Leavening agents are fundamental to the recipes that call for them. You may be able to make chocolate chip cookies without flour (I wouldn’t recommend it…but it’s possible), but you can’t make them without a leavening agent. The importance of leavening is often overlooked. When looking at a recipe with a ton of ingredients, I do have to wonder if 1 tiny teaspoon of baking powder really matter THAT much? (It turns out it does).
As touchy and vital as leavening agents are, there is one big rule: if at all possible, don’t try to substitute with leavening agents. If you can get to the grocery store, make the trip.
I highly recommend you read the post ‘Understanding Leavening Agents: Yeast, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, etc.’ first. It has a ton of great information! This post is part of my “Cooking 201” series, which covers some (slightly) advanced baking information.
It is almost impossible to substitute yeast for non-yeast leaveners and vice versa in an existing recipe. For explanation why, see bottom.
Substitutes for Non-Yeast Leaveners
Baking Powder (double-acting):
Any amount= 2 parts cream of tartar, 1 part baking soda, 1 part cornstarch
1 tsp.= 1/2 tsp. cream of tarter plus 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp.= 1 & 1/2 tsp. single-acting baking powder
1 tsp= 1/4 tsp. baking soda (to dry ingredients) and 1/2 C. buttermilk (to wet ingredients). [Decrease liquid in recipe by 1/2 C. Can also try substituting yogurt or sour milk for the buttermilk.] 1 tsp.= 1/2 tsp. cream of tarter, 1/3 tsp. baking soda, 1/8 tsp. salt. Do not store long-term. (from Joy of Cooking)
Baking Powder (single-acting):
1 tsp.= 2/3 tsp. double-acting baking powder
1 Tbsp.= 1 tsp. baking soda & 2 tsp. cream of tartar.
Baking Soda (sodium biocarbonate):
Equal amount potash (German markets)
Equal amount potassium bicarbonate (used as a substitute by people on sodium-restricted diets. Available in some pharmacies. May want to add a small amount of salt to recipe.)
1/2 tsp.= 2 tsp. baking powder (MUST replace acidic liquid in recipe with non-acidic liquid)
Cream of tarter:
1/2 tsp.= 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp.= 1/2 tsp. vinegar
1 C. self-rising= 1 C. all purpose plus 1 & 1/3 tsp. baking powder plus 1/3 tsp. salt
Baker’s Ammonia: Originally made from the ground antlers of deer, this is an ancestor of modern baking powder. Northern Europeans still use it because it makes gingerbread cookies very light and crisp. Greeks also use it in some cookies. Unfortunately, it can impart an unpleasant ammonia flavor, so it’s best used in cookies and pastries that are small enough to allow the ammonia odor to dissipate while baking. Can be found in German, Scandinavian, or Greek markets; drug stores; or baking supply stores. Don’t confuse this with ordinary household ammonia, which is poisonous.
Can substitute equal amount of baking powder, but (obviously) might not result in the very light and crisp effect that baker’s ammonia provides.
Substitutes for Yeasts
Active dry yeast (one package= 2 & 1/4 tsp.= 1/4 ounce):
1/4 oz.= one cake fresh yeast (.6 oz.)
1/4 oz.= 1/4 oz. instant yeast or bread machine yeast (add to dry ingredients/don’t proof; bread will only need to rise once).
Compressed fresh yeast cakes:
1 cake (.6 ounces)= 2 & 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1 cake (.6 ounces)= 2 & 1/4 tsp. instant dried yeast
1 cake (.6 ounces)- 2 & 1/4 tsp. bread machine yeast
Instant dried yeast:
Equal amount bread machine yeast
1/4 oz.= 1/4 oz. active dry yeast (will need to proof in water first; bread will need to rise twice)
1/4 oz.= 1 cake fresh yeast cake (yeast must be dissolved in water first; bread will need to rise twice)
Bread machine yeast:
Equal amount instant dried yeast
Why non-yeast & yeast leaveners cannot be substituted:
I’ve edited an answer by user SAJ14SAJ on “Seasoned Advice”. If you’re a more advanced cook, I highly recommend this site. They’re a lot of rules and etiquette, though, so make sure you read them before you start interacting.
“For yeast bread to work, the yeast generates the raising gas (carbon dioxide) slowly over time. Thus it requires a good gluten network to keep it trapped. The gluten network is like little rubber balloons throughout the dough, and the yeast blow them up with their…. erm… exhalations. It takes a lot of work to blow up all the metaphorical gluten balloons, but the yeast is a slow and patient worker–it is like the turtle, not the hare. With patience you will get there.
Chemical leavenings, such as baking powder, generate gas quite quickly. They are normally used in batters that are going into the oven as soon as assembled (the famous muffin method). Gluten does not develop, giving them their characteristic tender crumb, unlike yeast raised bread.
Yeast raised breads are:
• Slower to create, as they require time for the yeast to work
• Require the gluten network of “balloons” to blow up, which lead to a chewy or toothsome bite to a greater or lesser extent
• Are not amenable to chemical leaveners which run out of oomph before the gluten network would be raised.
Chemically leavened quick breads are:
• Almost instant to rise–assemble the batter, and bake right away (with a few exceptions)
• No significant gluten network
• Are not amenable to yeast which doesn’t have time nor the structure to develop any ‘raising’.”