Here’s what to do in a pinch.

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No baking soda? No problem. Here’s everything you need to know about replacing baking soda in a recipe: 

What Does Baking Soda Do? 

Close-Up Of Baking Soda In Jar On White Background
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Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a chemical leavener, which means it’s something you use in baked goods to make them rise

So how does it work? Let’s take it back to high school chemistry: Since baking soda is a base, it’s activated when combined with an acid. You’ll notice that most recipes that call for baking soda also call for one or more acidic ingredients (like buttermilk, lemon juice, or sugar). The chemical reaction that comes from this activation creates carbon dioxide, which causes the dough or batter to rise. 

Can You Leave Out Baking Soda? 

Female mixing flour with eggs with hands
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You technically can leave out baking soda in certain recipes (like chocolate chip cookies or pancakes) in a pinch, but you need to understand that your finished product will not be as light and fluffy as the recipe intended. Unless you have no other option, you really should use a leavening substitute. 

Other baked goods that rely more on rising — like cakes, muffins, and breads — cannot be made without baking soda or an acceptable alternative. 

Baking Soda Substitutes

Baking ingredients top view
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If you find yourself baking without baking soda, a grocery store run may not be in order after all. Try one of these alternatives you may already have in your kitchen:

Baking Powder

Baking powder is, without a doubt, the best baking soda substitute you can find. They’re not the same thing (baking soda is about three times stronger), but they are both leavening agents that work in similar ways. Substitution works better when you’re dealing with something sugar-based and dense because the ingredients can produce different textures when used alone.  

How to substitute: Use a 1:3 ratio (if your recipe calls for one teaspoon of baking soda, use three teaspoons of baking powder)

Self-Rising Flour

Self-rising flour is a combination of all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt that allows baked goods to rise without adding a separate leavening ingredient. If you’re a bread baker, you may already have this ingredient on hand. 

How to substitute: It’s a little bit tricky to substitute self-rising flour for baking soda, because you’ll need to change the rest of your recipe as well. Each cup of self-rising flour contains approximately 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt, so it’ll take a bit of mental gymnastics to figure out how much of those ingredients to use. 

Egg Whites

Whipped egg whites can give your recipe structure and add leavening abilities. They work better when substituted for baking powder, but can work as a baking soda alternative in a pinch. 

How to substitute: Beat egg whites until foamy and stiff. Measure the whites in a liquid measuring cup and replace an equal amount of liquid in the recipe (if you have two tablespoons of egg whites, take out two tablespoons of liquid, like milk). 

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