What to Substitute for Baking Soda in Banana Bread?

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Have you ever had the same problem as me – a bowl of over-ripe bananas? You don’t need me to tell you that the answer is banana bread!

But what if you look in the pantry and find you’re out of baking soda? Or maybe your doctor has told you to avoid baking soda because of the sodium?

Don’t panic! I’m here to tell you how to make your favorite banana bread without baking soda!

First of all, what is baking soda? Baking soda is also known as sodium bicarbonate, or bicarbonate of soda.

It’s a chemical compound that has many uses but in baking, it’s used to leaven the batter.

This means adding gas to the batter to make the finished product light and fluffy.

Baking soda does this by reacting to an acid ingredient such as buttermilk or yogurt.

This causes it to release carbon dioxide bubbles which give your banana bread that oh-so-light texture.

So if you are out of baking soda, you need to find some other leavening or raising agent. Luckily there are a couple to choose from, but you’ll need to adapt your recipe!

You can use:

  • Baking Powder
  • Self Raising Flour
  • Potassium Bicarbonate
  • Yeast

All of these options will work just fine with gluten-free as well as regular flour.

Baking Powder

Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda, and cream of tartar. What is the cream of tartar? It’s an acid called potassium bitartrate.

This reacts with the sodium bicarbonate in the baking powder to create a rise.

You’ll need three times as much baking powder as you would baking soda, so if your recipe calls for one teaspoon of baking soda use three teaspoons of baking powder.

You’ll also need to reduce your acid ingredients as the baking powder already contains acid.

For example, if you normally use buttermilk you could use regular milk, or replace yogurt with cream.

If you are gluten-free be sure that your baking powder doesn’t contain gluten – some use wheat flour as a filler ingredient.

Self Raising Flour

Self-raising flour is simply plain ordinary flour with baking powder already added, so you’ll need to reduce your acid ingredients.

Some brands may have salt added so make sure to check before adding your salt.

Self-raising flour is designed to have the right ratio of baking powered to flour, so all you need to do is add your other ingredients and go! You can get gluten-free self-raising flour online or at specialty stores.

Potassium Bicarbonate

Potassium bicarbonate is very similar chemically to baking soda, but it is made from potassium instead of sodium.

This means it’s great for people who are watching their sodium intake for health reasons.

You use it in exactly the same way as you use baking soda. The finished banana bread will contain less salt, so unless you are reducing your sodium intake you might want to add more salt for taste.

All of the above leavening agents will give a very similar texture to if you had used baking soda. Other than adjusting for acid or salt your recipe won’t change much.

There is one other raising agent you could use for banana bread…

Yeast

Yeast is used in many types of bread. It reacts with sugar to produce carbon dioxide. Yeast takes longer to rise than baking soda.

To use yeast instead of baking soda you mix the ingredients as normal (including 1 teaspoon of yeast per cup of flour) so you have a moist dough.

Leave the batter in a covered bowl somewhere warm for an hour and you will see it has doubled in size.

Knock it back in the bowl (by giving it a thump) and bake as normal. The banana bread will rise again in the oven.

If you use yeast you will find the bread has a texture more like a loaf of bread and less like a cake.

If you like the bread-y texture you can develop this by kneading the dough before the first rise. This helps the gluten in the flour link up and give that chewy bread texture.

Some people prefer to mash their bananas very fine for banana bread made with yeast so it doesn’t affect the texture so much.

If you are using gluten-free flour the bread will still rise, but the texture will be less bread-like.

So there you have it. Whether you are out of baking soda and don’t want to run to a store, or you want to cut down on your sodium, or maybe try for a different texture, there are plenty of ways of making banana bread without baking soda.