Baking can be quite the exact science. From carefully measuring ingredients, to cooking at the right temperature for the proper time. But what about when you don’t have the exact ingredients? What do you do when you need to substitute one ingredient for another? In this article, we’re tackling this exact question for one of the most common ingredients in baking – baking powder!
What is Baking Powder?
To understand proper substitution of an ingredient, it is best to have a fundamental knowledge of what that ingredient is. So let’s start with the basics.
In order to properly understand baking powder’s function in baking, it’s important to understand how it relates to another ingredient that is among the most common in baking – baking soda.
Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is a leavening agent that becomes activated when it is combined with an acidic ingredient. Once activated, it produces carbon dioxide, which allows baked goods to expand.
Baking powder is a complete leavening agent. This means that it contains both the base ingredient (baking soda), and the acidic ingredient that is required to activate it. It also contains cornstarch, so that the baking powder doesn’t activate itself while it’s being stored.
As you can see, it’s all about the reaction between the base ingredient (baking soda), and the acidic ingredient.
Therefore, any baking powder substitute will essentially just be a mix of these two ingredients. Our list will be comprised of different acidic ingredients that you can use to activate the baking soda base.
How to Choose the Best Substitute?
Choosing the best baking powder substitute is all about replicating the reaction that is found in typical baking powder. You want to settle on the proportions that produce the same reaction, thereby allowing you to cook the same recipe!
Below, we’ll outline several alternatives that will allow you to replicate the reaction found in baking powder, so that you can adjust your recipes in a pinch.
Baking Powder Alternatives
In this section, we’re taking you through the top baking powder alternatives. As we noted above, these alternatives are essentially just acidic ingredients that you can combine with baking soda. So keep in mind as you read that each substitute ingredient must be combined with baking soda to achieve the same chemical reaction you would get from baking powder.
The most important part of each substitute is to combine the ingredients in their proper proportions.
We’ll start our list with one of the ingredients you are most likely to have around the house already – plain yogurt. That’s right, regular old yogurt can stand as a replacement for baking powder in a jam.
When yogurt is fermented, the fermentation process actually increases the concentration of lactic acid in the yogurt, which gives it enough acidity to stand in as the “acid” component of the baking powder.
The most important part of a baking powder solution is proper proportions. 1 teaspoon of baking powder can be replaced with 1/2 cup of plain yogurt + ¼ teaspoon of baking soda.
But there’s another consideration you’ll have to apply to the recipe to properly make the substitution substitute. Because you’ve added 1/2 a cup of yogurt, that is essentially 1/2 a cup of liquids that weren’t in the recipe before. So in order to keep the same consistency for your final product, you’ll want to reduce 1/2 a cup of liquids elsewhere in the recipe.
And of course, there’s also a reason we have chosen plain yogurt – the flavor! You want to be sure that, while you’re focused on substituting the chemical reaction of the baking powder, that you don’t forget about the flavor component as well. Anything that you add to a baking recipe will alter the taste, and plain yogurt was chosen for its minimal taste.
Similar to yogurt, the fermentation process in buttermilk increases the lactic acid presence, thus making it a suitable substitute for baking powder.
Substituting for baking powder is straight forward. 1 teaspoon of baking powder will be roughly equivalent to ½ a cup of buttermilk + ¼ teaspoon of baking soda.
Remember, as with yogurt, be sure to decrease the liquids elsewhere in your recipe to compensate for the extra ½ cup of buttermilk.
Also note that buttermilk has a slightly tangy, sour taste. It will likely not be very noticeable in your recipe when combined with the other ingredients, but it is always worth considering the impact of the taste of your baking powder substitute.
Keeping with our lactose theme, another option at your disposal is sour milk. Sour milk is essentially acidic milk. It has undergone acidification, which drops the pH levels, and results in a substance that makes a suitable baking powder substitute.
1 teaspoon of baking powder is roughly equivalent to ½ cup of sour milk + ¼ teaspoon baking soda. And be sure to decrease the liquids by ½ cup elsewhere in the recipe.
Of course, it doesn’t have the most appealing taste, but it can largely be overpowered if you use strong ingredients elsewhere in the recipe.
If you don’t want to use a milk product, then there are other acidic ingredients at your disposal. One of the most popular among these alternatives is lemon juice. Containing citric acid, lemon juice is naturally very acidic.
1 teaspoon of baking powder will be equivalent to ½ teaspoon lemon juice + ¼ teaspoon baking soda. And since you are using far less liquid than with the dairy options, you won’t have to worry about substituting the liquids elsewhere in your recipe.
But do note that lemon juice has a strong flavor. It is highly acidic with a sharp citrus taste. So if your recipe calls for a lot of baking soda, a lemon juice substitute may be quite noticeable!
In line with lemon juice, vinegar is another highly acidic substance that can act as a worth baking powder replacement if your hands are tied. But once again, note its strong taste!
1 teaspoon of baking powder will be equivalent to ½ teaspoon vinegar + ¼ teaspoon baking soda. It shares the benefit that you don’t have to worry about substituting liquids in your recipe.
We recommend white vinegar, because it has the least distinct taste (and color) out of all vinegar varieties. If you’re looking for an option that will least impact the final result, then white vinegar is the way to go.
Cream of Tartar
Cream of tartar is an acidic powder, also known as potassium hydrogen tartare. Its acidic qualities make it ideal as a baking powder substitute.
Because it is already in powder form, most people use this as their preferred baking powder substitute. The only problem is that it might not be something you have on hand! And if you have to hit the store to pick up cream of tartar, you might as well just buy regular baking powder.
Regardless, if you do happen to have it on hand, you can substitute 1 teaspoon of baking powder with ½ teaspoon cream of tartar + ¼ teaspoon baking powder.
You might not know that molasses is acidic, let alone acidic enough to act as a baking powder substitute. But if you have some on-hand, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at its capabilities.
1 teaspoon of baking powder can be substituted for ¼ cup molasses + ¼ teaspoon baking soda. Remember to lower the amount of liquid in the recipe to compensate for the ¼ cup of liquid molasses.
Also keep in mind that molasses is sweet. This makes it a more suitable substitute for dessert baking. You may also want to lower the amount of sugar elsewhere in the recipe to compensate for this sweet taste.
The BEST Substitute
In this article, we examined several alternatives to baking powder that you can substitute into various recipes. Baking is a complicated science, and it helps to understand the fundamentals so you can substitute effectively. Consider the taste and texture of each substitute, and where you might have to compensate by lowering the liquid elsewhere in the recipe.
That being said, our favorite baking powder substitute is cream of tartar. We like it best because it most minimally interferes with the taste and texture of the recipe. It is essentially just an acidic powder that can complete the chemical reaction with baking soda (and is even included in some types of baking powder).
That being said, it’s quite likely that you don’t have cream of tartar on hand. For this reason, the most practical substitutes might be household ingredients that are more common – such as plain yogurt or lemon juice. Just be sure to consider the effect that these ingredients will have on the taste of the recipe, and to compensate for the amount of extra liquid you are adding to the mix.