Baking powder is a relatively modern invention that was created to solve a number of problems that came with earlier leavening agents. It performs its task well and is thus an essential item in every baker’s kitchen. If you find yourself needing to seek out a baking powder substitute, consider the options below.
Your best bet: Make your own
The key to making your own baking powder is to understand what makes baking powder work in the first place. For it to work, you need a couple of ingredients that function together to release gas and this is what causes the leavening effect. In the traditional baking powder formula, the active ingredients are baking soda that is paired with an acid. Cream of tartar is a popular acidic option. Traditional baking powder may also include a third ingredient as a way to keep the two main ingredients from reacting with each other before the leavening effect is needed. This third ingredient is usually cornstarch.
To make baking powder, combine 2 parts baking soda with 1 part cream of tartar. The resulting mixture should work just as well as baking powder so you can use the same amount of it that your recipe requires for pre-made baking powder.
A decent second choice: Self-rising flour
Self-rising flour is all-purpose white flour that has baking powder already mixed into it. The baking powder is precisely measured and evenly distributed in the flour to ensure consistent leavening. You get approximately 2 teaspoons of baking powder in each cup of self-rising flour. You can reduce the amount of baking powder by adding plain all-purpose flour to dilute the mixture. For example, you can cut the baking powder in half to 1 teaspoon per cup by combining half a cup of all-purpose flour with half a cup of self-rising flour.
The drawback of using self-rising flour is that even though you can reduce the concentration of the leavening agent, there is no way to increase it. You can only use it as a baking powder substitute in recipes that require 2 teaspoons or less of baking powder for every cup of flour.
In a pinch: Yeast
Historians believe that yeast may have been in use since before the invention of written language. Yeast has been in use for fermenting alcohol and making bread for more than 5,000 years. These microscopic organisms consume sugar and excrete carbon dioxide and alcohol. The carbon dioxide is what makes it such an effective leavening agent and is also what can make it an excellent substitute for baking powder.
Yeast is best used as a baking powder substitute in recipes for rolls and other types of bread; however, it is possible to make baked goods like pound cakes that are raised with yeast instead of baking powder. While the correct amount varies depending on the recipe, you will usually want to use about 2 teaspoons of yeast to every 4 cups of flour in your recipe.
Together, buttermilk and baking soda make an effective alternative to baking powder. The combination includes the main ingredient in baking powder, which is baking soda. It also contains an acid in the form of buttermilk, a fermented dairy product with a sour note. The acidity from the buttermilk reacts with the baking soda to create a leavening effect. Yogurt can be used in place of buttermilk as it is also acidic.