Fresh from the oven biscuits are a family favorite.

How to Make Biscuits Without Baking Powder and Shortening

by Catherine Misener

Fluffy, tender homemade biscuits are one of the true pleasures in life. Served with a dab of butter and jelly, or alongside scrambled eggs and ham, you can't go wrong with biscuits. If you don't have two of the ingredients called for in many recipes -- baking powder and shortening, you can still whisk up a batch by following some easy substitutions.

Combine 1 part baking soda with 2 parts acid. Baking powder contains two ingredients which, when combined, release carbon dioxide and produce the rising effect desired in baked goods. The two main ingredients are baking soda and cream of tartar, which serves as the acidic component. There is also some cornstarch added to keep the ingredients from reacting prior to using in a recipe. There are some options available when deciding what acid to include when making the substitution.

Substitute cream of tartar as the acid component. Combine baking soda and cream of tartar and whisk until thoroughly combined. As baking soda is more powerful than baking powder, you need less when substituting. For every 1 part of baking powder called for in your recipe, use a quarter part of baking soda. To add the cream of tartar, follow the ratio of 2 parts cream of tartar to 1 part baking soda. Keep in mind that when using this specific substitute, once you add it to the biscuit batter the chemical reaction begins immediately. It is important to put the biscuits in the oven as soon as they are ready to bake.

Add the baking soda and cream of tartar mixture to the flour called for in your recipe, mix well to ensure even distribution and follow the recipe to make the biscuits. If you are not immediately using the soda-tartar substitution, add 1 part cornstarch to the mixture and store in an airtight container. Adding the cornstarch prevents the baking soda from reacting with the acid, or cream of tartar.

Substitute equal parts unsalted butter for the shortening. You may need to add slightly more butter, depending on the desired texture of the biscuit dough. If using salted butter, reduce any other salt called for in the biscuit recipe. As butter does brown more easily than shortening, check the biscuits a few minutes before the specified baking time.

Items you will need

  • Baking soda
  • Cream of tartar, optional
  • Cornstarch, optional
  • Unsalted butter


  • Double your biscuit recipe, bake, cool and freeze to have biscuits at the ready for a quick breakfast.

About the Author

An educator since 1998, Catherine Misener started her writing career in 2009. Her work has appeared in "NW Kids," "The Oregonian" and "Vancouver Family Magazine." She holds a Bachelor of Arts from St. Mary’s University and a Master of Arts from the University of Michigan. After working in the food industry for years, she opened a small batch bakery.

Photo Credits

  • Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images