What can be used instead of baking powder?

What can be used instead of baking powder?

Outlined in this blog is the working and usage of baking powder and what to use when you are in a pinch and don’t have access to baking powder.

Baking powders are classified by type of release (single acting or double acting). Single acting baking powders contain only one acid, which can be fast acting and react in the mixer or can be slow acting and react in the oven. Double-acting baking powders contain fast-acting and slow-acting acids. An ideal double-acting baking powder will release a small amount (20%) of carbon dioxide in the mixer and the rest in the oven (1).

Mentioned below are the possible substitutes for baking powder:

  • Buttermilk + baking soda
  • Lemon juice + baking soda
  • Yoghurt + baking soda
  • Molasses + baking soda
  • Vinegar + baking soda
  • Club soda
  • Cream of tartar + baking soda

What is baking powder?

Baking powder is a popular ingredient in baked goods like cakes and bread, for example. It is a leavening agent, that is, it increases the volume and lightens the texture of baked goods by increasing its airiness.

Chemical leavening agents are a group of predominantly inorganic salts that, when added to the dough or batter, either individually or in combination, react to produce the gases that form the nuclei for texture development within products such as biscuits during baking. This gas is made from the reaction that takes place when mixing a source of carbon dioxide and an acid and they come into contact with water. During the first cooking phase, as a result of the temperature increase, gas bubbles grow due to the air expansion, the water evaporation, the decrease in the solubility of gas in the aqueous phase, and the formation of carbon dioxide (CO2) by the leavening agent or agents. Most chemical leavening systems consist of a source of carbon dioxide (leavening base) and one or more food acids (1).

It is not to be mixed up with baking soda as their properties are different. Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda ( sodium bicarbonate), cream of tartar, and sometimes, cornstarch. This starch is used as a buffer to prevent the acid and the base from interacting and reacting with each other while being stored.

Baking soda in essence contains an acid, base and a buffer for storage. Water acts as an activator and causes the acid and base to react, resulting in the formation of carbon dioxide gas that causes air bubbles and gives the baked good its airy texture.

It is important to note that you definitely cannot substitute baking powder for baking soda. While baking soda is a base and needs an acid to react with, baking powder provides a complete leavening system in a single product (1).

What are the substitutes to baking powder?

As soon as baking powder gets in contact with a liquid, it reacts and begins to produce the carbon dioxide gas that helps to leaven cakes, cookies, brownies, and other baked goods. Baking soda, or pure sodium bicarbonate, on the other hand, is the stuff people keep in their freezers to absorb the odors. This stuff begins to react and create carbon dioxide when it comes into contact with an acidic liquid, such as buttermilk, sour cream, applesauce, citrus juices, yogurt, honey, molasses, or vinegar (2, 3). 

1. Buttermilk + baking soda

Buttermilk is the product of fermented milk and has a sour, tangy flavour. During the fermentation, the bacterial cultures convert the sugars to acid, thus giving it the acidic component similar to baking powder. 

However, it is important to note that this must be used with baking soda to act as a leavening agent in tandem. To get 1 tsp of baking powder, you can add ¼ tsp of baking soda to ½ cup of buttermilk. To compensate for the increase in liquid component, remember to decrease the volume of any other liquid in the recipe. 

2. Yoghurt + baking soda

Similar to buttermilk, yoghurt is also a fermented dairy product that acts as an acidic base. About ¼ tsp baking soda and ½ cup yoghurt substitutes for 1 tsp of baking powder. In this case as well, it is important to account for the addition of liquid. It is a good substitute to consider as it adds no flavor, much like with baking powder.

3. Molasses + baking soda

This is a sweetener used commonly as a healthy substitute for refined sugar. However, it is acidic enough to react with the baking soda base to act as an effective leavening agent. Here it is important to compensate for the addition in sweetness as well as liquid. Adding ¼ cup molasses to ¼ tsp to baking soda substitutes for tsp of baking powder.

4. Cream of tartar + baking soda

This mixed with baking soda is an effective alternative as both cream of tartar and baking soda are primary ingredients in baking powder. Cream of tartar is relatively easy to find. With this alternative, you don’t have to account for any gain in liquid as both are present in powder form. You can add ½ tsp pf cream of tartar to ¼ tsp of baking soda to substitute for a tsp of baking powder.

In its early years, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate, NaHCO3) as the alkaline constituent, and cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate) as the acid, diluted with filler such as corn-starch (4).

5. Vinegar + baking soda

Vinegar is formed from the fermentation of alcohol to acetic acid. It is quite often used with baking soda as a substitute for baking powder. It has a strong flavour so keep that in mind when using it in your baking. To get the most neutral taste, you may use white vinegar. 

A tsp of baking soda can be replaced with ¼ tsp of baking soda added to ½ tsp of vinegar. Account for the addition in liquid with this substitute.

6. Lemon Juice + baking soda

Highly acidic, lemon juice can be paired with baking soda as a substitute for baking powder. 1 tsp of baking powder can be replaced by mixing ¼ tsp pf aking soda with ½ tsp of lemon juice.

However, due to its strong, citrusy flavour, it is better to use this particular alternative for recipes that require minimal amounts of baking powder. It can also be used in recipes that call for or can afford a lemon flavour, and lastly, if you are left with no other option.

7. Club soda

Club soda is basic in nature and can be replaced with the milk or water in your recipe to increase its volume and airiness. Keep in mind that this is only a partial alternative. It is used in pancake recipes to make them fluffy.

Club soda contains citric acid, which reacts with baking soda (5).

Other FAQs about Baking powder that you may be interested in.

How to counteract too much baking powder in a recipe?

Can you clean with baking powder? (3 Useful Facts)

What Can You Substitute For Baking Powder?


There is no singular alternative to baking powder however the acidic components in the ingredients mentioned above can be paired with baking soda to replicate the functioning of baking powder. Also remember to take into account the increase in the volume of liquid with these substitutes.


  1. Otero-Guzmán, Niza Cristina, Eduardo Rodríguez-Sandoval, and Jorge Alexander Tabares-Londoño. Influence of different types of baking powder on quality properties of muffins. Dyna, 2020, 87, 9-16.
  2. Alvarado, Jacqueline. The Math and Science of Kitchen Ratios. Yale University.  
  3. Conforti, Frank D. Fundamentals of cakes: Ingredients and production. Handbook of food products manufacturing. 2007, 307-325.
  4. Page, Frederick G., Wychbourne Kington, and H. R. Herefordshire. Baking powder and self‐rising flour in nineteenth‐century Britain: The carbon dioxide aerations of Henry Jones and Alfred Bird. Bull. Hist. Chem, 2013, 38, 140-154.
  5. Rohrig, Brian. Fizzy drinks: Stoichiometry you can taste. J Chem Educ, 2000, 77, 1608A.