Baking soda (aka sodium bicarbonate) is a vital ingredient in tons of baked goods. If you don’t have any on hand, you can use a substitute instead.
Baking soda helps take cakes, cookies, muffins, and more from flat to fluffy. But what do you do if you don’t have any baking soda on hand? Don’t fret. Your baked goodies can still come out amazing with the help of a baking soda substitute.
The six best alternatives to baking soda are:
- Baking powder
- Self-rising flour
- Egg whites
- Potassium bicarbonate and salt
- Baker’s ammonia
- Club soda
Here’s why each one works, plus how much to use.
Baking soda is an alkaline chemical leavening agent. When it reacts with acid or bubbles, it produces carbon dioxide. This allows for baked goods like cakes, cookies, and breads to rise up. Without it, your delicious goodies can go from fab to flat.
BTW, baking soda offers almost no nutritional value. It has 0 calories and 0 grams (g) of fat, carbs, sugar, and fiber. However, a single tablespoon packs a whopping 3,780 milligrams (mg) of sodium. To put that in perspective, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) suggests intaking less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day.
The good news? A little baking soda goes a long way. If you eat a single slice of cake, you’ll only be getting a fraction of the total baking soda used in the recipe.
Now, without further ado, here’s a rundown of the six best substitutes for baking soda.
Baking powder is arguably the most popular substitute for baking soda. They’re often used interchangeably, but are actually pretty darn different. Baking soda is made from soda ash — or sodium carbonate — while baking powder is a combo of baking soda and cream of tartar.
Pro tip: Baking soda is about three times stronger than baking powder. So, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon baking soda, use 3 tablespoons baking powder.
Self-rising flour contains all-purpose flour, salt, and baking powder. One cup (about 120 g) has about 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. This allows for baked goods to rise without adding an extra leavener.
The downside of using self-rising flour as a baking soda replacement is calculating the recipe. If your ingredients list calls for 2 cups of flour and 2 teaspoons of baking soda, the self-rising flour won’t add up. This can require a little extra thought into how much of each ingredient you actually need to use.
Pro tip: Opt for recipes that ask for self-rising flour. That way, you won’t have to figure out what changes need to be made.
Whipped egg whites are what we call a mechanical leavening agent. Meaning, it’s an ingredient that’s mechanically manipulated — in this case whipped — to add air bubbles to your batter. As it cooks in the oven, gas releases from the bubbles, allowing your baked goods to rise.
To whip egg whites, separate the yolks from the whites. Then whip the whites until they’re nice and fluffy. Once that’s done, gently fold the whites into your batter. Just be sure you don’t whisk it too aggressively — this can deflate the whites and reduce the rise.
Pro tip: For every tablespoon of egg whites you add to your batter, remove a tablespoon of liquid (like milk).
Potassium bicarbonate is a great replacement for baking soda. It has similar leavening superpowers and can be used as an even 1:1 swap.
It’s also a great choice if you’re trying to reduce your salt intake. That’s right! Potassium bicarbonate doesn’t have any sodium in it. Just keep in mind that because it doesn’t have any sodium, it might change the flavor of your bake.
Pro tip: If you really want to match the taste of baking soda, add a bit of salt to your recipe.
Baker’s ammonia (aka ammonium carbonate) has been used as a leavening agent since the 13th century. It’s lost its popularity over the years, but it still works today!
Generally, you can use it as a 1:1 replacement for baking soda. However, baker’s ammonia isn’t best in dense baked goods like cakes, breads, or muffins. The ammonia isn’t able to release during the baking process, leaving your bake with a slightly off taste and icky smell.
Club soda — or other carbonated waters — can replace small amounts of baking soda if you’re in a pinch. This is because club soda contains a bit of sodium bicarbonate and carbon dioxide. But, it’s important to note that club soda won’t work well in dense bakes like cakes. It’s best when used in thinner recipes like waffles or pancakes.
In order for the swap to work, you’ll have to take out some of your other liquid ingredients. For example, for every 1 tablespoon of baking soda you use, remove 1 tablespoon of milk. This will keep your batter from getting too thin.
Pro tip: In order for baking soda to do it’s thing, you’ll have to work quick. A lot of the carbon dioxide will be lost if you don’t get it incorporated into the batter and into the over fast.
Here are some things to keep in mind before you use a baking powder replacement.
- Conversion ratio. Unlike potassium bicarbonate, not all baking soda substitutes boast a 1:1 ratio. Baking powder, for example, will require a 3:1 replacement. So just be mindful of your math.
- Be patient with the process. It might take some trial-and-error until you find a great baking soda replacement. But this can be part of the fun! Baking is all about creativity, after all!
- Pick the right powder. Double-acting baking powder can yield better results than traditional baking powder. It’s a lot stronger and will help you achieve a dope rise.
- Replace acid with neutral or basic. If you’re using potassium bicarnonate, you should prob replace any acidic liquids (e.g. buttermilk) with non-acid ingredients (e.g. whole milk or water).
Baking soda is an uber important ingredient in loads of recipes. It helps baked goods rise and can make your recipe light and fluffy. If you don’t have any baking soda on hand, you’re still in luck. You might have a decent baking soda substitute on hand.