What Can You Substitute For Baking Soda?

This brief article answers the question, “What Can You Substitute For Baking Soda?” with an in-depth analysis of baking powder, the substitutes for baking soda, how to use them, and important points to keep in mind while using them.

What Can You Substitute For Baking Soda?

Did it ever occur to you that baking soda can be used as a natural deodorant? (2). Also known as sodium bicarbonate baking soda seems to have multiple uses. In addition to being used as a leavening agent, when baking.

It can also be used to clean and deodorize surfaces. It is even safe for treating conditions such as heartburn.

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).

What To Do When You Run Out Of Baking Soda?

If a recipe calls for baking soda and you don’t have any in the house, well you could rush to the store and buy some. Or you could check and see if there’s anything already in your pantry that you can use as a substitution.

Here are a few alternatives you can use when baking without baking soda:

Baking Powder

People often get baking soda and baking powder confused with each other. That is probably due to their similar-sounding names. Fortunately, even if you do get the two confused it doesn’t matter because they’re essentially interchangeable as far as actual baking is concerned.

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 (3).

This is because the baking powder in part is made with baking soda as a key ingredient. The other main ingredient that is used for baking powder is potassium bitartrate otherwise known as cream of tartar.

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 also is a leavening agent making it a useful addition when baking.

Cream of tartar was a by-product of fermentation in wine making and in this process the increasing alcohol content caused potassium acid tartrate (cream of tartar), to crystallize out on the side of the fermentation vessel (5). 

Cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate) is a common baking ingredient, which can be used to stabilize whipped egg whites (e.g., in meringues) or when combined with baking powder can be used as a leavening agent. It has also been used to make homemade play dough and as an environmentally friendly cleaning agent. Cream of tartar has long been used as a remedy for a number of ailments (4).

With this in mind baking soda is a more than adequate substitution for baking powder when you don’t have the baking soda on hand. In early years, the chemical leavening agents were composed of sodium bicarbonate, potassium bitartrate and cornstarch (5).

How to Use it

Baking powder does not work as effectively as baking soda works. But if you want to have the same potency as baking soda you’ll need to use about three times as much powder as you normally would. However, in the case of sodium bicarbonates, the carbonate formed by its decomposition is very alkaline, giving rise to products with high pH and unpleasant taste, known as ‘‘soda bite’’, together with other undesirable effects, for example on crumb color. For these reasons, sodium bicarbonate is not used alone but in combination with an acid, unlike ammonium one that in low moisture products leaves no residues when it decomposes by heat (6).

Bakers Ammonia

Feel free to try baking using Baker’s ammonia instead of baking soda. Also known by the scientific name of ammonium carbonate. Baker’s ammonia adds a distinct taste and texture to baked goods compared to other leavening ingredients. Leading to a delicious creation such as thin crispy cookies and crackers.

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 (6).


Baker’s ammonia is a great addition to a variety of specialty recipes. It might not be a suitable alternative to baking soda for all recipes. Another thing to be mindful of is the smell.

Ammonia is famously known for its pungent aromas and Baker’s ammonia is no exception. In particular, Baker’s ammonia produces a combination of ammonia as well as carbon dioxide when exposed to heat. During baking this problem was encountered when excess ammonium bicarbonate was used or under baked cookies was tasted. Ammonium bicarbonate is, therefore, not suitable as a leavening agent in large amounts or in any products that leave the oven with more than 5% moisture (7).

This can lead to a particularly unpleasant smell that can potentially stink up your kitchen. Which is another reason why Baker’s ammonia might not be ideal as a substitute in all situations.

Self-rising flour

If you run out of baking soda or don’t want to use it you can always pick some self-rising flour. Self-rising flour is a combination of different baking ingredients that have already been handily mixed. All-purpose flour is combined with around a teaspoon and a half of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

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 (8).


Self-rising flour comes pre-portioned with baking powder and salt is already thrown into the mix. That means you may need to make some adjustments to your recipe as compensation. Otherwise, it might change the taste and texture of the baked goods.

Because baking powder already contains an acidic component as well. Replace the acid in your recipe with something neutral to get the desired leavening reaction.

All in all self-rising flour may not be the ideal alternative to baking soda for individuals who are new to baking. It may require a little bit of trial and error before you get the hang of using it in all your baking recipes.

Potassium Bicarbonate

Potassium bicarbonate is commonly used as a dietary supplement but in a pinch, it can also be used as a leavening agent for baked goods. Because it doesn’t contain any sodium.

Potassium bicarbonate might be an ideal substitution for people who are trying to reduce their sodium intake.

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 (9).

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

What is the best way to store baking soda?

Which is the best baking soda brand?

Can you mix baking soda and hydrogen peroxide?


This brief article has answered the question, “What Can You Substitute For Baking Soda?” with an in-depth analysis of baking powder, the substitutes for baking soda, how to use them, and important points to keep in mind while using them.


  1. Sivakumar, D., et al. Effect of ammonium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate on anthracnose of papaya. Phytoparasitica, 2002, 30, 486-492.
  2. Alarifi, Waad A. Comparative Antimicrobial Studies between Commercial Deodorants, Alum, Sodium Bicarbonate and Lemon Against Sweat Odor Bacteria. Cohesive J Microbiol Infect Dis. 2020. 
  3. 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.
  4. Rusyniak, Daniel E., et al. Life-threatening hyperkalemia from cream of tartar ingestion. J Med Toxicol, 2013, 9, 79-81.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.  
  7. Panghal, Anil, C. V. Navnidhi, and B. S. Khatkar. Effects of minor ingredients on quality of cookies. Ann Agri-Bio Res, 2011, 16, 79-84.
  8. Kumar, Pawan, et al. Nutritional contents and medicinal properties of wheat: a review. Life Sci Med Res, 2011, 22, 1-10.
  9. 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.