Can You Bake Without Baking Powder?

Baking powder is a standard ingredient in baking, but can you bake without it?

What Is Baking Powder?

Baking powder is a leavening agent used in baking and is made mostly from sodium bicarbonate.

Its main job is to make light and fluffy cake or fluffy pancakes and can typically be found in the spice aisle or baking aisle of your local supermarket.

As a leavening agent baking powder produces carbon dioxide in baking products and this causes them to rise.

In addition to having sodium bicarbonate baking powder may also contain a filler such as cornstarch.

Is Baking Soda The Same As Baking Powder?

Baking soda may sound like the same thing as baking powder, but there are important differences.

Baking soda does not have the additional acidic ingredient that baking powder contains.

The acidic ingredient in baking powder is cream of tartar or potassium hydrogen tartrate.

So if you are using baking soda instead of baking powder you will need to add a type of acid as well.

Acid reacts with the baking soda to make carbon dioxide gas in the cake batter and in the baked goods in the oven.

A third of a teaspoon of baking soda is typically the equivalent of a teaspoon of baking powder.

Too much baking soda can create a larger than desired leavening effect and create a sour taste in your recipe.

Are There Any Baking Powder Substitutes?

A baking powder substitute acts in the same way which is to raise baked goods.

To do this it needs to be able to produce carbon dioxide gas in the batter and while the baking is going on.

This chemical reaction makes sure that your baking recipes turn out as they should, light and fluffy.

To make your own baking powder you can use baking soda and add an acid such as lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.

So if your recipe calls for baking powder, and you don’t have any what can you use instead to help your baked goods rise?

What Are The Best Baking Powder Substitutes?

What Are The Best Baking Powder Substitutes?

If you are substituting baking powder there are a few options.

Most will be added in order to activate baking soda as this is needed to achieve the same leavening effect as baking powder.

So what is the best baking powder substitute?

Cream Of Tartar

An excellent baking powder substitute, cream of tartar can be added to baking soda at a ratio of 2:1.

So replace a teaspoon of baking powder with a quarter teaspoon of baking soda and half a teaspoon of cream of tartar.

Self Rising Flour

This is a convenient substitute and is sometimes referred to as self raising flour or just raising flour.

It is different to all purpose flour in that it contains baking powder and some salt. There is no need to add baking powder or baking soda.


Buttermilk is acidic and can be used with sodium bicarbonate as a baking powder substitute.

However as you are adding a liquid as part of your leavening you may need to reduce the amount of other liquids that your recipe calls for.

Sour Milk

A homemade baking powder can be just as effective by adding sour milk to baking soda.

Sour milk is a fermented dairy product and contains lactic acid.

It can be used in the same way with baking soda as buttermilk or plain yogurt.

Plain Yogurt

Plain yogurt is another ingredient that can be added to baking soda to create a baking powder substitute.

It is important to add plain yogurt as an acidic substitute and not flavored yogurt.


White vinegar or apple cider vinegar can be added to baking soda as a substitute for baking powder.

White vinegar has a more neutral flavor but if you are really stuck you can use apple cider vinegar.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is a citric acid and has a strong flavor.

For this reason you should only use it in recipes that require a small amount of baking powder, or it may alter the flavor profile.

To use lemon juice as a baking powder substitute add the baking soda to the dry ingredients and the lemon juice to the wet ingredients.

Club Soda

For recipes that only require a small amount of leavening you can use club soda.

This is because although club soda contains sodium bicarbonate it only has a minimal amount.


This may seem an odd addition to the list of baking powder substitutes and while it isn’t very acidic it can have similar leavening properties when added to baking soda.

To replace a teaspoon of baking powder add a quarter teaspoon of molasses and a quarter teaspoon of baking soda.

Whipped Egg Whites

You can also replace baking powder by adding whipped egg whites, but this will only work with some recipes such as pancakes, waffles or angel food cake.

How Do You Choose The Best Baking Powder Substitute?

If you find yourself without baking powder how do you choose which of the substitutes to use?

The answer is it depends on the recipe. You need to bear in mind the flavor profile of your baked goods.

For instance vinegar may add a sour taste while molasses will add to the sweetness.

If you are using a liquid substitute for baking powder you will need to adjust the volume of other liquids in the recipe to maintain the right texture and consistency.

Substitutes with a strong flavor such as apple cider vinegar may require you to adjust the amounts of other ingredients.

But cream of tartar as baking powder substitute will typically not affect the flavor of your baked goods.

Final Thoughts

Baking powder is an essential ingredient in a lot of baking recipes but if you find yourself without baking powder don’t despair there are alternatives.

Depending on the amount of leavening that you need one of these substitutes will normally work just as well.

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Kathryn Sewell

Hi! I'm Kate and I have been baking and cooking for as long as I can remember. I like to share the most interesting tips and recipes I try here on What Kate Baked for you to enjoy. If you have a favorite recipe you'd like to share send it over on social.

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