The Best Substitute For Coffee For Baking

You're halfway through a baking project when you realize that your recipe calls for a small amount of brewed coffee. While this might not be a problem if you're constantly drinking cup after cup of your favorite blend, if you're not a coffee drinker, you may not have any coffee in the house. Or if you strictly cut off your coffee intake around midday, you might not want to brew up an entire pot just for a small portion to add to a chocolate cake.

While you won't want to skip the coffee that your recipe calls for altogether (after all, your recipe relies on that liquid content in order to achieve the right overall texture), there are a few things you can use in place of the coffee. The best substitute for coffee for baking is a mixture of instant coffee or espresso powder with hot water. Just use two teaspoons of either for every cup of water (and every cup of coffee that your recipe calls for). If you're a frequent baker but an infrequent coffee drinker, you can keep one of these two ingredients on hand exclusively for baking and rest assured that it will last a long time in your pantry — up to 20 years under the right conditions (airtight seal in a cool, dry place) for instant coffee and about six months for espresso powder.

Need a complete coffee substitute?

If you don't have coffee of any kind — powdered, instant, etc. — on hand and you really need to finish that recipe right now, you have some other options, even if they're not exactly ideal. Remember, though, if your recipe calls for brewed coffee, you can't use a dry substitute like cocoa powder with no extra liquid. Doing so will throw off your wet-dry ratio.

Instead of a cup of coffee, consider simply using a cup of water or milk. Sure, they're not the best substitutes, but if you're already cooking something that's quite flavorful, like a chocolate cake, you likely won't miss the coffee flavor. Other possibilities include a cup of hot chocolate or strongly brewed tea. While not always as readily available, another great substitute is chicory coffee. Chicory coffee was historically enjoyed as a coffee substitute in France and during the American Civil War and is quite popular in the South. It also doesn't contain any caffeine (in case you're looking for a caffeine-free substitute) but works much like coffee in baking.