Baking powder is like your car keys: You can never find it when you need it the most. If you find yourself wrist-deep in cookie-dough-to-be when you realize you don’t have any, don’t panic. There are plenty of substitutes for baking powder that can pull dessert together in a pinch. In fact, you probably have some in your kitchen right this minute.

7 Substitutes for Baking Powder That Are Just as Good as the Real Thing
Photo: Liz Andrews/Styling: Erin McDowell

So, What Is Baking Powder?

If you remember that model volcano project from your middle school science class, you know how baking powder works. It contains cream of tartar, an acid, and baking soda, a base. Together, they create a chemical reaction that makes dough- and batter-inflating bubbles, aka carbon dioxide. This is how baking powder gives rise to baked goods and makes cakes, breads and cookies so light and fluffy.

Another secret power: Baking powder can make chicken ultra-crispy. How? It raises the pH of the chicken’s skin when used instead of flour in dredging, then breaks down the proteins and creates carbon dioxide bubbles all over the bird. After a night in the fridge, the chicken will turn brown and crackly when roasted.

If you’re looking for something else to do baking powder’s job, it’ll just take a little bit of science…and digging around in your pantry. 

1. Baking soda and cream of tartar

Why not start with the parts of the whole? Baking powder comes prepackaged with these two ingredients, so take a crack at making your own. Combine 1 teaspoon of baking soda for every 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar, then substitute for baking powder at a 1:1 ratio.

2. Baking soda and lemon juice

Remember what we said about a base and acid creating a chemical reaction? This is the same idea, except the lemon is acting as an acid as opposed to cream of tartar. Because baking soda is four times as reactive as baking powder, ¼ teaspoon of the former is as strong as 1 teaspoon of the latter. See how much baking powder the recipe calls for and divide it by four to get the equivalent baking soda amount. Then, combine that with twice as much lemon juice. (For example, if a recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of baking powder, substitute ½ teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon lemon juice.)

3. Baking soda and dairy

Buttermilk or plain yogurt are your best bets here. Buttermilk is made by adding bacterial cultures to milk that reduce sugars to acids during fermentation. That acidity makes it a great reactor to pair with baking soda. It’s the same deal with yogurt. Just be sure to reduce other liquid in the recipe for either swap to compensate. Substitute 1 teaspoon of baking powder with ¼ teaspoon of baking soda and ½ cup of either buttermilk or yogurt.

4. Baking soda and vinegar

Vinegar is another acid alternative that can help with leavening. Don’t worry about its flavor tainting your dessert; it does a good job of disguising itself in the mix. Nevertheless, this is a decent sub if only a small amount of baking powder is needed. Swap ¼ baking soda and ½ teaspoon vinegar for every teaspoon of baking powder.

5. Club soda

That’s right, you can still pull that recipe off without baking powder or baking soda. Club soda’s main ingredient is sodium bicarbonate, meaning it’s basically baking soda in liquid form. Replace the liquids called for in your recipe with club soda 1:1.

6. Self-rising flour

This handy product helps goodies get tall and fluffy because it consists of all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt. If you’re missing both baking powder and baking soda, this could be a quick fix. Substitute for all-purpose flour in equal amounts and ignore the recipe’s instructions for additional baking powder and baking soda.

7. Beaten egg whites

Whisking eggs fills them with air, aiding in leavening. This should help fluff up cakes, muffins, pancakes and other batter recipes. If the recipe already calls for eggs, first separate the yolks from the whites. Add the yolks to the rest of the liquids and beat the whites with some sugar from the recipe until light and fluffy. Then, gently fold them into the remaining ingredients. Keep as much air in the batter as possible.

Looking for more ingredient substitutes?

Ready to cook? Here are some of our favorite recipes that call for baking powder.

RELATED: 7 Surprising Uses for Baking Soda

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