Eskay Lim / EyeEm
Nothing ruins your plans for a Saturday afternoon baking recipe sesh like realizing you’re fresh out of baking powder. Don’t panic— there are plenty of baking powder substitutes that you probably have in your pantry right now.
What is baking powder?
First off, let’s cover how baking powder actually works. Baking powder is a leavening agent that contains a mixture of a bicarbonate (aka baking soda) and an acid, plus a buffer like cornstarch. Baking powder causes baked goods to rise by releasing carbon dioxide gas into a batter or dough. It’s responsible for those fluffy pancakes, airy cake recipes and sky-high muffins. Leave it out, and your baked goods would be dense and flat.
Baking powder is not the same thing as baking soda. Baking soda is just a salt and needs an acid in order to produce carbon dioxide gas and cause baked goods to rise.
To sum up, acid + salt = extra-fluffy cupcakes. Let’s explore all your options for creating this chemical reaction without baking powder:
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Yep, your go-to breakfast can salvage that last-minute bake sale project. Yogurt has an acidic pH, which makes it a great substitute for baking powder when combined with baking soda. Use ¼ teaspoon of baking soda and ½ cup plain yogurt to replace 1 teaspoon of baking powder in a recipe. Be sure to reduce the amount of liquid in the rest of the recipe as needed. Bonus — use vanilla or berry yogurt to add extra flavor to sweets!
Break out that gallon of white vinegar you use for cleaning — it works in baked goods, too! Combined with baking soda, it releases carbon dioxide gas (think elementary school exploding volcano project), which causes baked goods to rise. You only need to use ½ teaspoon of vinegar plus ¼ teaspoon baking soda to substitute 1 teaspoon of baking powder, so it shouldn’t affect the taste too much. To be safe, add a pinch more sugar to the recipe to offset the taste of vinegar.
The fresh citrus juice is loaded with citric acid and works in the same way as vinegar in baked goods. Just like vinegar, replace 1 teaspoon of baking powder with ¼ teaspoon baking soda and ½ teaspoon lemon juice.
Okay, but what if you don’t have baking powder or baking soda? Add something carbonated! Since the goal of baking powder is to create bubbles, you can add the bubbly straight to the batter in the form of unflavored seltzer (or even soda, if the flavor agrees with whatever you’re baking). However, there is not a ton of sodium bicarbonate in soda, so it’s best for recipes that only need a bit of added volume (like pancakes). For the best results, replace all of the liquid in your recipe with club soda (so long as the original liquid wasn’t supposed to contribute a lot of flavor).
There’s a reason you’ll find buttermilk in pancakes, muffins and other baked goods. Because of its acidity, it will cause baked goods to rise when combined with baking soda. To replace 1 teaspoon of baking powder, use ½ cup of buttermilk and ¼ teaspoon of baking soda. Decrease the other liquids in your recipe by ½ cup to maintain the right consistency.
Cream of Tartar
Sold in most baking or spice aisles, cream of tartar is a powdered acid that’s a by-product of winemaking. It works just like baking powder to activate baking soda and cause baked goods to rise. Use ½ teaspoon cream of tartar plus ¼ teaspoon baking soda to replace 1 teaspoon of baking powder.
Self Rising Flour
Just like the name suggests, self rising flour (made from a combo of all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt) has everything needed to make a baked good rise without the addition of baking powder or soda. If you happen to have some on hand, you can replace the regular flour in your recipe with self-rising flour, leaving out the baking powder and baking soda.
Whipped Egg Whites
This is another great option if you don’t have baking powder or baking soda on hand. Whipping egg whites (with an electric mixer or by hand) creates air bubbles that help to increase volume and lightness in baked goods (think: tall soufflés and light-as-air meringues). It’s best to use this method for baked goods that don’t need a ton of height, like pancakes or waffles, which will only need one or two whipped egg whites.
This sticky-sweet substance is actually acidic enough to create carbon dioxide gas when paired with baking soda. However, you’ll need a full ¼ cup of molasses plus ¼ teaspoon baking soda to replace 1 teaspoon of baking powder, so this won’t work for all recipes. Molasses has a very strong, spicy flavor, so don’t use it unless you’re willing to change the flavor profile of your end result. Gingerbread muffins, anyone?
We know — it doesn’t sound appetizing. But if you have an old carton of milk in your refrigerator, you can finally use it up in your next baked good. Like buttermilk, the acidity of sour milk reacts with baking soda to produce the same leavening effect as baking powder. Use ½ cup sour milk and ¼ teaspoon baking soda to replace 1 teaspoon of baking powder. Just be sure that you’re using sour milk (as in, milk that smells sour and is a little “off”) rather than lumpy or curdled milk.
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