Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, an alkaline ingredient that, when combined with an acidic ingredient, makes gas bubbles. It's a common leavening agent used in baking that makes your pancakes light and fluffy, and also helps them to brown. It's still possible to make great pancakes if you need to leave out the baking soda, however.
Commercially bottled club soda contains carbon dioxide and sodium bicarbonate, so it can be successfully used in pancake recipes calling for baking soda. Eliminate the baking soda, then substitute club soda for the buttermilk, sour cream or yogurt. For best results, add the club soda at the very end, mix quickly, and cook on a very hot griddle.
Baking powder is a mixture of the alkaline baking soda and an acid such as cream of tartar. To successfully substitute baking powder in your pancake recipe, multiply the quantity by 3. For example, if your recipe calls for 1 teaspoon baking soda, use 3 teaspoons baking powder. Your baking soda pancake recipe also calls for an acid ingredient like buttermilk. To avoid changing the alkaline/acid balance of your recipe, substitute a neutral ingredient like plain milk, or an alkaline ingredient like rice, soy or almond milk.
Self-rising flour is flour that has been premixed with baking powder and salt. When using self-rising flour in pancake recipes calling for baking soda and buttermilk, start by subtracting any added baking powder and salt from the recipe. Then add 1 teaspoon of baking powder to your dry ingredients for each cup of buttermilk called for in the recipe. Alternately, when using self-rising flour, you can substitute regular milk, rice, almond or soy milk for the buttermilk, sour cream or yogurt called for in the recipe. Eliminate any required baking soda, baking powder and salt.
Baking soda is not the best choice for those on restricted sodium diets; 1 teaspoon of baking soda contains 57 percent of a normal adult recommended daily value for sodium. Potassium bicarbonate is an excellent substitute. Closely related to baking soda, it adds the the same leavening and browning effect to your pancake recipe without the sodium. Purchase potassium bicarbonate in food grade, powdered form and substitute for baking soda on a 1-to-1 ratio. Make your own low-sodium baking powder by mixing together 1 part potassium bicarbonate, 1 part cornstarch and 2 parts cream of tartar.