5 Substitutes for Baking Soda

Baking Soda

By BURCU ATALAY TANKUT

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Baking enthusiasts are all too familiar with baking soda—a staple ingredient essential for leavening in baked goods. Want a soft and fluffy cake? Don’t forget the baking soda!

Also known as sodium bicarbonate, baking soda causes a chemical reaction when combined with acidic compounds (think cream of tartar, lemon juice, yogurt, buttermilk, or vinegar) that's responsible for the characteristic texture of baked goods. When baking soda mixes with the acid, carbon dioxide is released, causing the batter to rise and expand, resulting in the rise, lift, and tender texture distinct to cakes, quick breads, and pancakes.

If you don't use baking soda often, it may not have a permanent home in your pantry. Even if it does, less frequent usage may mean your current box is expired. This doesn't mean your baked goods have to go without a leavening agent! There are a few alternatives to help you create that same soft, fluffy texture.

Why Use an Alternative?

You could leave baking soda out of your recipe, but remember, the end product won’t be the same. Your cookies will probably be flat and your pancakes won’t be light and fluffy. They’ll still taste good, but you'll notice textural changes.

If flat cookies and dense pancakes aren’t what you had in mind, an alternative is ideal. Without a sufficient alternative that can provide a similar action of baking soda, you'll end up with a food you may not recognize in shape, texture, and flavor.

Baking Soda Nutrition

The nutrition information for 1 teaspoon (4.6 grams) of baking soda is provided by the USDA.

Baking Soda Nutrition Facts

  • Calories: 0
  • Protein: 0g
  • Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Sodium: 1260mg

Baking Soda Substitutes

Use one of these baking soda substitutes when you’re in a pinch and need a leavening agent to bring baked goods to the next level.

Baking Powder

Baking powder is the top alternative to baking soda. The biggest difference between baking soda and baking powder is that baking powder already contains an acid. So if you’re using baking powder in place of baking soda in a recipe, you’ll need 2 to 3 times as much to create the same rise that baking soda would.

A good rule of thumb is to use 3 teaspoons of baking powder for 1 teaspoon of baking soda.

Since baking powder already contains acid, you may no longer need the acidic ingredients your recipe calls for. Consider reducing or replacing those ingredients to preserve the intended flavor of your recipe.

It’s important to note that using baking powder in place of baking soda may cause your recipe to taste saltier than it should. To compensate, try reducing the salt in your recipe by half of what is called for.

Self Rising Flour

Self-rising flour can be used as a substitute for baking soda when you’re making a recipe that also contains flour. One cup of self-rising flour contains 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder. So if your recipe calls for three cups of flour, using self-rising flour provides enough baking powder to substitute for 1.5 teaspoon of baking soda.

Self-rising flour also contains salt, so you won’t need to add any to your recipe.

To use self-rising flour as a substitute for baking soda, replace the flour in your recipe with self-rising flour and leave out the salt.

Keep in mind you may need to adjust the acidic ingredients of your recipe as well since self-rising flour contains baking powder (which also contains an acid). For example, if your recipe calls for cream of tartar, you can simply leave it out. But if your recipe calls for buttermilk, try using regular milk instead.

If you're not used to making substitutions in baking, it's going to take a little trial and error. Be prepared to scrap a batch if the ratios didn't come out quite right the first time around.

Egg Whites

Whipped egg whites can work in place of baking soda in a recipe to provide lift and structure. Beaten egg whites place air within the batter helping the baked good to rise.

To use egg whites as a baking soda substitute, whip egg whites until stiff then fold them into your batter. Be sure to eliminate some of the liquid in the recipe to compensate for the liquid the egg whites add. For example, if you have 1/4 cup of egg whites, omit 1/4 cup of milk.

Or if your recipe calls for eggs, separate the whites from the yolk, stir in the yolks, and whip the egg whites. Then fold the egg whites into the batter. Continue with the recipe from there.

Baker's Ammonia

Baker's Ammonia, also known as Ammonium Carbonate, was the primary leavening agent used in baking before the invention of baking soda. In fact, you may still come across recipes with baker's ammonia in the ingredients list today.

If you can look past its potent smell, baker's ammonia gives a light, crisp texture to cookies and crackers. It can be used interchangeably (in a 1:1 ratio) with baking soda and baking powder making it an excellent substitute when in a pinch.

If you do decide to use baker's ammonia, the smell dissipates with cooking and does not affect the taste of the end product.

It may not work well for all recipes, so a little trial and error is necessary.

Potassium Bicarbonate and Salt

Potassium bicarbonate is often used in antacids and as a medicine for hyperkalemia. It's also an excellent substitute for baking soda in a 1:1 ratio, however, it lacks the salt found in sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). While it will provide the same leavening function as baking soda, you may need to add salt to your recipe to account for any potential change in flavor.

Since potassium bicarbonate does not contain sodium, it's the perfect leavening choice for someone who is trying to watch their salt intake.

Figuring out how much salt you'll need to add to your recipe may not be so easy. Start with 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt for every teaspoon of potassium bicarbonate used in the recipe.

A Word from Verywell

Baking soda is an important ingredient in baked goods and bread. Leaving it out will change the flavor and texture of the food in an unpleasant way. While there are substitutes, if your recipe calls for baking soda, it's important to use it whenever possible.

If you find yourself in need of baking soda quickly, baking powder is your easiest and most readily available option. But if you're out of baking powder, another alternative may suffice.

It may take a little trial and error to replace baking soda in your recipe. So if you don't have enough ingredients to potentially make a couple of batches, it may be better to wait until you can get what you need before making your recipe. Otherwise, a little experimentation will only help you become a better home baker.

7 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information (2021). PubChem Compound Summary for CID 516892, Sodium bicarbonate.

  3. FoodData Central. Baking soda.

  4. Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 Sec. 137.180 Self Rising Flour

  5. Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 Vol. 3 21CFR184.1135

  6. McCrory, P. Smelling salts. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2006;40:659-660. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2006.029710

  7. National Center for Biotechnology Information (2021). PubChem Compound Summary for CID 516893, Potassium bicarbonate.

By Shoshana Pritzker RD, CDN, CSSD, CISSN
Shoshana Pritzker RD, CDN is a Sports and Pediatric Dietitian, the owner of Nutrition by Shoshana, and is the author of "Carb Cycling for Weight Loss." She's been writing and creating content in the health, nutrition, and fitness space for over 15 years and is regularly featured in Oxygen Magazine, JennyCraig.com, and more.