foods (for example, cookies often spread more when self-rising flour is used). The approach doesn’t work for every recipe though, especially not ones where the ratio of flour to baking powder is very different than in self-rising flour.
As such, you’ll need to experiment. That’s true for other substitutions on this list as well.
Whipped Egg Whites
Whipped egg whites work in a different way, as they’re adding air into the mixture, which then creates a lighter product.
This approach works best for recipes that already include eggs. You’ll need to separate the egg yolks and egg whites out, then beat the egg whites before adding them. You should fold the egg whites into the mix gently. Don’t get too aggressive or many of their air bubbles will get lost.
Whipped egg whites work well in many pancake, meringue, and cake recipes, but they won’t work for everything. They’re also a poor choice for vegans and anyone else who avoids eating eggs.
Surprising as it may seem, club soda is a useful baking powder substitute in some situations. Specifically, club soda can be used for dishes that are cooked in a skillet, a fryer, or a waffle iron, such as pancakes. Some quick bread recipes work well with club soda too.
This approach doesn’t work as well with cakes or any other dish where baking powder plays a role in the structure of the finished product. That said, it’s worth experimenting and seeing what outcomes you get, as some unexpected recipes turn out well with club soda.
The substitution is a little different here. Instead of paying attention to the amount of baking powder in your recipe, simply replace the liquid in your recipe with the soda.
Other Types Of Soda
If you’re going to use soda in your baking, club soda seems like the way to go. After all, it has no flavor, so it’s not going to mess with your recipe too much.
Still, some flavor combinations between soda and baking can work surprisingly well. For example, lemon-lime soda works well with yellow cake, while cherry cola and chocolate cake pair together too.
You can try this approach with a cake recipe or even when making cake using a boxed mix. It can work with other types of baking too
Soda won’t lighten your cake as much as baking powder, so you can expect a denser treat. The cake is likely to be sweeter as well unless you can cut down the sugar content of your recipe.
Which Baking Powder Substitutes Are Right For You?
Easiest Alternatives To Baking Powder
The combination of baking soda, cream of tartar, and cornstarch is the easiest to use- as you’ve basically just made your own version of baking powder. Plus, because this is a powder, you don’t need to adjust the liquid in your recipe.
Best Baking Soda Free Substitute
Baking soda features in most baking powder substitutes, but if you don’t have baking powder, you mightn’t have baking soda on hand either. In that case, self rising flour or whipped egg whites would be your best choices (depending on your recipe).
Self rising flour is the most powerful here, as it already has baking powder in it. Sometimes the results are near identical to if you used baking powder.
Best Baking Powder Substitutes For Sweet Recipes
Baking soda plus plain yogurt or molasses is a decent substitute in sweet recipes, as they offer complementary flavors. You could also experiment with flavored soda, like lemon-lime soda and cola. These provide extra sweetness and some interesting flavor notes.
Best Baking Powder Recipes For Savory Recipes
For savory recipes, you’ll want to stick with substitutes that have little flavor. Self raising flour is an excellent choice if it fits your recipe.
You could also experiment with baking soda and lemon juice or baking soda and vinegar. Just be careful with your quantities for these, as both ingredients can influence the taste of your recipe if you use too much of them.