If you’ve got your cookie recipe all ready to go, but have suddenly realized (with a look of baking horror in your face) that you don’t have baking soda, you might be wondering, “can you make cookies without baking soda?”
Baking soda is an ingredient in quite a few cookie recipes, and many of us are familiar with it, but we’re not quite sure if baking soda is necessary for cookies, or just a fun addition.
Because baking is more of a science than an art that doesn’t always allow for easy substitutes (just check out our cookie troubleshooting guide for more info on that!), we’re going over exactly what to do if you don’t have baking soda for your cookie recipe, including what a cookie without baking soda might turn out like, and whether you should switch to a recipe that is already formulated without baking soda.
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What does Baking Soda Do to Cookies?
First, let’s talk about what baking soda is and what it does to cookies.
Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate, in scientific terms, is known as an “alkaline compound,” which basically just means that it’s a compound that needs an acid to activate (acids in baking can be anything from buttermilk to chocolate to brown sugar).
In practical terms, it basically looks like a fine white powder.
It’s much more potent than baking powder, but it also has different properties (so you can’t substitute them directly).
Baking soda helps your cookies to rise (the chemical reactions between the baking soda and the acid lead to little gas bubbles that give your cookies a bit of a lift), and it also leads to a flatter, chewier cookie that spreads.
I always love the memory device that baking Soda = S = spread, while baking Powder = P = puff.
Baking soda is usually called for in something like chocolate chip cookies (note the chocolate and brown sugar being options for ingredients that will activate the baking soda!), as well as in other cookie recipes in addition to or instead of baking powder.
Must-Have Baking Tools (seriously)
- Silicone baking mats – I use this brand and my cookies slide right off without burning!
- a cookie scoop – get this one. It makes the perfect rounded cookies every time!
- silicone spatula – try this set. It’s the best way to get the most out of your dough and batters
- rolling pin guides – I use this one. Genius way to roll your dough out evenly!
Is it Possible to Make Cookies without Baking Soda?
Is it actually possible to make cookies without baking soda?
The answer to this is yes, it is totally possible to make cookies without baking soda, as evidenced by how many cookie recipes don’t even call for baking soda.
However, if you’re trying to make a recipe that does ask for baking soda and wondering if it’s possible to make that recipe without it, the answer is still yes, but you should be prepared for a much different texture and denseness than if you had used it.
What Happens to Cookies without Baking Soda?
If you have a recipe that asks for baking soda and you leave it out completely, your cookies will likely be extremely dense as there was no chemical reaction to introduce those gas bubbles and give it rise.
You may also find that your cookies are much flatter than you intended.
Baking Soda Substitutes in Cookies
If you find yourself without baking soda, but still want to try to add something like it into your cookies, what can you try?
Here are some examples of baking soda substitutes in cookies to get you thinking.
The first, and most preferable, is to use three times the amount of baking powder – baking soda is an ingredient in baking powder, but baking powder is much less potent, so by tripling (or even quadrupling) the amount of baking powder you add, you can mimic the properties of baking sodas.
Other ideas include:
- club soda
- egg whites
- baker’s ammonia
- potassium bicarbonate
How to Make Cookies without Baking Soda
You have a couple options when it comes to making cookies without baking soda.
1. Choose a cookie recipe that doesn’t include baking soda
There are so many cookie recipes that don’t include baking soda as an ingredient.
This is going to be the easiest way to make sure that can still make delicious cookies without having baking soda, because these recipes are already formulated to be a success without it.
2. Use a substitute for baking soda
There are a couple substitutes for baking soda, the most common one being a triple serving of baking powder.
There are also some other substitute options, but as baking soda is a chemical compound that needs a chemical reaction to work properly in your cookies, it is not as easy to substitute for as some other ingredients in baking.
3. Leave the baking soda out anyway
In cookies, which don’t rely on needing as much of a rise as something like a cake does, you can leave the baking soda out of a recipe that asks for baking soda and still find that your cookie tastes okay.
It will be flatter and denser than a cookie with baking soda, but if you really have your heart set on that recipe, it is possible!