You just found the perfect holiday dessert recipe, and you can't wait to get your baking on. You have eggs, chocolate, flour, sugar, and vanilla extract, but you're missing baking powder. Going to the store is a lot of effort, you don't have friendly neighbors, and no one actually knows the difference between baking soda and baking powder. Don't panic: Here's a list of five baking powder alternatives and the best way to use each one.

What Is Baking Powder?

Simply put, baking powder helps baked goods rise—the fancy term is a leavening agent. It contains sodium bicarbonate (called an alkali) an acid, typically cream of tartar, and a filler like cornstarch or rice flour to absorb moisture. When mixed with water, the sodium bicarbonate produces bubbles, which causes the leavening. Baking powder is important in any recipe, and here's what you can use if you don't have any. 

1. Plain Yogurt, Buttermilk, Sour Milk

water, tea, milk
Alex Frank

Buttermilk is fermented dairy, that’s what gives it the sour taste. It’s formed by adding bacteria to milk and waiting for fermentation (like the process of creating pickles or kombucha). This produces an acidity, so when combined with baking soda, buttermilk will act like baking powder. Add 1/2 cup of buttermilk with 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. Don’t forget to reduce the rest of the liquid in the recipe or you might end up with soupy brownies.

Yogurt is made through a similar fermentation process, so it works the same way. Replace 1 teaspoon of baking powder with 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and a 1/2 cup of plain yogurt.

2. Molasses

wine, coffee, chocolate, tea, sweet, molasses, alcohol
Phillip Massey

Molasses may be another baking mystery. You know it's sweet, but what is it? Turns out it's acidic enough to cause a chemical reaction when combined with baking soda. Here's the breakdown: 1/4 cup molasses plus 1/4 teaspoon baking soda replaces 1 teaspoon of baking powder. Who knew molasses could replace sugar and baking powder. 

3. Club Soda

Club soda is already a sodium bicarbonate (for those who forgot that's what baking powder is). It already contains baking soda, and since it's already water, the reaction immediately happens. Club soda, though, only has a small amount of sodium bicarbonate, so only use this baking powder alternative if your tasty treat does not require a lot of leavening. 

4. Lemon Juice

Lemon juice has the right amount of acidity, the crucial component in baking powder. When combined with baking soda, lemon juice will provide the essential acidity that makes baking soda react like baking powder. 

5. Whipped Egg Whites

Egg whites make baked foods light and fluffy. They give desserts like soufflé that heavenly airy texture. Whipping egg whites creates tiny air bubbles that increases volume. When baking, the egg whites create air within the recipe. Fold your other ingredients into the egg whites to perfect the reaction. When needed, this will make an easy baking powder alternative. The amount of egg whites needed to replace baking powder will vary depending on the recipe, so use your best judgement here.

Don't fret if your pantry isn't well stocked, you won't ruin the holidays. Your holiday treat might even taste better with one of these baking powder alternatives. Plus, you'll feel like a scientist if you create the perfect chemical reaction.