Baking is known as an exact science: precise measurements that lead to repeatable, consistent results. Unlike cooking, which can be done with much looser measurements, even the smallest changes in ingredients to a baking recipe can yield entirely different results, both texturally and in terms of flavor profile. This measurement-driven, scientific basis for baking is part of what makes baking substitutions difficult, particularly when attempting to change chemical agents within the recipe.
One of the most common ingredients in baked goods is baking soda. While many baking recipes call for a small amount of baking soda, do not make the mistake of underestimating its role in the baking process. So what do you do if you are looking for replacements for baking soda? While there are baking replacements, they function slightly differently within the recipe due to their unique chemical composition and how they interact with other ingredients.
If you’re wondering what to use instead of baking soda, you can use potassium bicarbonate, baking powder or yeast. If you use potassium bicarbonate, you will need to add salt (1 teaspoon for every 3 teaspoons of potassium bicarbonate). If you substitute with baking powder, you should use a one-to-three ratio (for every one teaspoon of baking soda use three teaspoons of baking powder). To help you determine the most suitable baking soda replacement, we have compiled information about these viable baking soda replacements, what they are and how they function, and tips to optimize their inclusion in the recipe.
An Introduction to Baking Soda
Before exploring possible baking soda replacements, it is necessary first to understand what baking soda is. Baking soda is also referred to as sodium bicarbonate, sodium hydrogen carbonate and bicarbonate of soda. Baking soda is comprised of bicarbonate ions and sodium ions and is identified by the chemical formula NaHCO3. Baking soda is derived from a mineral called nahcolite. Nahcolite is found in a variety of locations around the world and is commercially mined in areas of Botswana, Kenya, Colorado and California. Large deposits of nahcolite have also been found in Turkey, Mexico and Uganda. Baking soda is a base mineral that reacts when combined when an acid. When baking soda is combined with something acidic, it produces carbon dioxide. If you remember the foamy eruption of the elementary school science fair volcanoes, then you have seen the effects of baking soda in action!
In baking, baking soda functions as a chemical leavening agent, which means that it helps the dough or batter to rise. How does it accomplish such a feat? Baking soda’s ability to improve and enhance baked goods stems from its chemical properties. When baking soda is included in a baking recipe and is combined with an acidic ingredient, such as pumpkin, maple syrup, brown sugar, buttermilk, lemon juice or molasses, it generates a chemical reaction. The combination of the baking soda with an acidic agent causes the baking soda to produce carbon dioxide gas and bubbles, which results in the batter or dough rising. Baking soda gives baked goods a coarse, chewy texture that is unique and often highly desirable. If you forget to add a leavener to your baking recipe, you will find that it is often much more firm and flat as a result. With this understanding of baking soda in mind, it is now possible to examine a handful of baking soda replacements.
The Top Baking Soda Replacements
Finding a baking soda replacement can be tricky because of the important role it plays in baking, but it can be done. When considering replacing baking soda in a recipe, be careful to take stock of what kind of recipe it is and what other ingredients are in the recipe. If it is a recipe with a significant amount of acidic ingredients, then utilizing a baking soda replacement may not produce the results you are looking for. Below are a handful of the most commonly utilized baking soda replacements, as well as a short description of what they are and how they function within baking.
Potassium bicarbonate is widely considered to be one of the best substitutes for baking soda in a recipe. This is because potassium bicarbonate has the same leavening capabilities as baking soda, but there is one distinct difference: it does not contain any of the sodium that baking soda possesses. Because it does not have sodium, potassium bicarbonate is often recommended for individuals who have heart or circulatory issues and those who are attempting to limit their consumption of sodium. While baking soda is extremely accessible and is often available in grocery stores, potassium bicarbonate does not have the same level of accessibility and is often not found in a typical grocery store. To find potassium bicarbonate, it is often best to look online or in the supplement section of a drugstore or natural foods store, since it is commonly used to aid individuals suffering from high blood pressure or acid reflux.
Baking powder is commonly regarded as the best substitute for baking soda, but this can be misleading without a full understanding of the composition of baking powder. As mentioned above, baking soda is sodium bicarbonate. Baking powder, on the other hand, is made up of the combination of baking soda, an acid, and an inert stabilizer (an inactive ingredient that keeps the mixture from reacting). The most common combination to make up baking powder is baking soda, cream of tartar (a dry acid) and cornstarch (an inert stabilizer). In essence, baking powder is, at least in part, made up of baking soda. This means if you are attempting to remove baking soda and its derivatives from your recipe entirely, then baking powder is not the right substitute for you. However, if you do not have this goal in mind, then baking powder is a wonderful substitute for baking soda. Keep in mind that baking powder will produce a slightly different texture than baking soda. While baking soda produces baked goods that are coarse and chewy, baking powder results in a light, fine texture.
Yeast is a unique baking soda substitute in that it is not a chemical compound--rather it is one hundred percent natural and is rich in vitamin C, iron, and calcium. Similarly to baking soda, yeast helps baked goods to rise. Some individuals prefer yeast to baking soda because it doesn’t have a bitter flavor like baking soda or baking powder, and it is considered a nutritious ingredient. In addition, yeast does not contain gluten. Yeast comes in a variety of forms, the most common being active dry yeast and rapid rise active dry yeast. Keep in mind that yeast has a unique flavor and should be utilized when doing a substitution in a bread or cooking recipe, rather than when creating a sweet baked good, such as a cookie. Yeast is ideally suited for use in a bread recipe, as it will add a unique, delicious flavor and a light, airy texture.
Tips for Using Baking Soda Replacements
As with any type of replacement baking, such as using an egg replacer or flour replacer for gluten-free baking, using a baking soda replacement may take a bit of trial and error to achieve the results you want, but there are a handful of tactics you can use to stay ahead of the learning curve and improve your initial results. There is no true one-to-one replacement to baking soda, so there are other factors that need to be considered and accounted for to make a baking soda replacement work as well as it can. Below are a handful of tips for using baking soda replacements.
- If using potassium bicarbonate, add some salt. If you are using potassium bicarbonate as a replacement to avoid sodium, disregard this tip. Potassium bicarbonate will lack the salt flavor that baking soda imparts. To balance this out, add one teaspoon of salt for every two to three teaspoons of potassium bicarbonate.
- Be mindful of the conversion ratio. Not all baking soda replacements are a one-to-one replacement. While potassium bicarbonate does not require any adjustment (it is a one-to-one swap), baking powder is significantly less potent than baking soda. When swapping baking powder for baking soda, use a one-to-three ratio, which means that for every one teaspoon of baking soda the recipe calls for, add three teaspoons of baking powder.
- Use double-acting baking powder. As mentioned above, baking soda is much stronger than baking powder. To achieve more comparable results, use double-acting baking powder instead of single-acting baking powder. It will achieve a better rise in baked goods.
- Replace acidic liquids with non-acidic liquids. When using both potassium bicarbonate and baking powder as a baking soda substitute, it is better to replace acidic liquids in the recipe with non-acidic liquids. Often, the best liquids to replace acidic liquids are milk or water. The acid present in the liquid can halt the leavening reaction in the chemical agents and produce less of a rise than is desired. When replacing acidic liquids, use a one-to-one ratio with a non-acidic liquid and be mindful of maintaining the flavor profile. For example, if the recipe calls for citrus juice and you are replacing it with water or milk, include citrus zest in the recipe to make sure that the desired flavor is still achieved.