Baking powder is a pantry staple, but we all get stuck in a lurch from time to time. Never fear, there are many easy substitutes for baking powder! We’ll cover the science behind baking powder plus a handful of baking powder substitutes when you’re running low or are out of this universal leavening agent.
What is Baking Powder?
Let’s call it a “modern” convenience. Baking powder hit the market for the average baker in the late 1800s. Before it was available, yeast was the only way to leaven bread—a rather tedious process that takes many hours. Baking powder has an instant reaction when mixed with wet ingredients and truly revolutionized baking for the modern cook.
How Does Baking Soda Function in Baking?
Remember the good ‘ol baking soda and vinegar volcano science experiment? Baking powder works the same way. Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda (a base) and cream of tartar (an acid). In a dry state, they don’t react, but once wet, the two react together and release carbon dioxide gas. The gas gets trapped in pockets throughout the batter or dough and creates a puffy, fluffy rise that we know and love.
Can you Substitute Baking Soda for Baking Powder?
Since baking soda is a component of baking powder, baking soda is a great substitute for the baking powder that most have in their pantry. But wait! Without the cream of tartar already present in baking powder (remember, baking powder is baking soda + cream of tartar), you need an acid as well to trigger the acid-base reaction that creates carbon dioxide bubbles.
It may be enough if an acidic ingredient such as yogurt, buttermilk, vinegar, or lemon juice is already present in the recipe. Don’t have a source of acid in the recipe? No problem, read on for ideas!
If there is an acid present in the batter: to substitute baking soda only for baking powder, we recommend ⅓ teaspoon of baking soda for every 1 teaspoon of baking powder that is needed.
Baking Powder Substitutes
Make Your Own!
While baking powder is a convenient pre-mixed version of baking soda and cream of tartar, if you have both on hand already, simply make a mix yourself! We recommend a mixture of ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, and ½ teaspoon cream of tartar for every 1 teaspoon of baking powder.
If you’d like to keep the math less mind-bending (no judgment here!), simply mix up a bigger batch that you can save for other recipes! Mix one part baking soda with two parts cream of tartar (e.g 1 tablespoon baking soda + 2 tablespoon cream of tartar). You may want to add additional 1 part cornstarch to help avoid clumping.
Baking Soda + Acid of Choice
If you have baking soda on hand, you already know this can be a stand-in, but to achieve the same effect as baking powder, you need an acid too. In the absence of another acid in your recipe (or cream of tartar available on your shelf). Try pairing baking soda with these other pantry-friendly acid options:
Note! As a rule of thumb, if the swap includes a liquid, add the liquid with the wet ingredients and the baking soda with your dry ingredient mixture.
White Vinegar or Apple Cider Vinegar
Both white vinegar and apple cider vinegar are excellent choices to add with baking soda to create a substantial rise. White or apple cider are great mild tasting-options for baking. It may depend on what you’re making, but other kinds of vinegar such as balsamic vinegar typically won’t work as well here from a taste perspective.
To swap per 1 teaspoon baking powder: Use ½ teaspoon vinegar + ¼ teaspoon baking soda
Naturally acidic lemon juice (either freshly squeezed or bottled pure lemon juice) is another easy choice to pair with baking soda.
To swap per 1 teaspoon baking powder: ½ teaspoon lemon juice + ¼ teaspoon baking soda
The fermentation process to make yogurt creates natural acids (and gives yogurt its characteristic tart taste). These naturally occurring acids will react with the baking soda. However, the acidity isn’t as strong as other options.
To swap per 1 teaspoon baking powder: ½ cup plain yogurt + ¼ teaspoon baking soda. Adjust other liquids in the recipe to account for the additional liquid volume.
Buttermilk is fermented milk. Similar to yogurt, naturally occurring acids from fermentation will help create some carbon dioxide production with the baking soda.
To swap per 1 teaspoon baking powder: ½ cup buttermilk + ¼ teaspoon baking soda. Adjust other liquids in the recipe to account for the additional liquid volume.
Molasses has some natural acidity that can work in a pinch in items such as cookies or muffins.
To swap per 1 teaspoon baking powder: ¼ cup molasses + ¼ teaspoon baking soda. Reduce the total sugar in the recipe by ¼ cup to account for the sweetness of the molasses.
If you have self-rising flour in the pantry, it is another convenient way to add leavening. Self-rising flour has baking powder and salt pre-mixed into the flour! To use this substitute, swap the self-rising flour for all-purpose flour in the recipe at a 1:1 ratio.
A word of caution! Self-rising flour contains about ½-1 teaspoon baking powder and ¼ teaspoon salt per 1 cup of flour. Adjust accordingly for other salt that may be used in the recipe to avoid excessive salt.
Whipped Egg Whites
The process of manually whipping air into egg whites traps air bubbles and creates volume. They are commonly used in baking to add a light and airy texture to meringues or cakes. Whipped egg whites were actually a technique that can be found in old cookbooks before baking powder became an option in the mid-late 1800s as a way to lift doughs and batters!
If your recipe already includes eggs, this is a great way to add loft in the absence of baking powder. Separate the egg whites from the yolks first. Add the yolks to the recipe where directed to add eggs. Whip the egg whites with a hand or stand mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Then fold the egg whites into the batter.
What if your recipe doesn’t use eggs, but you’re missing baking powder? Substitute 1 teaspoon of baking powder with 1 whipped egg white.
Did you know that club soda is made with baking soda? Club soda can work as a baking powder substitute for that reason if you’re also out of baking soda, but the strength of the lift isn’t as great as other options. The relative amount of baking soda is relatively low with the dilution factor, but it can help if you need just a bit of lift (such as in pancakes).
To swap for baking powder, replace all liquid in the recipe with club soda.
Can I Leave Baking Powder Out Altogether?
It is not recommended to skip the baking powder altogether without a suitable swap. The finished product will likely be drastically different than expected without baking powder or another leavening agent! Your recipe will, quite literally, fall flat.
Many baking powder substitutes are common pantry items, so we recommend you make the effort to determine a quick substitute for your recipe. You’ll thank us later!
How to Test Freshness of Baking Powder
A good rule of thumb—once opened, baking powder will retain its freshness and effectiveness for 6 months if cooled in a dry, dark place.
If you aren’t sure how fresh your baking powder is, you can test it by pouring ½ cup warm water over 1 teaspoon baking powder—if it bubbles and foams, then it’s still good. If it doesn’t, then it’s time to throw it and get a fresh one.
Yes, you can use baking powder as a substitute for baking soda if needed. Baking soda is actually a stronger leavening agent than baking powder, so generally more baking powder is needed compared to the required baking soda. Swap 3 teaspoons of baking powder for every 1 teaspoon of baking soda.
We like lemon juice as a best-pick substitute for white vinegar in baking. The acidity level is similar, and the flavors of lemon juice work well for most recipes. Swap lemon juice for white vinegar on a 1:1 basis.
Cream of tartar is a white, acidic powder commonly used in baking as a stabilizer or reacting agent for baking powder. Fun fact! It is a by-product of fermenting grapes into wine.
Vinegar or lemon juice are the best substitutes for the cream of tartar. Use four times more vinegar or lemon juice as cream of tartar for a similar effect.
In some recipes, cream of tartar is used to prevent crystallization while boiling sugar (think caramels or similar candies). In this situation, try using corn syrup as a cream of tartar substitute by swapping ¼ cup of the crystalline sugar in the recipe for corn syrup.
Baking soda is a strong leavening agent and reacts to any acid to create carbon dioxide gas. It is a good choice for a recipe that already includes acids such as lemon juice, fermented dairy, or vinegar. If the recipe doesn’t already include an acidic ingredient, then baking powder is used. Baking powder includes acid and only needs liquid and heat to react.
The main reason is to help with browning. A more alkaline batter encourages browning, so the addition of baking powder and baking soda will not only provide leavening but also encourage more browning, where desirable.
Baking powder and baking soda both work in baking by creating the by-product of carbon dioxide gas from an acid-base reaction. When an acid (such as vinegar or cream of tartar) and base (such as baking soda) meet, the base will work to neutralize the acid. Carbon dioxide is created in the process. The carbon dioxide bubbles get trapped in the structure of the batter or dough and make the entire product rise as it tries to escape!
Baking powder is essentially a self-contained reaction as a mixture that already includes an acid and a base. Baking soda needs to first meet another acid within the cooking mixture to kick off this reaction.