What can I substitute for baking soda?

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “What can I substitute for baking soda” with an in-depth analysis of how and when to use the substitutes for baking soda, also the benefits of these substitutes are mentioned. 

What can I substitute for baking soda?

Baking soda can be best substituted with baking powder, baker’s ammonia, self-rising flour, potassium bicarbonate and egg whites.

Carbonic acid salts such as sodium bicarbonate are widely used in the food industry at levels of up to 2% for leavening, pH control, and taste and texture development. These chemicals also have broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity. The ability of bicarbonate salts to control postharvest pathogens has been demonstrated in citrus, carrot, bell peppers and melons (1).

Substitutes for baking soda:

There are various substitutes for baking soda that we can add to our routine instead of baking soda. Basically, baking soda is used for making our food light and fluffy. It is the key element while baking cakes, doughnuts, and stuff like this.

So, if we are not using baking soda in our recipe, we must use any baking soda substitute otherwise it’s (cake, etc) not going to rise, and it would be flat and hard.

For this purpose, the few baking soda substitutes mentioned below could work if we don’t have any.

Baking powder:

Just like baking soda, baking powder is also used for baking purposes and it can be used if we don’t have baking soda. The purpose of using baking powder is also to raise the product we are baking. The key element used in baking powder is baking soda and another main element is Potassium Bitartrate (also termed as Cream of tartar). 

Cream of tartar is the powdered form of tartaric acid a natural substance found in a certain variety of plants and just like baking soda cream of tartar is also a leavening agent making it a useful addition.

When baking with this in mind baking soda is a more than adequate substitution for baking powder if we don’t have the latter on hand there is a trade-off. However, baking powder isn’t quite as effective compared to regular old baking soda so, if we want to have the same potency as baking soda, we’ll need to use about 3 times as much powder as we normally would.  

Baking powder provides a complete leavening system in a single product. It is composed of sodium bicarbonate, one or more leavening acids, and a diluent, typically starch or calcium carbonate. Salt and acid react with each other in the liquid phase of dough once they come into contact. They are kept separated by the inert component (e.g. dry starch) to avoid a spontaneous reaction. 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 (2).

Baker’s ammonia:

Baker’s ammonia is also another replacement for baking soda. It is also termed as “hartshorn” Scientifically, baker’s ammonia is said as “ammonium carbonate”. Baker’s ammonia is an alkaline leavening ingredient. When ammonium carbonate (baker’s ammonia) is exposed to a high temperature it decomposes into the compounds like ammonia, water, and carbon dioxide which are used for leavening ingredients.

Unlike sodium bicarbonate, ammonium bicarbonate in low moisture products leaves no residues when it decomposes by heat. It has a fast rising effect in the dough and decomposes during baking in CO2 and ammonium, which contribute to promote a high spread and development of the internal structure of biscuits. Ammonium bicarbonate tends to impart a very homogeneous surface appearance and a less hard texture with high fracturability and spread. For these peculiar physical characteristics, biscuits obtained with ammonium bicarbonate can be considered ‘‘dunking biscuits’’ more than the others, as demonstrated (3).

So, the reason why it is distinct among other leavening agents is, it gives a unique crispy taste and texture it imparts on baked goods leading to a distinct and delicious creation.  

Self-rising flour:

Self-rising flour can also be used as a substitute for baking soda. It is a combination of different baking ingredients that have already been handily mixed, namely all-purpose flour combined with around a teaspoon and a half of baking powder and a quarter teaspoon of salt.

However, before we try to jump right into using self-rising flour for all our baking needs there are a few things we must take into consideration. First, the fact that self-rising flour comes pre-portioned with baking powder and salt are already thrown into the mix means that we may need to make some adjustments to our recipe as compensation.

Self-rising flour is all-purpose flour with salt and leavening added. One cup of self-rising flour contains 11/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Self-rising flour can be substituted for all-purpose flour in a recipe by reducing salt and baking powder according to those proportions (4). 

Otherwise, it could potentially interfere with the taste and quality of the final product because baking powder already contains an acidic component as well. We’ll also want to replace the acid in our recipe with something a little more neutral to get the desired leavening reaction as well.

Potassium bicarbonate:

Another effective substitute for baking soda is Potassium bicarbonate. Especially for people who are trying to reduce their sodium intake, this ingredient is best for them to use because it does not contain sodium.

Reducing the amount of sodium in foods, especially in bakery and other cereal products, accounting for over 30% of dietary sodium sources, could be a crucial step to mitigate the excessive dietary sodium exposure (5).

As there is a low salt content in it, we may notice a slight change in the taste but if there is not an issue of sodium intake then we can add more salt to our recipe to make them taste better.

The chemistry behind using potassium bicarbonate is that carbon dioxide that is released during the reaction of potassium bicarbonate gives a light airy and fluffy texture to the products like cakes, biscuits, doughnuts, pancakes, and waffles.

Egg whites:

Egg whites can also be used as a substitute for baking soda when we are in dire need of baking, and we run out of baking soda. It provides proper structure to our product as well as acts as a leavening agent. 

The most important function of air bubbles in leavening is that they serve as nuclei for other leavening gases, which diffuse and expand them. Air may be incorporated by creaming fat and sugar for a cake, by beating egg whites/whole eggs for sponge cake by sifting ingredients or by folding (lifting and turning) the airy egg into the mixture. Using a whisk on certain liquids, notably cream or egg whites can also create foams through mechanical action (6).

While using egg whites we should beat them until they give a foamy texture and then we should replace them with an equal amount of liquid ingredient in the recipe. This is how it works well as a substitute for baking soda

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

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How long does baking soda last? (+7 uses)

Conclusion

In this brief article, we have answered the question, “What can I substitute for baking soda” with an in-depth analysis of how and when to use the substitutes for baking soda, also the benefits of these substitutes are mentioned. 

References

  1. Sivakumar, D., et al. Effect of ammonium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate on anthracnose of papaya. Phytoparasitica, 2002, 30, 486-492.
  2. 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.
  3. Canali, Giada, et al. Influence of different baking powders on physico-chemical, sensory and volatile compounds in biscuits and their impact on textural modifications during soaking. J food sci technol, 2020, 57, 3864-3873.  
  4. Kumar, Pawan, et al. Nutritional contents and medicinal properties of wheat: a review. Life Sci Med Res, 2011, 22, 1-10.
  5. Chen, Gengjun, Ruijia Hu, and Yonghui Li. Potassium bicarbonate improves dough and cookie characteristics through influencing physicochemical and conformation properties of wheat gluten. Food chem, 2020, 5, 100075.
  6. Neeharika, B., et al. Leavening Agents for Food Industry. Int. J. Curr. Microbiol. App. Sci, 2020, 9, 1812-1817.