If you’ve decided to bake a fresh batch of cookies, you certainly have a lot of types to choose from, so whether you want chocolate chip, sugar, peanut butter, or snickerdoodle cookies, it should be easy to find the ultimate recipe.
If you either have no baking soda or baking powder on hand or you’re just interested in doing something different for a change, it’s easy to wonder if making delicious cookies without one of those ingredients is even possible.
Fortunately, you can indeed make cookies without using baking soda or baking powder; however, the cookies will come out differently in the end. It doesn’t mean the cookies are any better or worse than cookies made with baking soda or baking powder, but there is a definite difference in the cookies, particularly in their texture and denseness.
Indeed, once you learn the tips and suggestions you need to follow when baking cookies without baking soda in them, you’ll realize just how simple all of this is.
What Baking Soda/Baking Powder Does
Baking soda and baking powder have specific reasons for being in your cookie recipe, although it is important to remember that the two products are not interchangeable. Here is a brief description of each of them:
Baking soda is a leavening ingredient that must be combined with an acidic ingredient to produce tons of bubbles, also called carbon dioxide, so that the item being baked will rise properly. Not only is baking soda good for making cookies and other items rise, but it also keeps them tender, moist, and fluffy.
Baking powder is another leavening ingredient that does much the same thing as baking soda does, although baking powder already has the acidic ingredients included in the product, so you won’t need to add acids such as lemon juice or vinegar to get the same effect.
Although the two products do many of the same things, it is still crucial to remember that they are not interchangeable. Therefore, you should always follow your recipe exactly as it is written to get the best results for your cookies, breads, and other foods.
Straying from the recipe just a tiny bit can produce disastrous results, so always take all of the steps in your recipe seriously.
Why Would Someone Want to Bake Cookies Without Baking Soda or Powder?
There are two main reasons bakers choose to make cookies without adding baking soda to them. The first one is that they are all ready to bake some delicious homemade cookies from scratch and then they discover that they have no baking soda in their home.
Rather than put all of your ingredients away and dispose of the idea of making homemade cookies, you can simply choose another baking soda-free recipe instead.
Another reason for not using baking soda is if you are allergic to this ingredient. This is extremely rare, but it does happen. If you are allergic to baking soda or baking powder, you simply cannot use it in any of your cookie recipes.
Finally, since the lack of baking soda tends to make your cookies a little denser than normal, some people eliminate this ingredient from the recipe for that specific purpose.
In other words, they want their cookies to be thicker and heavier than most cookies. If this is your preference, eliminating baking soda from your recipe is the perfect choice.
Can You Substitute Other Items for the Baking Soda?
If you’re in a bind and discover that you have no baking soda for your recipe, you can substitute other items in its place. Keep in mind that the taste and texture may be a little bit different when you’re done, but it shouldn’t be enough of a difference that the cookies just taste bad.
Here are a few ingredients you can use in place of baking soda:
1 – Potassium Bicarbonate and Salt
Potassium bicarbonate is normally used as a dietary supplement and therefore can be found in many health food and vitamin stores. It doesn’t contain any sodium, which means the taste of the cookies might be a little different once they’re done baking.
If you don’t have to watch your intake of salt, you can always add salt to the mixture, which should consist of 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt to every teaspoon of potassium bicarbonate that you use.
Then, use this mixture in a 1:1 ratio when you substitute the baking soda. In other words, if your recipe calls for two teaspoons of baking soda, you can substitute a mixture of two teaspoons of the potassium bicarbonate/salt mixture instead.
You can also simply add a tiny bit of additional salt over what is called for in the recipe. Either of these will do.
2 – Self-Rising Flour
Not for the novice baker, using self-rising flour in place of baking soda can be a bit tricky when it comes to the ratio you should use.
Self-rising flour is a combination of all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. Since baking powder already contains the acids it needs to do its job, you’ll need to make some adjustments to the amount of self-rising flour used.
For instance, if you’re using buttermilk as your acid for the recipe, you can use regular milk instead. Remember, self-rising flour already has the acidic ingredients it needs, and you’ll mess up the combination if you add more.
As far as the exact amount to use, you’ll likely have to do some trial and error to get the best results. Again, this option is not for inexperienced bakers, but a more seasoned baker will be able to determine exactly how much self-rising flour to use.
3 – Baker’s Ammonia
Also called ammonium carbonate, this ingredient was used in baking various products around the 13th century until baking soda and baking powder became the norm.
When you use this ingredient instead of baking soda, you can use a 1:1 ratio; in other words, if the recipe calls for one teaspoon of baking soda, you can use one teaspoon of baker’s ammonia instead.
However, you also need to keep in mind that it doesn’t work for all recipes. Baker’s ammonia mainly provides a crispiness that many people aim for when baking certain food items, and you may not want this for your cookies.
Moreover, much like baking soda, baker’s ammonia produces carbon dioxide when mixed with heat and acid, but it also creates ammonia, which can smell just awful.
The best cookies to use baker’s ammonia on are those that are thin and light. If you use it on thick products such as muffins, not all of the ammonia will be able to escape, which means you’ll have to put up with that odor.
4 – Baking Powder
Okay, we know what we’ve been telling you all this time about baking soda and baking powder not being interchangeable, but if you’re in a bind, here’s what you can do: use baking powder in place of the baking soda, but use three times the amount.
For example, if a recipe calls for one teaspoon of baking soda, you can instead use three teaspoons (one tablespoon) of baking powder.
A word of caution, though. Baking powder can also add a salty and more acidic flavor than baking soda does, so you may want to reduce the amount of salt you add to the recipe if the recipe calls for salt.
In addition, if your recipe calls for any acidic ingredient, such as vinegar or buttermilk, you might want to adjust the amount of that ingredient and make it a little less.
Making Cookies Without Baking Soda
As you can likely tell by this point, baking soda is not a necessity when baking cookies, but the results of using other ingredients in its place can be a little varied to say the least. This is because the effect of the substitution will change depending on what type of cookies you’re baking.
For instance, if you’re making cookies and you want to skip the baking soda, this will work best if you stick with items such as chocolate chip and sugar cookies, as well as products that are already firm and dense, such as English biscuits or shortbread.
Since baking soda adds a certain light, airy character to your cookies and baking without this ingredient means denser products in the end, you need to choose cookies that are already dense and firm to begin with. This way, the baking soda substitute won’t cause too great of a change in the way the cookies look and taste.
If your cookies rely a lot on acidic ingredients such as cream of tartar, vinegar, and lemon juice, the results you get when using something else in place of the baking soda may not be the very best.
For these types of cookies, it really is best to use baking soda or a very close substitute so you can get great results.
Can You Eliminate the Baking Soda in a Cookie Recipe?
If you have no substitute for the baking soda in your recipe, can you skip the ingredient altogether? In theory, yes you can, but don’t expect the cookies to look or feel the same way they would if you would’ve included the baking soda.
Remember, baking soda works with the acids and moisture in the recipe to produce carbon dioxide and make the cookies fluffy and light.
If no baking soda is used, you’ll get cookies that are thick and heavy. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it shouldn’t change the overall taste of the cookies, but it will definitely change the texture and the weight of the cookies, and it might turn those cookies into something you’re not used to eating and which you don’t like.
In general, it is wise to include the baking soda, as well as all of the other ingredients mentioned in the recipe, so that your cookies come out just right. If you don’t have any baking soda, you have two options – substitute the baking soda with another ingredient, or leave it out altogether.
Many bakers have either intentionally or unintentionally left out the baking soda in their cookie recipe, and the results vary when it comes to whether or not they like the cookies that way. Some people find the cookies taste about the same but have a different look, feel, and thickness, while other people despise the taste of cookies made without baking soda.
Without baking soda in your cookies, the cookies won’t be as light or as crispy around the edges. If you’re making lighter cookies or items such as cakes, you really do need baking soda. Without baking soda, cookies and other foods just won’t have the same lightness as they were meant to have.
After all, a dense cookie is one thing, but a dense cake is something else entirely, and it likely won’t be as tasty or as fun to eat.
Depending on the type of cookies you’re making, it’s highly recommended that you use all of the proper ingredients in your recipe in the proper amounts as well. This is especially important with ingredients such as baking soda and baking powder.
Both of these help your cookies rise and get fluffy, so using them just like the creator of the recipe intended you to do is important.
The next-best thing, of course, is to use a substitute for baking soda, which often works even though you may have to play around with it to get it just right. Finally, you can leave the baking soda out altogether, although you should expect to get a denser, heavier cookie in the end.
The more experienced you are in the kitchen, the more successful you’ll be at choosing a good alternative for your baking soda because you’ll be able to tell what ingredient to use and how much of it to use. More experienced bakers will figure it out much sooner than inexperienced bakers what the right combination is.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.