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10 Handy Substitutes for Baking Powder

Baking powder is a common ingredient used to add volume and lighten the texture of baked goods.

However, baking powder may not always be readily available. Luckily, there are plenty of ingredients you can use instead.

This article looks at 10 great substitutes for baking powder.

What Is Baking Powder?

Baking powder is a leavening agent that is frequently used in baking.

It is composed of sodium bicarbonate, which is known in chemistry as a base, paired with an acid, such as cream of tartar. It may also contain a filler like cornstarch.

When combined with water, the acid reacts with the sodium bicarbonate in an acid-base reaction and releases carbon dioxide gas.

This leads to the formation of bubbles, causing the mixture to expand, which adds volume to cakes, breads and baked goods (1).

Baking powder is often confused with baking soda, which consists only of sodium bicarbonate and is missing the acid component. Therefore, it must be combined with an acid to have the same leavening effect as baking powder (2).

Here are 10 great substitutes for baking powder.

1. Buttermilk

Buttermilk is a fermented dairy product with a sour, slightly tangy taste that is often compared to plain yogurt.

Old-fashioned buttermilk is formed as a by-product of churning sweet cream into butter. Most commercial buttermilk is formed by adding bacterial cultures to milk and allowing for fermentation, breaking down sugars into acids (3, 4).

Because of its acidity, combining buttermilk with baking soda can produce the same leavening effect as baking powder.

Add 1/2 a cup (122 grams) of buttermilk and 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) of baking soda to the rest of your ingredients for an easy substitute for 1 teaspoon (5 grams) of baking powder.

To maintain the desired texture and consistency of your final baked product, make sure you decrease the amount of other liquid you add to your recipe to compensate for the amount of buttermilk added.

If you add a 1/2 cup (122 grams) of buttermilk, for example, you should reduce the amount of other liquids added to your recipe by the same amount.

Summary: Substitute 1/2 a cup (122 grams) of buttermilk and 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) of baking soda for 1 teaspoon (5 grams) of baking powder. Decrease the other liquids in your recipe to maintain the desired consistency.

2. Plain Yogurt

Much like buttermilk, yogurt is produced through the fermentation of milk.

The fermentation process breaks down sugars and increases the concentration of lactic acid, effectively lowering the pH and increasing the acidity of the yogurt (5).

The pH of a solution is a measure of the concentration of hydrogen ions. Substances that have a low pH are considered acidic, while substances with a high pH are considered basic.

Plain yogurt has an acidic pH, which makes it a perfect substitute for baking powder.

Plain yogurt works best over other varieties because it provides the acidity needed for leavening without adding flavor.

You can replace 1 teaspoon (5 grams) of baking powder in a recipe with 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) of baking soda and 1/2 cup (122 grams) of plain yogurt.

Just like with buttermilk, the amount of liquid in the recipe should be reduced based on how much plain yogurt is added.

Summary: Use 1/2 cup (122 grams) plain yogurt plus 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) baking soda to replace 1 teaspoon (5 grams) of baking powder in a recipe. The amount of liquid should be reduced to offset the addition of the yogurt.

3. Molasses

This sweetener is formed as a by-product of sugar production and is often used as a replacement for refined sugar.

Molasses can also be used as a replacement for baking powder.

This is because molasses yields citric acid and is acidic enough to cause an acid-base reaction when coupled with baking soda (6).

Use 1/4 cup (84 grams) molasses plus 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) baking soda to replace 1 teaspoon (5 grams) of baking powder.

In addition to reducing the amount of liquid to compensate for the added liquid from molasses, you may also want to consider reducing the amount of sweetener in the rest of the recipe, since molasses is high in sugar.

Summary: You can substitute 1/4 cup (84 grams) molasses and 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) baking soda for 1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder. Reduce the other liquids and sugar in your recipe to compensate.

4. Cream of Tartar

Also known as potassium hydrogen tartrate, cream of tartar is an acidic white powder formed as a by-product of winemaking.

It is most commonly used to stabilize egg whites and creams as well as to prevent the formation of sugar crystals.

It is also an easy and convenient substitute for baking powder and can be found in the spice aisle at most grocery stores.

Stick to a 2:1 ratio of cream of tartar to baking soda for best results.

Replace 1 teaspoon (5 grams) of baking powder with 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) of baking soda plus a 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) cream of tartar.

Summary: Use 1/2 a teaspoon (2 grams) cream of tartar with 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) baking soda in place of 1 teaspoon (5 grams) of baking powder.

5. Sour Milk

Milk that has gone sour can be used to replace baking powder.

This is because sour milk has undergone a process known as acidification, which causes a decrease in pH levels.

The acidity of sour milk reacts with baking soda to produce the same leavening effect as baking powder.

Use a 1/2 cup (122 grams) sour milk and 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) baking soda to replace 1 teaspoon (5 grams) of baking powder.

Remember to reduce the amount of liquid in your recipe by the same amount added to account for the extra liquid from the sour milk.

Summary: To replace 1 teaspoon (5 grams) of baking powder, use a 1/2 cup (122 grams) sour milk and a 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) baking soda. Decrease the other liquid in the recipe to maintain consistency and texture.

6. Vinegar

Vinegar is produced through fermentation, during which alcohol is converted by bacteria to acetic acid (7).

Despite its strong and distinctive flavor, vinegar is a common ingredient in many baked goods.

In fact, the acidic pH of vinegar is perfect for use as a substitute for baking powder.

Vinegar has a leavening effect when paired with baking soda in cakes and cookies.

Though any type of vinegar will work, white vinegar has the most neutral taste and won’t alter the color of your final product.

Substitute each teaspoon (5 grams) of baking powder in the recipe with 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 grams) vinegar.

Summary: Each teaspoon (5 grams) of baking powder can be replaced with a 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) baking soda and a 1/2 teaspoon vinegar.

7. Lemon Juice

Lemon juice contains a high amount of citric acid and is very acidic (8).

For this reason, it can help provide the acid needed to trigger an acid-base reaction when paired with baking soda in baked goods.

However, because it has such a strong flavor, it’s best used in recipes that call for relatively small amounts of baking powder. This way you can avoid altering the taste of the final product.

To replace 1 teaspoon (5 grams) of baking powder, use 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 grams) lemon juice.

Summary: Replace 1 teaspoon (5 grams) of baking powder with 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 grams) lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) baking soda. Lemon juice is best used in small amounts due to its strong flavor.

8. Club Soda

Club soda is a carbonated beverage that contains sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda.

For this reason, club soda is often used in recipes to act as a leavening agent that can provide volume to baked goods without the use of baking powder or baking soda.

However, the amount of sodium bicarbonate found in club soda is minimal, so it’s best used in recipes that require only a bit of added volume.

Club soda is commonly used to create fluffy and moist pancakes, for example.

For best results, use club soda to replace any liquid in your recipe. This works especially well when replacing milk or water, and can add extra lightness and volume.

Summary: Club soda can be used to replace milk or water in recipes to add extra volume.

9. Self-Rising Flour

If you’re out of both baking soda and baking powder, self-rising flour might be a good alternative.

Self-rising flour is made from a combination of all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt, so it contains everything you need to help baked goods rise.

For this reason, it is a common ingredient in packaged cake mixes, biscuits and quick breads.

Simply replace the regular flour in your recipe with self-rising flour and follow the rest of the recipe as directed, omitting the baking powder and baking soda.

Summary: Self-rising flour contains baking powder and can replace all-purpose flour in a recipe to help baked goods rise.

10. Whipped Egg Whites

Many baked goods owe their light and airy texture to whipped egg whites rather than baking powder.

This is because the process of whipping egg whites creates tiny air bubbles that increase volume and lightness.

This method is most often used in soufflés, pancakes, meringues and certain types of cakes. It can be a good option if you don’t have baking powder or baking soda on hand.

The amount you should use varies by recipe. Angel food cake, for example, may require up to 12 egg whites, while a batch of pancakes may only need two or three.

To make your egg whites perfectly light and fluffy, beat them at a low speed until they’re foamy, and then increase the speed until the beaten eggs form soft peaks.

Gently fold your remaining ingredients into the whipped egg whites.

Summary: Whipped egg whites can be used to add volume to many baked goods. The amount required varies based on the type of recipe.

How to Choose the Best Substitute

To select the best baking powder substitute, it’s important to keep in mind the flavor profile of your finished baked good.

Vinegar, for example, may add a sharp, sour taste and is probably best suited as a replacement for baking powder in recipes that require minimal amounts.

Molasses, on the other hand, has a very sugary flavor and would make a better addition to sweet desserts rather than savory breads.

Additionally, you may need to adjust the other ingredients in your recipe based on what you decide to use as a substitute.

If you’re using a liquid replacement for baking powder, make sure you decrease the amounts of other liquids in the recipe to compensate. This will help you maintain the appropriate texture and consistency.

If you select a substitute with a strong flavor, you may want to adjust the amounts of other ingredients in your recipe to achieve your desired flavor.

Summary: Some types of baking powder substitutes are better suited for certain types of recipes. You may need to adjust the other ingredients in your recipe based on which substitute you select.

The Bottom Line

Baking powder is an important ingredient that helps leaven and add volume to many recipes.

However, there are many other substitutes you can use instead. These act in the same way as leavening agents to improve the texture of baked goods.

To use them, all you need to do is make a few slight modifications to your recipe.

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