How to substitute self-rising flour for all-purpose flour

You bought a bag of self-rising flour to make biscuits.

And you made biscuits, and they were superior: moist, tender, high-rising, and REALLY easy.

But you still have most of a bag of self-rising flour left – now what?

Well, there’s no need to use that self-rising flour ONLY in recipes calling for it. By using the following guidelines, you can easily substitute self-rising for all-purpose flour in many of your favorite recipes.

1. To substitute self-rising for all-purpose flour, look for recipes that use baking powder: about ½ teaspoon per cup of flour, minimum.

Our self-rising flour includes both a concentrated form of baking powder, and salt. Self-rising flour will work just fine in recipes using about 1/2 teaspoon (and up to 1 teaspoon*) baking powder per cup of flour.

*What about recipes using more than 1 teaspoon baking powder per cup of flour? Add enough baking powder on your own to make up the difference.

How to substitute self-rising flour for all-purpose flour via @kingarthurflour

2. When making the substitution, omit the baking powder and salt from the recipe – it’s already in your self-rising flour.

Let’s see how these tips translate to real life – starting with a worthy candidate, our 2015 Recipe of the Year: Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies.

Besides including leavening and salt, self-rising flour also differs from all-purpose in its protein level. All-purpose flour’s protein is 11.7%; self-rising checks in at 8.5%.

That’s quite a difference. How will that translate to cookies? I have my suspicions; let’s see how they play out.

How to substitute self-rising flour for all-purpose flour via @kingarthurflour

OK, we’ve got our all-purpose flour dough balls on the left, self-rising on the right. The recipe calls for 1 teaspoon baking powder and 2 cups of all-purpose flour – which meets the criteria of 1/2 teaspoon baking powder per cup of flour.

The dough looks the same for both versions. Let’s put these beauties to the test: into the oven they go.

How to substitute self-rising flour for all-purpose flour via @kingarthurflour

Ah, as I suspected: the self-rising flour cookies (right), with their lower protein, start to spread more quickly than those made with all-purpose flour.

How to substitute self-rising flour for all-purpose flour via @kingarthurflour

And that quicker spread yields slightly larger, flatter cookies.

What’s up with that? Lower protein means less gluten, which translates to less/looser structure: more oven spread.

Not a deal breaker, though. I wouldn’t throw those self-rising cookies away – would you?

If you have a cookie recipe that spreads a lot using all-purpose flour, then it’s probably not the best idea to substitute self-rising flour. But any cookie with normal spread – one using at least 1/2 teaspoon baking powder per cup of flour – should be just fine.

Chocolate chip oatmeal cookies: check.

Let’s try another popular recipe, Banana Bread. The recipe calls for 1 teaspoon baking powder and 2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour.

Uh-oh – that’s not “at least 1/2 teaspoon baking powder per cup of flour.” But rules are made to be tested, and it’s close; let’s see what happens.

How to substitute self-rising flour for all-purpose flour via @kingarthurflour

The batter made with self-rising flour is just slightly thinner. Again, that’s a reflection of self-rising’s lower protein level.

How to substitute self-rising flour for all-purpose flour via @kingarthurflour

Still, both breads rise and bake up similarly.

How to substitute self-rising flour for all-purpose flour via @kingarthurflour

Maybe the self-rising flour bread is a tiny bit flatter across the top? But without a side-by-side comparison, you’d never know.

Banana bread: check.

Finally, let’s try one of my favorite cake recipes, Lazy Daisy Cake.

How to substitute self-rising flour for all-purpose flour via @kingarthurflour

This is the first recipe I ever baked on my own. As a 14-year-old holding down my first Saturday job, I felt EXTREMELY grown up when my boss, noticing me admiring a slice of cake she’d brought for lunch, hand-printed this recipe on a 3″ x 5″ card (remember those?) and gave it to me.

I felt even more grown up when I got out my mom’s electric beater, her favorite bowl, found all the ingredients, and baked a perfectly wonderful cake. In fact, I think it might be this cake that first hooked me on baking.

Let’s see how it does with self-rising flour. It’s an old-fashioned hot milk cake, calling for 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1 cup of flour: that’s 1 teaspoon baking powder per cup of flour, double the minimum.

Will the self-rising flour have enough leavening power?

How to substitute self-rising flour for all-purpose flour via @kingarthurflour

Absolutely. That’s all-purpose flour on the left, self-rising on the right. They look exactly the same.

How to substitute self-rising flour for all-purpose flour via @kingarthurflour

Once cut, it appears the all-purpose flour cake may have risen a bit more evenly; but that also might be just a simple aberration. Both have a lovely crumb.

How to substitute self-rising flour for all-purpose flour via @kingarthurflour

And both versions, with their broiled brown sugar/coconut topping, taste just as I remember from junior-high days: superb.

Hot milk cake: check.

Now, what about recipes that include both baking powder and baking soda? Or only baking soda – no baking powder?

For recipes with both leaveners, include the baking soda just as you would if you were using all-purpose flour.

For recipes using baking soda, but no baking powder – well, you’re on your own. I can tell you that as far as leavening power goes, 1 teaspoon of baking powder is approximately equivalent to 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. I leave any further recipe math up to you!

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Silverbullet

    I always have available, both. With the exception of things like egg roll wraps, flaky pie crusts and won ton soup wraps, Ive found that the self rising flour works about the same. I do recommend a flour brand like the one mentioned here without aluminum which is particularly a no no especially with kids treats. Possibly it does contribute to central nervous system disorders ie; Alzheimer.
    King Arthur is the KING of all flours. As they say, “Dont accept substitutes.”
    For a lot of us out there, recipes are a general guide to success. But experimenting can produce some amazing results. I dont think Ive ever thrown anything away because it wasnt good enough!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for asking, Brad. We offer baking classes in two locations: at our Baking School in Norwich, Vermont and Burlington, Washington. You can find out more about what classes we offer on our website here. If you’re not able to make the trip to one of these locations, perhaps you’d be interested in our selection of online classes offered through Craftsy. You can learn about baking bread, pies, pizza, and more. We hope that helps, and happy baking! Kye@KAF

  2. Tom McQueen

    We never stop learning! King Arthur’s Self Rising flour was on sale not long ago. So I thought “why not try it!” So this post is just an FYI for other novice bakers: I love Ina Garten’s recipe for popovers but they are “sensitive” to the type of flour used! The recipe doesn’t call for any baking powder. I accidentally used KA Self Rising (SR) flour instead of All Purpose (AP) flour. Result: delicious “muffins” that taste the same but do not rise up with the very showy “crown” they should have. I also used the SR flour on Ina’s cheddar biscuit recipe (which calls for baking powder) but I still added the baking powder! There didn’t seem to be any ill effect! Still learning about cooking at age 58 😉! Thanks for this very helpful post!

    Reply
  3. Marizet D

    I am making cut out cookies and the recipe called for 8 cups all purpose flour I was a half a cup short I made a mistake and purchased self rising flour but it was all I had left will my cookies be ok?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Marizet. If you used the Self-Rising Flour just to replace that remaining 1/2 cup, your cookies should be perfectly fine and you probably won’t notice a difference at all. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  4. Louise

    I have a question. When you have a recipe and it calls for flour, and it doesn’t say plain or self rising, but also calls for salt, which flour do you use?

    Reply
  5. Sabrina

    I promised to make a chiffon cake when I just realized that my AP flour has run out. But then I look up your blog and be thankful that I kept some SR flour, and decided to follow your advice on substituting AP for SR. But then, it turns out that it takes longer time for the dough to be fully baked and its somehow has a wetter texture than that of the usual one (I’ve used my recipe for a lot of times so I know how it turns out when using AP). In the recipe it is stated that it need 1/4 tablespoon of baking powder for 1 cup of AP flour. I didn’t add anymore baking powder since in your article it is said that it covers around 1/2 tablespoon of baking powder for each cup. Can you tell me what’s the problem?

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Sabrina, the protein level in the AP flour is significantly higher than that of the SR. Self-Rising’s greater amount of starch hangs on to the liquid in the batter, giving you a wetter texture for the finished cake. Susan

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Millet, if your recipe calls for baking soda, then it’s not a great opportunity to use Self-Rising Flour since there’s baking powder already added to this flour (not baking soda). We don’t currently have a recipe for banana bread using Self-Rising Flour developed, but you could take a look at this selection of recipes that are designed to work with it to see if anything catches your eye. Kye@KAF

  6. Amoret Hinkley

    A quick response to the questions of why use self-rising instead of all purpose is the lower protein content. As a loyal North Dakotan I use Dakota Maid all purpose flour from our state mill, and it is high protein, more equivalent to a bread flour.than to most all purpose flour.

    That high protein means that it works really well in yeast breads, and in any cookie where you want a chewy or firm texture, but it’s really hard to work with for quick breads, biscuits (and scones) and cakes where you want a tender or crumbly texture. After years of using cake or pastry flour, or biscuit mix for some things, with varying results, I’m now experimenting with self-rising flour and it works so much better in coffee cakes, muffins, and biscuits/scones. I do need to use less (usually about 3/4 the amount called for in my local church cookbooks) liquid, and in some cases more baking powder, but I can finally make tender crumb cakes and muffins.

    The only real disaster has been my favorite banana bread recipe that uses a lot of butter to tenderize it, and the self rising flour is too soft/low protein so it ended up falling apart – as have my daughters attempts to make it gluten free. It seems heretical, but we ended up having to use less butter. For myself I’m going back to the original with high protein flour and a lot of butter.

    Reply
  7. Gabe

    So I’m making a yeast-free cinnamon swirl loaf, and it calls for 2 cups all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 cup buttermilk. I don’t have all purpose flour, so I was wondering if I should not use the salt and baking soda, but the baking soda uses the buttermilk to activate. If I don’t use the buttermilk, will it affect the viscosity and everything of the batter!?!? Please respond!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Gabe, it sounds like there’s lots of adjustments going on in this recipe, and we want to understand what your goal is and what ingredients you have as options. Please give our friendly Baker’s Hotline a call at 855-371-BAKE(2253) so we can talk through this together. Kye@KAF

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