Ingredient Intelligence

What’s the Best Substitute for Baking Soda?

published Mar 19, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Here’s the situation: You have a hankering for something sweet so you pop into the kitchen to start baking up something really good. You’re mixing the dry ingredients together, only to reach into the fridge (because it’s the best storage spot after all), only to discover you’re out of baking soda. Running to the store isn’t an option and you don’t want to abandon ship — what do you do? The good news is that there’s a simple substitute that works just as well, and you probably have it in the pantry right now.

But First, Baking Powder Is Not the Same as Baking Soda

First things first, before you reach into the pantry for that can of baking powder, a quick reminder that baking powder isn’t the same thing as baking soda. While both are odorless white powders that act as leavening agents to make baked good rise, they work in different ways. The most important thing you need to remember is that baking soda relies on an acidic ingredient, like buttermilk, lemon juice, vinegar, or sour cream, to help give the recipe a proper rise and ensure there’s no aftertaste. Baking powder, on the other hand, is basically just baking soda with acid added in, and does not require an additional acidic ingredient in order to help baked goods rise.

You Can Substitute Baking Powder for Baking Soda, but There’s a Catch

While there are several ways to make a substitute for baking soda, the simplest and easiest, and thus, in our opinion, the best way is using baking powder. It’s more than likely you already have some stashed in the pantry, while other swaps call for ingredients, like self-rising flour or sodium bicarbonate, that you’re less likely have handy.

Since baking powder isn’t quite as strong of a leavening agent as baking soda, you’ll need to use more. As a rule of thumb, when substituting baking powder for baking soda, use triple the amount of baking soda called for in the recipe. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon baking soda, use 3 teaspoons baking powder.

It’s worth noting that since baking powder contains a bit of acid, that whatever you’re baking might have a more acidic taste. While it’s not essential, one way you can temper this is swapping the acidic liquid in the recipe for something more neutral, like using whole milk in place of buttermilk and cutting lemon juice with water.

Is it a perfect swap? No, but that’s often the case when making a swap for important ingredients in any recipe. In a pinch, when you’re out of baking soda, using three times the amount of baking powder will get the job done and give your baked good a decent rise.

Have you ever tried making a baking soda substitute at home?