But when you’re fresh out, it’s hard to know what to use as a baking soda substitute. Few ingredients are more useful in the kitchen than a box of baking soda. We stand there, glaring at that empty iconic orange box, trying to decipher the secrets behind this multi-purpose white powder.
Then, the sudden realization that those cakes aren’t going to bake themselves jolts us into action. “Alexa, what are the best baking soda substitutes?”
If you’re in the middle of a recipe, you can’t afford to spend 30 minutes piecing together bits of information scattered all over the internet. (Or run to the store!)
So instead, we’ve put together this post that covers all you need to know about baking soda, and what your options are when it comes to substituting it. Read through it now, then bookmark it for handy reference later. You’ll thank us!
Whether you’re making a banana bread recipe or cookies, let’s address what every home baker, at one point or another, has asked themselves: What’s the difference between baking soda and baking powder?
Baking Soda vs. Baking Powder: What’s the Difference?
When it comes to baking, baking soda and baking powder both contain a special ingredient that we can’t live without. However, they also have major differences that if not considered, can negatively affect the outcome of our baked goods.
The Difference is in the Ingredients
Baking soda and baking powder each contain a mineral salt called sodium bicarbonate.
- Baking soda contains 100% sodium bicarbonate.
- Whereas, baking powder contains only about a 1/3 of this amount of sodium bicarbonate.
This is because baking powder is a combination of baking soda, a weak dry acid (such as cream of tartar), as well as a filler such as cornstarch.
Sodium bicarbonate has been used historically as a popular leavening agent for baked goods. Therefore, both baking soda and baking powder can be effectively used to make dough and batters rise.
The addition of the acid and filler in baking powder is why we have to use 3 times less the amount of baking soda when substituting it for baking powder. If you do not follow this rule of thumb, you will probably end up with baked goods that have a soapy aftertaste.
When to Use Baking Soda vs Baking Powder
When to Use Baking Soda
Since baking soda is 100% sodium bicarbonate, it needs to be combined with an acidic ingredient for it to work. The acid triggers a chemical reaction and releases carbon dioxide as a byproduct in the form of bubbles. This process is what lightens the texture of your baked goods. The need for an acid ingredient to activate the baking soda makes it an incomplete leavening agent.
Despite this, baking soda can still work well in recipes that use acidic ingredients like buttermilk, lemon juice or vinegar.
When to Use Baking Powder
On the other hand, baking powder includes an acid ingredient, which makes it a more complete leavening agent. You simply add water to the baking powder, which activates the acid ingredient. This in turn activates the sodium bicarbonate contained within the mixture.
If your recipe already contains acidic ingredients, substituting baking powder for baking soda would be a bit more difficult. This is because you will need 3 times the baking powder to substitute for baking soda in a recipe, and your baked goods may end up with an acid aftertaste.
Double-Acting Baking Powder
To add even more to the mix, there is something called double-acting baking powder.
Double-acting baking powder is a type of baking powder that reacts and creates gas bubbles twice: once when it comes into contact with moisture, and again when it’s heated.
The first reaction happens when you combine the double-acting baking powder with the wet ingredients in your recipe. This creates some gas bubbles, helping the dough or batter to rise initially. The second reaction happens when the baking powder is heated during the baking process, creating additional gas bubbles and causing the dough or batter to rise further.
Double-acting baking powder is ideal for most baking recipes because it allows for a consistent and reliable rise. It’s particularly useful in recipes where the batter needs to be mixed and perhaps set aside for a while before baking, as the second rise doesn’t occur until the product is heated.
It’s also beneficial in recipes that require a significant amount of mixing or handling, as some of the initial gas bubbles created by the first reaction might be lost during these processes. The second reaction ensures that there are still sufficient gas bubbles for the product to rise in the oven.
Some examples of when to use double-acting baking powder include:
- Baking cakes and cupcakes: These often require a good amount of mixing and may not be baked immediately after the batter is prepared.
- Making biscuits and scones: These involve a fair bit of handling and kneading, which could potentially knock out some of the gas bubbles.
- Preparing pancakes and waffles: The batter often sits for a while before cooking, so the double-acting baking powder ensures the pancakes or waffles will still rise when cooked.
Now that we know what baking soda is and isn’t, let’s explore your options for the best baking soda substitutes.
Best Baking Soda Substitutes
1. Potassium Bicarbonate
Potassium Bicarbonate is a gold standard substitute for baking soda. This is because it is an alkaline base with the exact same leavening effects as sodium bicarbonate. Unlike baking soda however, it doesn’t contain any sodium, which means that you may need to add salt (unless you are monitoring your sodium intake).
What makes potassium bicarbonate so special is that you can use it for a variety of cooking purposes that aren’t limited to baking.
For example, Potassium Bicarbonate can be used to:
- Quicken the cooking time of dried beans
- Improve the texture of noodles
- Enhance the crispiness of parboiled potatoes when frying
Potassium bicarbonate is not widely used as an ingredient because it isn’t as easy to find in your typical grocery store as baking soda. You need to either buy it from a natural foods store, or just bite the bullet and shop around for it online.
How to Use
Potassium bicarbonate can be used exactly like baking soda, their cooking measurements are the same (use a 1:1 ratio). For each teaspoon of potassium bicarbonate, you will need to add a ¼ to a ½ teaspoon of salt, depending on the recipe.
2. Baking Powder
If you are making any kind of baked goods, baking powder is the best alternative to using baking soda. You don’t need to worry about finding an acidic ingredient to facilitate the leavening process. As we already learned (above), baking powder already contains everything you need to achieve that light texture.
However, there is one issue. You need to add much more baking powder to your recipe to achieve the same leavening effect as baking soda. It will also be slightly more difficult to control the amount of acid added to the recipe.
How to Use
For every 5 grams (1 teaspoon) of baking soda in your recipe, use 15 grams (3 teaspoons) of baking powder (that is, use a ratio of 1:3). You may also need to reduce approximately half of the added salt in the recipe.
3. Dry Yeast
If you are making baked goods with a bread-like texture, then dry yeast is at the top of the list as a baking soda substitute. Dry yeast is a type of naturally occurring fungus that feeds on the sugars in your dough or batter and releases carbon dioxide in the process.
Dry yeast is activated when you add water to the recipe, but you must give it time to work its magic.
How to Use
For every 5 grams (1 teaspoon) of baking soda in your recipe, use 10 grams (2 teaspoons) of dry yeast (that is, use a ratio of 1:2).
4. Self-Rising Flour
If you are making flour-based recipes (such as pancakes), self-rising flour is an excellent substitute for baking soda. Self-rising flour is nothing more than baking powder, all-purpose flour, and salt.
As previously mentioned, baking soda is an important ingredient in baking powder. This means that self-rising flour also contains baking soda, but in much lesser quantities.
How to Use
Every measuring cup of self-rising flour contains 2.5 grams (½ teaspoon) of baking soda. You will also need to reduce the amount of salt and acid ingredients in your recipe based on the amount of self-rising flour that needs to be added.
5. Club Soda
Club soda is a zero-calorie, neutrally flavored carbonated beverage. It contains low amounts of sodium bicarbonate to imitate the taste of pure water. The presence of baking soda in club soda is what makes it a good substitute for baking soda.
The lifting power that adding club soda gives to your baked goods is very modest but can still result in a nice outcome for your finished product.
How to Use
Replace the liquid in your recipe with club soda. Be sure to mix lightly to retain as much carbonation as possible. If you over-mix your batter or dough, you’ll reduce the carbonation, and your recipe won’t rise.
6. Bakers Ammonia
Centuries ago, baker’s ammonia was the only available leavening agent for baked goods. Once extracted from the antlers of deer, it evolved to be refined by exposing ammonia to carbon dioxide. It is commonly sold by the name ‘Ammonium Carbonate’ and is known to give crackers and biscuits a distinct crispiness.
Despite this, baker’s ammonia is known to have an unpleasant scent of ammonia when used. This, among other things, caused it to become largely unpopular with the advent of baking soda.
Baker’s Ammonia is now mostly incorporated into cookie dough (especially chocolate chip cookies). However, it is not recommended for high-moisture baked goods, such as cakes and muffins. Although it is unlikely to have a home in your pantry, it is still an honorable mention.
With that said, if you have it and you’re in a bind for time, it can be a decent substitute for baking soda.
How to Use
Use a ¾ of Baker’s Ammonia for every teaspoon of baking soda required for your recipe.
7. Lemon Juice
Baking soda is a base that requires an acid to activate, and lemon juice is quite acidic. When baking soda and an acid are combined in a recipe, they react and produce carbon dioxide gas, which helps baked goods rise. If you’re out of baking soda, you can substitute it with a mix of lemon juice and baking powder.
It’s important to note that the addition of lemon juice can add a distinct flavor to your dish, so it’s best used in recipes where a slight lemony tang would be complementary.
How to Use
For each teaspoon of baking soda required, use 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
8. White Vinegar
You can use white vinegar as a substitute for baking soda. Vinegar is acidic and it can react with baking powder, which contains a base and an acid, to produce the carbon dioxide needed to help the dough rise.
It’s important to note that vinegar has a distinct taste and may alter the flavor of your baked goods, although white vinegar is relatively neutral compared to other types of vinegar. It’s best used as a substitute in recipes where a slight vinegar taste won’t be noticeable or may even enhance the other flavors.
How to Use
The general rule of thumb is to use double the amount of white vinegar as the amount of baking soda called for in the recipe. For example, if your recipe requires 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, you can substitute it with 1 teaspoon of white vinegar.
Substitutes for Baking Soda
Baking Soda Substitute Options
- Potassium Bicarbonate
- Baking Powder
- Dry Yeast
- Self-Rising Flour
- Club Soda
- Bakers Ammonia
- Lemon Juice
- White Vinegar
- Choose baking soda substitute.
- Gather recipe ingredients.
- Cook and enjoy.
Baking Soda Substitute FAQs
What can I use if I don’t have baking soda?
If you’re out of baking soda, there are several substitutes you can use. The most common is baking powder, though it’s less potent, so you’ll need to use about three times the amount of baking powder to replace the baking soda. For instance, if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of baking soda, you can use 3 teaspoons of baking powder instead. You can also use a combination of cream of tartar and baking powder, or yogurt or buttermilk since their natural acidity can activate the baking process.
What happens if you don’t use baking soda?
Baking soda serves as a leavening agent in baking, helping the dough rise by producing carbon dioxide gas when combined with an acid. If you omit baking soda from a recipe that calls for it, the result may be a dense, flat, or hard-baked good because it won’t rise as it should. However, this doesn’t mean your dish will be inedible; it will have a different texture and perhaps a slightly different flavor.
Can I replace baking soda with baking powder?
Yes, you can replace baking soda with baking powder, but it’s not a one-to-one substitution. Baking powder contains baking soda along with an acid to activate it, but it’s less potent. To replace baking soda with baking powder, you generally need to use about three times the amount of baking powder. But keep in mind that using too much baking powder can result in a slightly bitter taste, so it’s best used in recipes where there are other strong flavors to mask it.
Can I use cornstarch instead of baking soda?
No, cornstarch cannot be used as a substitute for baking soda. Cornstarch is primarily used to thicken sauces, stews, and gravies, while baking soda is a leavening agent that helps baked goods rise. They serve different purposes in cooking and baking, and thus, cannot be used interchangeably.
Recipes that Use Baking Soda (or its substitute)
More Ingredient Substitutes
Have questions or suggestions? Leave them in the comments below. Until next time: Stay salty, and sweet 😉