Out of baking powder and need a baking powder substitute? Find out how to make your own baking powder replacement and what other substitutes for baking powder might work.
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- What is baking powder?
- What is the difference between single-acting and double-acting baking powder?
- What does baking powder do?
- How to tell if your baking powder is still good
- Difference between baking powder vs baking soda
- How to make baking powder
- Homemade substitutes for baking powder
- Baking powder substitutes with baking soda
- Baking powder substitutes without baking soda
What is baking powder?
To understand what baking powder is, you kind of have to know what baking soda is.
Baking soda is a mineral that, when combined with a liquid plus something acidic, creates carbon dioxide bubbles. These bubbles can work as a leavening agent to make dough rise.
Baking soda + an acid + a liquid = Chemical reaction
By itself, baking soda will have no reaction.
Baking powder is a mix of baking soda plus a dormant acidic ingredient, like cream of tartar*. As long as both the baking soda and the acidic ingredient stay dry, they won’t react and cause the bubbling to happen.
Once you add liquid, however, the chemical fireworks explode. Most types of baking powder are designed to work even harder once you add heat to the picture. So:
Baking soda + an acid + a stabilizer (to keep powder mix dry) = Baking powder
Without liquid, baking powder will have no reaction.
Baking powder + moisture = Chemical reaction
Then add heat → Chemical reaction intensifies/continues
Once baking powder is in contact with moisture (and then heat), that’s when it works.
What is the difference between single-acting and double-acting baking powder?
When you shop for baking powder, you may notice that they might be labelled single-acting or double-acting.
Single-acting means the chemical magic happens as soon as liquid is added to the baking powder.
Double-acting means the chemistry happens in two phases: once when the liquid is added and then further when heat is present.
The benefit of this two-stage process is huge. After a while, dough and batters start to weaken due to the strain of gravity and risk collapsing...until the heat-triggered reaction kicks in just when more rising power is needed.
What does baking powder do?
If you’re wondering what baking powder is used for, it’s almost exclusively for leavening stuff when you cook.
If you find any internet resources that teach you to use it for stuff like cleaning or odor removal, they probably actually meant to say baking soda.
Could you use baking powder instead since it has baking soda in it?
Sure, but obviously using 100% pure baking soda versus the very diluted quantity of baking soda you'd find in baking powder is going to give you two very different qualities of results. Be warned.
How to tell if your baking powder is still good
Technically, your baking powder is pretty immortal and can last indefinitely as long as you store it in a cool & dry place. However, that does not mean it’ll stay on it’s leavening A-game forever.
Over time, the power of its chemical potential will weaken. That’s why you should always give your baking powder a test drive by proofing it before adding it to your recipe.
To proof your baking powder, add ½ teaspoon of baking powder to ½ cup of hot water and it should start to foam up and bubble really aggressively.
If you get a lackluster reaction, the baking powder won’t be strong enough to do what you need it to.
For a sample of what reaction to look for, check out this helpful YouTube video from Cakes and More! Baking for Beginners:
Difference between baking powder vs baking soda
As explained above, baking soda is only one component of baking powder. In other words, by adding a dry acidic ingredient to baking soda, that’s kind of how you get baking powder.
Knowing that baking powder has an acid element to it while baking soda does not can help you make some educated guesses about what might happen if you try to sub out ingredients in a recipe, Dexter’s Laboratory-style.
Let’s say you wanted to substitute buttermilk for regular milk*. Since buttermilk has more acid than regular milk, it will interact with the baking powder differently than normal milk.
To counteract that imbalance, you could replace some of your baking powder with baking soda, which is acid free, to rebalance the acidity ratio.
In cooking or baking, it is possible to use baking powder as a substitute for baking soda, but you can’t necessarily do it the other way around without making other changes to the recipe.
If you tried to use just baking soda as a substitute for baking powder, the baking soda would be missing the acidic element and without that, no chemical reaction would happen.
How to make baking powder
Making your own homemade substitute baking powder is simply a matter of combining the following ingredients:
The purpose of the cornstarch is to absorb any excess moisture that may be lurking in your mixing container because any liquid whatsoever could set off the chemical reaction prematurely, which is not what you want.
Be mindful that a homemade baking powder mix made out of baking soda will go through the bubbling process faster and at a lower heat, so the chemical reaction ends quickly.
That means you’ve gotta work fast, before it loses its fizzle and the leavening power that comes with it.
Homemade substitutes for baking powder
Before we start our list of what you can use instead of baking powder, stop for a second and soak this in: there is no substitute that will replace the power of commercial baking powder.
It’s double-acting superpowers are not to be taken lightly, and simply cannot be replicated even if you are careful to include both baking soda and an acid in your substitute.
Whatever you use just won’t be as strong as what goes into the commercial stuff. Plus, most of these substitutes play out their reactions quickly, whereas double-acting baking powder drags things out like a Monday work meeting.
Accept this, and you’ll be less disappointed, ‘kay? Let’s move on.
Since baking powder is baking soda plus a powdered acid, most baking powder substitutes are baking soda plus another acid. If you don’t have any baking soda on hand either, skip ahead to the next section to see your other options.
Baking powder substitutes with baking soda
(½ teaspoon vinegar + ¼ teaspoon baking soda = 1 teaspoon baking powder)
Pretty much everyone has vinegar, so this is probably the substitute you can most easily turn to. Be careful about how much you use because vinegar doesn’t always jive well with all dishes, flavor-wise.
You can probably get away with a small quantity, but if your recipe is heavy on baking powder you may want to consider another option.
(½ teaspoon lemon juice + ¼ teaspoon baking soda = 1 teaspoon baking powder)
Lemon juice is another commonly used acidic ingredient that many people have on hand. The flavor of lemon matches with more food items than vinegar does, but it still could clash with certain flavors.
Keep that in mind when deciding if this is a good substitute, especially if your recipe calls for a lot of baking powder.
Cream of tartar
(2 parts cream of tartar to 1 part baking soda)
This is the ingredient featured in the homemade baking powder recipe outlined above.
The proper ratio of cream of tartar to baking soda is 2 to 1, but you may also want to add another part of cornstarch to your mixing container first to keep any remnant moisture from kicking off a premature chemical reaction.
(½ cup plain yogurt + ¼ teaspoon baking soda = 1 teaspoon baking powder, but also reduce the amount of liquid in your recipe by how much yogurt is added)
Neutral in flavor? Check.
Widely available? Check.
All that makes yogurt an excellent pairing to combine with baking soda to create your substitute. For the record, using flavored yogurt is risky because the flavor profile might not match your dish and there is usually tons of added sugar.
(¼ cup molasses + ¼ teaspoon baking soda = 1 teaspoon baking powder, but also reduce the amount of liquid in your recipe by how much molasses is added & adjust for sweetness)
Molasses is somewhat acidic, so here’s yet another option for the acidic portion of your baking powder substitute mix.
Because molasses has some moisture and a whole lotta sugar, you’ll want to adjust your recipe’s liquid and sweetener levels accordingly.
(½ cup plain buttermilk + ¼ teaspoon baking soda = 1 teaspoon baking powder, but also reduce the amount of liquid in your recipe by how much buttermilk is added)
Buttermilk is a fermented product, meaning it sat for a period of time to let its sugars break down into acid. So, buttermilk can totally get a rise out of your baking soda (get it?).
Like the other substitute options involving a liquid ingredient, don’t forget to cut down the amount of liquid in your recipe by the amount of buttermilk added.
Baking powder substitutes without baking soda
(replace regular flour in recipe with this)
No, this is not a mutant variation of regular flour that has superpowers. It’s just plain flour with, you guessed it, baking powder already mixed in.
So, technically, you don’t need to have separate baking powder on hand.
Whipped egg whites
(amount needed varies)
Baking powder creates tiny bubbles, which whipped egg whites also have. This substitute works best in cake-like recipes, and is used by gently folding your batter ingredients into the whipped egg whites.
To prepare your egg whites, set your mixer to low or just use good old-fashioned manual labor to beat until the egg whites get foamy. You can then slowly increase the speed until you the egg whites start to develop soft peaks.
This Youtube video from Everyday Food will you exactly how it should look.
(replace water or milk in recipe with this)
This carbonated drink is flavored with baking soda, so it can serve as a stand-in for either baking powder or baking soda. Because it is so diluted, though, you can’t expect it to give anywhere near the same amount of rise.
Use it in recipes where you don’t need so much poof, such as pancakes. Replace whatever milk or water the recipe calls for with club soda instead.
Looking for a baking powder substitute? Check out our list of baking powder replacements, both with and without baking soda.
Find out the difference between baking powder and baking soda, and what you can use to make homemade baking powder when you are in a pinch.