Can You Replace Baking Soda in Recipes? Here's What Our Food Editors Say
We've all been there: You're making a favorite baked good when you realize you don't have one of the key ingredients. When that ingredient is baking soda, do you need to run to the store to buy it, or is there an easy replacement hiding in your kitchen cupboards? Recipes that feature acidic ingredients, like buttermilk, honey, or molasses, call for baking soda, as it's a base mineral that works with acid to help a baked good rise. Greg Lofts, our deputy food editor, explains that there aren't substitutes that are an exact match, but there are other ingredients that you can use in place of baking soda in a pinch.
One way to replace baking soda is by using self-rising flour since it has leavening agents (which cause doughs and batters to expand), Greg says. Self-rising flour is all-purpose flour mixed with baking powder and salt. To make your own, all you need to do is combine one-and-a-half teaspoons baking powder and one-fourth teaspoon fine salt to one cup all-purpose flour. For cakes and muffins, another baking soda substitute technique Greg suggests is "to separate the eggs and beat the egg whites to stiff peaks, folding them into the batter before baking," noting "You will likely need to add a couple extra egg whites if the recipe you're working from only calls for one or two. In this method he explains, "the egg whites act as the leavener (think: classic French Genoise cake)."
Another option is to rely on baking powder if you are out of baking soda. "Baking powder will work in some recipes since it contains baking soda, but you will need more of it as a swap for soda," Greg explains. Specifically, baking powder also includes acid and a moisture-absorbing element, such as cornstarch. Baking powder is used as a leavener whether the recipe has acidic ingredients or not. It will activate once when mixed in with batter in recipes like cakes, cookies, or pancakes and another time when it comes in contact with heat in the oven or stovetop.
Modifying recipes is relatively simple with baking powder, according to our Kitchen Conundrums expert Thomas Joseph. "Let's say your recipe calls for one teaspoon of baking soda, you are going to need three times as much baking powder in that recipe," he says. "And since you are missing the acidic ingredient in the box, you need to add a little bit of acid to your recipe, as well. So that would be about a teaspoon of lemon juice, you could use yogurt, you could use a little bit of buttermilk." While you might get a slightly different taste with this technique, you will get the leavening that you need for perfectly fluffy baked goods.