Baking soda is an alkaline (non-acidic) powder that helps baked goods to rise. It’s otherwise known as sodium bicarbonate.
When it’s mixed with an acidic substance, a chemical reaction occurs. The release of carbon dioxide infuses air into baked items and gives them lift and structure.
In savory foods, it is also used to make chicken skin extra crispy. Added to beans during cooking, it can soften and “de-gas” them. This makes for a less embarrassing experience after eating them.
As an experienced pastry chef, I’ve been able to learn a lot about how baking soda works as a leavener. Knowing how it works makes it easier to choose the right substitute for a recipe.
Replacing baking soda can range from very easy to requiring some experimentation. For every kind of recipe, here are 4 simple baking soda alternatives that can get the job done.
4 Simple Substitutes for Baking Soda
1. Baking Powder
Baking powder is a pre-blended leavening powder. It’s made of baking soda, cream of tartar, and a bit of desiccant filler like cornstarch.
It’s easy to find baking powder at any grocery store. Because it contains baking soda, it creates similar results without needing many adjustments.
It works as a substitute for baking soda in cookies, cakes, quick breads, and pancakes. You can also use it as a chicken rub to make the skin super crispy.
To substitute baking powder, use a 3:1 ratio of baking powder to baking soda. So for every 1 teaspoon of baking soda in your recipe, replace it with 3 teaspoons (or 1 tablespoon) of baking powder.
Pro tip: Since you need to use a larger quantity of it, baking powder can leave a salty flavor behind. You may want to cut the amount of salt in your recipe by half to adjust for taste.
2. Whipped Egg Whites
Egg whites are a natural way to replace the effect of baking soda in your baked items. When they’re whipped, the tiny air bubbles give lift and structure to your recipes when baked.
They’re also something most people already have on hand in the fridge.
Whipped egg whites are the ideal substitute for baking soda in batter-based recipes. These include cakes, quick breads, pancakes, and muffins.
Because cookie doughs are so dense, egg whites might not be the best replacement to use in cookies.
Try substituting the liquids in your recipe with egg whites at a 1:1 ratio. Using weight measurements tends to work better than volume measurements.
Separate the egg whites from the yolks. Beat the egg whites with an electric hand mixer, or in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment.
Start whipping on low speed until the whites are foamy. Then bump it up to high speed and continue whipping until whites form soft peaks.
Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the rest of your ingredients before baking. Be careful not to overmix and deflate them.
Pro Tip: If your recipe already calls for whole eggs, separate your eggs. Mix the yolks in first when it’s time to add the eggs. Then gently fold in the whipped egg whites after.
3. Club Soda
This carbonated beverage contains sodium bicarbonate, which is baking soda. So in certain recipes, it can work well as a substitution.
Club soda works best if used to replace water or milk in recipes. For this reason, it’s ideal for pancakes and waffles, cakes, quick breads, and muffins.
This could also be a great substitution to add to the pot when cooking beans. Try replacing ¼ cup of your cooking water with ¼ cup of club soda.
The bubbles in club soda don’t last very long. So mixing and baking quickly after you add club soda is essential for baked items.
To use this substitution, replace the liquids in your recipe at a 1:1 ratio with club soda. Mix lightly and quickly to keep as many bubbles intact as possible. Then bake it right away once mixed.
4. Self-Rising Flour
Self-rising flour is a pre-made mixture of all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. It can substitute baking soda in any recipe that already contains all-purpose flour.
To use it, you can use a 1:1 ratio of self-rising flour to all-purpose flour. However, you will need to make some extra adjustments.
Baking recipes that rely on baking soda as their primary leavener need an acid to activate. The baking powder in self-rising flour already contains this acid, so you’ll need to switch out the acidic ingredients in your original recipe as follows.
If your original recipe contains cocoa powder, you can replace it with (alkalized) dutch-processed cocoa.
Replace 1 tablespoon of lemon juice with ½ teaspoon of lemon zest. This allows you to keep the flavor without the acidity.
To replace buttermilk (which is also acidic), switch to whole or non-dairy milk. If you want to preserve some of that buttermilk flavor, only replace ¾ of it with plain milk.
Final Tips on Using Baking Soda Substitutes
When substituting baking soda, be aware of how much liquid you’re adding into your recipe. With substitutes like egg whites and club soda, subtract the same weight of liquids that you add in.
If you’re using baking powder or self-rising flour in place of baking soda, adjust the acidic ingredients in your recipe. Switch out buttermilk, lemon, and cocoa powder for less acidic versions.
Baking soda also helps add golden-brown color to baked goods. To keep that golden hue, brush the tops of your pastries with egg wash, milk, cream, or non-dairy milk right before baking.
Finally, don’t fret if you have a recipe that contains both baking powder and baking soda. First replace the baking soda with 3 times the amount of baking powder. Then add this to the rest of the baking powder that’s called for in your recipe.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the best substitute for baking soda?
Baking powder is the easiest substitute. Use 3 teaspoons of baking powder to replace 1 teaspoon of baking soda. Reduce the salt in your recipe by half for flavor.
What’s the best baking soda substitute for chocolate chip cookies?
Baking powder is your best bet. For every teaspoon of baking soda, replace it with 3 teaspoons of baking powder. Reduce the salt in your recipe by half.
What’s the best baking soda substitute for banana bread?
Baking powder works perfectly in banana bread. Replace 1 teaspoon of baking soda with 3 teaspoons of baking powder.