Baking soda is a staple ingredient found in the cupboards of both seasoned and amateur bakers.
Formally known as sodium bicarbonate, it’s primarily used as a leavening or raising agent in baked goods, such as muffins, pancakes, cookies, and other types of quick bread.
Baking soda is a very alkaline, or basic, substance. Combining it with an acidic ingredient like lemon juice or cream of tartar forms carbon dioxide gas, which allows baked goods to expand and rise, giving them a soft and fluffy texture (1).
Many recipes call for this ingredient, but don’t panic if you find yourself without. Various ingredients and techniques can be used to replace it in a pinch.
Here are 4 clever substitutes for baking soda.
Like baking soda, baking powder is an ingredient frequently used in baking to promote rise, or leavening, of the final product.
Baking powder often gets confused for baking soda due to similarities in their names, functions, and physical appearances. However, they’re distinctly different products.
In fact, baking powder is a combination of baking soda and cream of tartar. When it’s exposed to liquid and heat, carbon dioxide gas is formed, which causes baked goods to rise ().
Baking powder may be used as a substitute for baking soda. Still, its leavening power is not as strong as that of plain baking soda. As a result, you’ll need to use a greater quantity of baking powder to get the same final product.
Though results may vary, you should use triple the amount of baking powder that you would use of baking soda.
For example, if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of baking soda, use 3 teaspoons of baking powder as a replacement.
Note that this substitution may result in a slightly saltier and more acidic flavor than the original recipe intended.
If your recipe already calls for salt, it may be a good idea to reduce the quantity by at least half to account for the potential change in taste.
Additionally, because baking powder already contains an acid (cream of tartar), you may want to consider reducing or replacing some of the other more acidic ingredients in the recipe with something neutral.
Baking powder is another leavening agent that can replace baking soda, but its effect isn’t as strong. Use about three times the amount of baking powder as you would baking soda.
Though often used as a dietary supplement, potassium bicarbonate is also an effective substitute for baking soda.
It can be used as a 1:1 substitute for baking soda. Yet, due to its low salt content, you may notice a change in the taste of your dish.
If you’re not concerned about sodium intake, you may consider adding more salt to your recipe to account for the change in flavor — but this step is optional.
The exact amount of salt you’ll need to add depends on the individual recipe and is likely to require some experimentation to get it just right. Roughly 1/4–1/2 teaspoon of salt for every teaspoon of potassium bicarbonate is a good place to start.
Potassium bicarbonate is an effective substitute for baking soda and can be replaced in a 1:1 ratio. Because it doesn’t contain sodium like regular baking soda, you may want to add more salt to your recipe to account for changes in flavor.
Baker’s ammonia — or ammonium carbonate — is another practical substitute for baking soda.
It carries some historical significance, as it was one of the main chemical leavening agents used during the 13th century ().
It was ultimately replaced with baking powder and baking soda in modern baking practices, though it’s still occasionally used today.
Baker’s ammonia is known for imparting distinct crispiness to baked goods, which is particularly desirable in some confections, such as thin, crisp cookies or crackers.
Baker’s ammonia can be easily swapped for baking soda in a 1:1 ratio, but it may not be suitable for all recipes.
When combined with heat and acid, baker’s ammonia produces carbon dioxide and ammonia. The ammonia can create a strong, unpleasant smell (5).
In baked goods with a light, thin texture, the ammonia will easily dissipate without negatively affecting the result.
However, in baked goods with a thick crumb, such as cake or muffins, the ammonia may not be able to escape, leaving behind an unpleasant odor.
Baker’s ammonia can be used in a 1:1 ratio for replacing baking soda. Still, it should only be used for baked goods that are thin and crispy like cookies and crackers.
Self-rising flour is another option for replacing baking soda, though necessary recipe adjustments using this method are a little more complicated and may not be best suited for the novice baker.
Self-rising flour contains a combination of all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. Each cup (120 grams) of self-rising flour contains approximately 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
If your recipe calls for baking soda, it most likely also includes an acidic ingredient for the baking soda to react with.
Because self-rising flour already includes an acid (baking powder), you’ll want to replace the acid in your original recipe with something more neutral to keep the flavors balanced.
For example, if your recipe uses buttermilk as the acid, you may consider replacing it with regular milk.
This part of the process can be a little tricky, depending on the recipe you’re following, but trial and error is a great way to hone your skills as a home baker.
Self-rising flour contains baking powder and salt, so it may be used to replace baking soda in some recipes. Keep in mind that you’ll need to adjust certain ingredients.
When it comes to baking, proper leavening is essential to achieving your desired outcome.
If you’re out of baking soda, it’s important that you replace it with a similar functional ingredient, such as baking powder.
However, there are some other tweaks you can use to further boost the rising capacity of your recipe.
Whipped egg whites or cream can act as mechanical leavening agents, giving extra rise to certain kinds of baked goods that include these ingredients.
If your recipe calls for eggs, separate the yolks from the whites and whip the whites with a whisk or electric mixer until they’re fluffy. After adding the yolks to the batter, fold in the whipped whites to impart an airy, light texture modification.
Similarly, if your recipe calls for heavy cream, use a whisk or electric mixer to whip air into the cream before adding it to the batter. Doing this can help keep your baked goods extra fluffy. Take care not to overmix your batter, or it may limit the rise of the final product.
Whipping egg whites and cream before adding them to your baking batter can enhance the leavening power of the recipe.
Baking soda is a vital ingredient in many types of quick bread recipes, as it helps to leaven and add volume to the final product.
If you find yourself mid-recipe without any baking soda, there are several replacement options available.
You may have to make some adjustments to your original recipe to accommodate for the substitutions, but the trial and error process can enhance your skills as a home baker.