How to Make Self-Rising Flour at Home

A Simple and Cheap Flour Substitute

A woman measuring and sifting white flour. Home baking.
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Many Southern recipes, including biscuits, fried chicken, pancakes, and cakes, call for self-rising flour. If you're out of this specific flour, or you're not able to find it in your area, you can make it yourself in two minutes or less.

All you need is all-purpose flour and a couple common ingredients from your pantry. In the end, you'll save money and can stop running around in search of the correct flour.

Ingredients

To transform normal all-purpose flour into a self-rising flour, you will need baking powder and salt. This same trick can be used to make self-rising cornmeal, another staple in Southern baking.

The baking powder is a leavening agent and the key ingredient that helps many baked goods rise. It's important that your baking powder is as fresh as possible, though. Typically, it has a shelf life of 9 to 12 months. However, since we often use so little of it at a time, it's easy to forget about it.

To find out if your baking powder is still fresh, add a teaspoon to one cup of hot water. Stir it in and if the mix starts to fizz, it's good. The fizz is the release of carbon dioxide and if you don't see it, it's time to replace your baking powder.

Preparation

To make self-rising flour, whisk together 1 cup all-purpose flour with 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. You can also combine the ingredients with your flour sifter.

Your flour is ready to use right away or you can store it for later use. It will keep for months. Be sure to label the container, so you don't mix it up with another flour.

If you want your self-rising flour to be reliable in recipes, it's important to store it properly. Any flour is best stored in an air-tight container. With self-rising flour, make sure that is placed in a cool, dry spot so your baking powder doesn't activate early and prevent your food from rising. For this reason, you might want to make self-rising flour only when needed so you can test the baking powder on its own.

Make a Large Batch

If you need more than one cup of self-rising flour, simply double, triple, or quadruple the recipe to create as much as you need.

Here are some measurements to get you started:

  • For 2 cups flour: add 1 tablespoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • For 3 cups flour: add 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder and 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • For 4 cups flour: add 2 tablespoons baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt
  • For 5 cups flour: add 2 1/2 tablespoons baking powder and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • For 6 cups flour: add 3 tablespoons baking powder and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

DIY vs. Store-Bought

The self-rising flour you buy at the store tends to be made with soft wheat, which is common in the Southern U.S. This has a lower protein than the hard wheat used to make all-purpose flour.

Self-rising flour is usually 8.5 to 10.5 percent protein, while all-purpose flour tends to fall in the 10 to 12 percent range. This means your homemade self-rising flour will likely have a slightly higher protein content than you're used to.

What does this mean for your baked goods? Not much. You may have to reduce the recipe's liquid slightly and your biscuits and other baked goods may come out a little less tender than usual. Most people will find the difference undetectable.

Flour Substitutes

You can use self-rising flour as a substitute for all-purpose flour in many recipes. When doing so, add an extra 1 1/2 teaspoons of flour and eliminate any baking powder and salt the recipe might have.

Keep in mind that baking powder and baking soda are not the same things. If your recipe uses baking soda, be sure to keep it.

There are many other types of specialty flours that you might come across in recipes as well. If you don't want to fill up your pantry with ingredients that you only use once or twice a year, there's often an easy solution. The great news is that it almost always revolves around that ordinary bag of all-purpose flour. 

For instance, you can use all-purpose flour as a substitute for bread flour or semolina flour. It also forms the base for a quick cake flour substitute. Once you know the secret to cake flour, you can also make pastry flour.

That's five types of flour out of a single bag. These tricks can significantly reduce the cost of your baking and there's no need to skip a recipe again just because you don't have a particular flour.