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Baking powder is one of the key ingredients often found in waffle recipes. If you are converting pancake mix into waffle batter, then baking powder is likely already added to the mix. However, if you are making your waffles from scratch, you may be wondering if baking powder is really necessary, or can it be replaced with something else?
When making waffles, baking powder can easily be swapped out for a similar ingredient. The role of baking powder is to add volume and texture to the dish. Items such as buttermilk, cream of tartar, and egg whites can act as an alternative if baking powder isn’t present.
If you don’t have baking powder on hand, don’t put your waffle iron away just yet. There are plenty of replacement ingredients you can use instead. Also, if you are on a low sodium diet read on to find different ways you can make waffles without baking powder or traditional baking soda.
Note that although this article is about substitutes for Baking Powder in waffle making, they work equally well in other types of baking.
Can You Make Waffles Without Baking Powder?
While baking powder is a staple in many kitchens, if you’re not baking regularly, it could be an ingredient that you just don’t have on hand. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to cook up a fluffy plate of waffles without running to the grocery store.
Baking powder can easily be replaced with other staple kitchen ingredients to create the same fluffy texture that makes waffles a family favorite. Substitutes include baking soda, cream of tartar, buttermilk, yogurt, Club soda, beaten egg whites, and a few other ingredients.
The key to using alternatives in the kitchen is understanding what the ingredients are supposed to do, so you can find replacements that will produce the same results.
Also, be aware that you may need to adjust some of the other ingredients in the recipe depending on what you choose to use as a substitute for baking powder. This might be because you need to keep the water content the same or maintain the flavor profile.
Why Is Baking Powder Used to Make Waffles?
Baking powder is a leavening agent containing an alkali and weak acid. When they get wet, a chemical reaction produces bubbles of CO2 gas that cause batter or dough to rise, giving baked goods a fluffy texture. Some baking powders are double-acting, where the heat of baking causes a second release of gas.
However, baking powder is fairly new in terms of baking history. Alfred Bird, an English chemist and food manufacturer produced the first form of baking powder in 1843. However, he concentrated in trying to sell his baking powder to the British Army and explorers. Subsequently, other food manufacturers introduced their own forms of chemical baking powders.
So, before the late 19th century, many households didn’t even know what baking powder was and, instead, used various other ingredients to get their bread, waffles, and pastries to rise.
Knowing the difference between Baking Powder and Baking Soda
Baking Powder is a mixture of Baking Soda, Cream of Tartar, and Cornstarch. Baking soda (a base or alkali), cream of tartar (a weak acid), and cornstarch (a bulking agent and moisture absorber).
The proportions of these ingredients by volume are:
1 part Baking Soda : 2 parts Cream of Tartar : 1 part Cornstarch.
So, in terms of rising power 1 tsp Baking Powder is equivalent to ¼ tsp Baking Soda. Although this assumes there is an acid ingredient in the recipe. In Baking Powder, this is Cream of Tartar.
DO NOT make the mistake of using 1 tsp of Baking Soda instead of 1 tsp Baking Powder. The resulting waffles will have an unpleasant chemical after taste. So, don’t overdo the soda.
Using the ingredient proportions I gave above you can make your own Baking Powder, although it would be a single action Baking Powder, so would start reacting as soon as the baking powder becomes wet. The recipe to make four teaspoons of baking powder would be as follows.
4 tsp Baking Powder = 1 tsp Baking Soda + 2 tsp Cream of Tartar + 1 tsp Cornstarch
When dealing with small quantities it is more important to be accurate with your measurements. Scoop up a teaspoonful of the ingredient and then level it off with the flat edge of a knife. This way you will know you are actually measuring accurate quantities.
Homemade American Waffles Without Baking Powder
Here is my standard American waffle recipe. It includes baking powder, but with each Baking Powder alternative below I will give the correct amount you should use of the alternative, as well as a general guide.
Waffle Batter Ingredients
- 1½ cups Milk
- 2 large Eggs
- 1/3 cup Sunflower or Canola (Rapeseed) Oil
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 2 cups All-purpose Flour (plain flour)
- 2 tsp Granulated Sugar
- Substitute for 2½ tsp Baking Powder
- ¼ teaspoon Salt
Some Alternatives to Using Baking Powder in Waffles
If you don’t have baking powder on hand or are interested in cooking the old-fashioned way, there are plenty of alternatives that you more than likely already have available in your pantry. Here are ten different options that could be used in a waffle recipe without baking powder. Since baking powder includes a base and an acid that react together to produce carbon dioxide, an acidic substitute will also need the addition of a base. Conversely, a basic substitute will need to be matched to an acidic ingredient.
Buttermilk is probably one of the most popular ingredients when it comes to making rich and fluffy pancakes or waffles. You’re likely to find dozens of recipes online that list buttermilk as the main ingredient. But what makes it so special?
Basically, buttermilk is just fermented milk. If you’ve ever measured some out in a glass, you’ll have noticed that it is much thicker than milk and has a bit of an acidic tang. That tang is from the lactic acid produced during fermentation. When mixed with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), the lactic acid in buttermilk reacts with the sodium bicarbonate (which is a base or alkali) to produce a gas that makes dough and batter rise.
- Replace 1 tsp Baking Powder with ¼ tsp Baking Soda + ½ cup of Buttermilk
- For the waffle recipe above use 5/8 tsp of Baking Soda + 1¼ cup of Buttermilk
Remember to reduce the amount of ordinary milk in the recipe by the amount of Buttermilk you are adding.
2: Cream of Tartar and Baking Soda
You may have seen a jar of cream of tartar sitting in your grandma’s pantry but weren’t sure what it was or what to do with it. While it’s not as popular today, cream of tartar was once a kitchen stable with a myriad of uses.
Cream of tartar is an acidic by-product of winemaking. The main ingredient, tartaric acid, naturally occurs in grapes. As the wine matures in barrels, the tartaric acid in the wine crystallizes, forming a hard crust on the inside of the barrel.
Not only is cream of tartar good for helping waffles rise, but it’s known for its use in making cookies chewy, stabilizing egg whites, and even helping with cleaning around the house.
When waffle making, cream of tartar is the acid that reacts with baking soda to form carbon dioxide bubbles that cause the batter to rise.
- Replace 1 tsp Baking Powder with ¼ tsp Baking Soda + ½ tsp Cream of Tartar
- For the waffle recipe above use 5/8 tsp of Baking Soda + 1¼ tsp Cream of Tartar
3: Beaten Egg Whites
Whipped egg whites are a great alternative to baking powder when making waffles. They work to add fluff to your waffles all on their own, without the need for baking soda to create a chemical reaction. And chances are eggs are in the waffle recipe and an ingredient that is well-stocked in most kitchens.
Whipped egg whites add air, as opposed to just carbon dioxide produced by baking powder or baking soda, to the waffle batter. The air bubbles are spread into the waffle batter as the whipped egg whites are folded in. The tiny bubbles of air increase the volume of the batter and produce the fluffiness of the baked waffle.
After the whites are beaten to form soft peaks, gently fold them into your batter. Do not vigorously mix the whipped egg into the batter with a food mixer or blender since this would release the air bubbles. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to gently fold the egg whites into the batter. The number of eggs needed will vary by recipe, but two to three eggs will usually do the trick, even you will need to add some Baking Soda.
- Replace 1 tsp Baking Powder with ¼ tsp Baking Soda + 1 tsp Lemon Juice + 1 Egg White
- For the waffle recipe above use 5/8 tsp of Baking Soda + 2½ tsp Lemon Juice + 3 Egg Whites
NB. The original recipe includes 2 eggs, so use 2 egg yolks but three egg whites.
We mostly think of molasses as a sweetener, but it can also be used in baking to replace baking powder. You’ll need to combine it with baking soda or potassium bicarbonate, where the molasses plays the role of the acid in the reaction to release gaseous carbon dioxide.
Because molasses has a high sugar and water content you need to reduce the liquid and sugar in your recipe. A disadvantage of using molasses in waffle making is the darker color it will give the waffles.
- Replace 1 tsp Baking Powder with ¼ cup molasses plus ¼ tsp baking soda
- For the waffle recipe above use ½ cup + 2 tbsp molasses plus 2/3 tsp of baking soda
Remember to reduce the amount of sugar and liquid in the recipe by the amount of molasses used.
Yogurt acts in much the same way that buttermilk does. Because it is a fermented milk product, it has a concentration of lactic acid. When mixed with baking soda, yogurt makes a great substitute for baking powder. You’ll just want to make sure to adjust the amount of liquid used in your recipe to offset the addition of the yogurt.
Use plain or Greek yogurt since they do not include additional flavorings. However, if you have vanilla-flavored yogurt, that will be fine if your vanilla is meant to be an ingredient in your waffle recipe.
- Replace 1 tsp Baking Powder with ¼ tsp Baking Soda + ½ cup of Yogurt
- For the waffle recipe above use 5/8 tsp of Baking Soda + 1¼ cup of Yogurt
Remember to reduce the amount of ordinary milk in the recipe by the amount of Yogurt you are adding.
6: Club Soda
Club soda is often used in making fluffy waffles. This is because it is a carbonated beverage that usually includes sodium bicarbonate or baking soda. When you add club soda to the waffle mix, tiny carbon dioxide bubbles are infused into the batter as the dissolved gas is released from the water. These bubbles expand as the batter is heated, creating light and airy waffles.
Club soda is used as a liquid replacement instead of an add-on. It’s also better to use cold club soda, as it will have more bubbles than room temperature.
- Replace 1 tsp Baking Powder with about 2/3 Cup Soda Water
- For the waffle recipe above use 1 ½ cups Soda Water
Remember to reduce the amount of ordinary milk in the recipe by the amount of Soda Water you are adding.
7: Self-Rising Flour
If you aren’t keen to keep baking powder on hand, you may want to keep self-rising flour stocked instead. Self-rising flour is a mixture of regular flour, salt, and baking powder. Since the baking powder is already evenly mixed throughout the flour, you don’t have to worry about adding it separately.
This is great for those who prefer to stick with the recipes they know and don’t want to think about the leavening agent.
Self-rising flour contains baking powder in the correct proportion for most baking, although if your recipe includes buttermilk or yogurt, you can add a little baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). Be careful not to add too much, otherwise, the waffles can have a bitter aftertaste.
This type of flour is known as self-rising in America and Canada, and self-raising in the UK and Australia. This type of flour is especially popular in the UK, probably for no other reason than it has traditionally been included in countless recipe books. Despite this, this type of flour is merely all-purpose (plain) flour with added baking powder. You can make your own self-rising flour by adding 3 tsp baking powder to 2 cups of all-purpose or plain flour. Assuming you don’t have baking powder, use ¾ tsp baking soda and 2 tsp cream of tartar for every 2 cups of flour
No extra leavening is required if replacing all-purpose flour with self-rising flour. But if the self-rising flour has been in the baking cupboard for a long time, you may need to add ¼ tsp of baking soda for approximately every 2 cups of flour.
8: Baking Yeast
Baking yeast is a leavening agent that is commonly used in bread making and in some other baked goods, including traditional Belgian waffles. Making regular waffles with baking yeast is certainly possible, although it may change the taste slightly. The recipe preparation time is also longer than when using baking powder or baking soda since the yeast may need to be activated and start growing.
The yeast feeds on sugars to produce carbon dioxide gas, which causes the light fluffy texture in the baked product, plus some alcohol. Don’t worry about your waffles being intoxicating though, the very small amount of alcohol will evaporate due to the heat of baking.
There are many types of baking yeasts, although home bakers typically use dry yeast. A form that can produce quicker results in waffle making is Instant Yeast. It is a dry yeast where each particle of yeast is small and includes a high level of live cells. Since it does not need to be rehydrated before use, it can be added straight to the other ingredients in the waffle batter.
However, the batter will need to be left in a warm place (possibly in the bottom of a cool oven) to allow the yeast cells to start converting sugar into the gas that will give the waffles a light and fluffy texture.
- Replace 1 tsp Baking Powder with 2/3 tsp of Instant Yeast
- For the waffle recipe above use 1½ tsp Instant Yeast
If you’ve never heard of Pearlash, I bet your five times great grandmother probably knew of it and may even have used it.
Pearlash is mentioned in the first American cookbook, American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, which was published at the end of the 18th century. But Native Americans had been using it as a leavening agent prior to that.
This rising agent was made from wood fire ashes and is a purified form of potash and was used in a comparable way to how we use baking soda. Traditional German gingerbread recipes to this day frequently call for pearlash (potassium carbonate) as a baking rising agent.
Pearlash is relatively caustic, and although food-grade potassium carbonate can be sourced a better alternative would be the less caustic potassium bicarbonate.
I only include pearlash because of its historical use in American baking. I do not recommend making it or its use. You should only use approved food-grade ingredients and follow the instructions on the box.
10: Potassium bicarbonate
Potassium bicarbonate is a milder base (alkali) than pearlash. Some people consider it to be the ideal substitute for normal baking powder because it has the same effectiveness as a rising agent as baking soda, but it does not contain sodium. It is therefore a good substitute for those looking to cut their sodium intake and on a low-sodium diet.
Sodium bicarbonate, also known as hydrogencarbonate, can substitute for baking soda and is an ingredient in low-sodium baking powders.
Since potassium bicarbonate is a base, you will also need to include an acid in the waffle batter. This could be buttermilk, lemon juice, vinegar, or cream of tartar. Use about the same amount as you would of baking soda.
Remember using ¼ tsp of baking soda is equivalent to using 1 tsp of baking powder
Though baking powder is an important ingredient in many dishes, you shouldn’t have to go without just because you don’t have any on hand. There are plenty of substitutions available that will produce fluffy waffles full of flavor. Some substitutions require having baking soda on hand, while others do not.
When choosing your baking powder alternative, keep in mind the flavor you’re trying to achieve. Products like buttermilk and yogurt will provide a bit of a tang to the dish. On the other hand, Club soda doesn’t have much of a taste at all. In some cases, you can rebalance the flavor profile by adding a little extra salt, although be careful if using yeast because too much salt will inhibit the yeast’s leavening action.
Hopefully, you now have the confidence to make waffles, even if you’re missing a key ingredient.
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Tosh learned how to cook while watching his Polish Mom at home. He also worked in a family-owned restaurant while a student and learned much from the chefs. Cooking has always interested him, especially the hearty Polish recipes he learned from his mother. He has helped create and appeared on cookery shows on radio stations in Scotland.