Best Coffee Substitute in Baking

Coffee has been used cleverly by bakers for years to enhance flavor. The richness of its flavor pairs well with chocolate cake, bread liked coffee-nut loaves, or fruit pastries like banana cake. It also goes well with recipes that call for cinnamon and dried fruit.

But it isn’t always you can bake with coffee. You may have a guest who is allergic to coffee or has an intolerance to caffeine. Some may simply dislike coffee and many times – as many homemakers would confess last minute – there simply isn’t enough coffee in the pantry.

What do we do without the magic ingredient? If you would like the enhancement coffee gives to your baked goods without the coffee itself, I’m here to share some clever substitutes.

Malted Drinks

To enhance the inherent flavor of your baking, you can use ready-made malts like Ovaltine, Milo, or Horlicks. (affiliate links)

These come mostly in powdered form and occasionally in pasteurized tetra packs. Either way, their rich taste will surely give your baking that coffee-like boost.

baking goodies with coffee substitutes


Yes, you can drum up a few bags of tea to substitute for coffee – mostly when the recipe calls for liquid. The best options would be:

  • Earl Grey – the rich bergamot rind oil extract gives this type of tea a kick that could mimic coffee in baking recipes.
  • Lapsang Souchong – the Chinese black tea that is derived from Camellia sinesis leaves that are smoked in pinewood which accounts for its rich flavor. Just make sure you get a reliable Lapsang brand that has been properly processed.

When using tea to substitute liquid coffee in baking, make sure to steep the tea in advance otherwise the essence will be too weak to affect the pastry or bread.

You can use either hot water or warm milk and steep 2 teabags per cup. Make sure it has cooled down before you add it to the batter.

If you are using loose tea leaves, 1 teaspoon of tea leaves is equal to one teabag. Steep and cool the same way as you would the tea bags. After that, strain the tea to remove the leafy bits.

Another option would be to use finely-ground tea but this will usually add a gritty texture to the final product. This isn’t desirable if you are making a fine, smooth pastry.

However, if you are making a textured pastry with nuts and fruit preserves, you might be able to get away with it.

Since we’re talking about coffee, why not check out the best Keurig Coffee Makers of this year?

Roasted Chicory Root Granules

This is a popular coffee alternative for non-caffeine drinkers. Health buffs tout it for being good inulin or prebiotic fiber source. They are mostly available in the brewing market. Prepare as directed and cool before adding into your batter.

Darkly Roasted Cocoa Powder

For cocoa to adequately substitute coffee in baking, it must be strong, pure, and well-roasted. Chose your brand well when doing this substitution.

Mushroom Coffee/Tea (Chaga Mushroom Coffee/Tea)

Nope, this is not an illegal mushroom or a fiend fungus. Now that we have that out of the way, Chaga mushrooms have been used for centuries as a coffee substitute.

It does have a bitter and earthy coffee taste and leans towards the medium roast flavor. They come as brewed or instant and must be prepared and cooled as instructed.

However, as a caveat, take care to check the ingredients of the Chaga coffee in case of added caffeine – that is if you’re avoiding that kick.

Speaking of which – here is everything you need to know about the white coffee (and how to make it).

Fine Chicory Powder

This is one “not-coffee” that has been used for decades. The finely-ground kinds are the best to use as coffee substitutes in baking since they can combine well into dough or batter. It successfully does the flavor-boosting function of coffee in baking sans the acidity.

Finely Roasted Grains

Powdered wheat bran, rye, or barley have been used for ages in Latin American countries as a coffee substitute. They come in a variety of roasts and textures.

If you’re not averse to coffee or caffeine and had just simply run out, here are some substitutes that you may use.

  • Coffee Liqueur – a bit of Bailey’s or Kahlua (depending on which team you are on) is a great option if you just forgot to get enough coffee for your cake. If not, there are a host of brands. If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, the equivalent measurement in Jägermeister will serve the appropriate coffee notes as well.

  • Stout – This strong dark ale that gets its flavor from fermenting roasted barley or malt can substitute liquid coffee requirements in baking. Using this can be tricky. You need to warm it up and go flat before adding it into any batter. But once you perfect this, you will have that intensified flavor and toned-down sweetness that coffee renders.

  • Amaretto – This ingredient has a host of culinary functions. And amusingly enough, it is often used to enhance your cuppa. But this sweet Italian liqueur can be used to substitute for the coffee itself in baking. Don’t worry about what your amaretto is made from. Whether from almonds, bitter almonds, peach stones, or apricot kernels, the effect will be the same. These natural sources contain benzaldehyde which gives it the almond-like, coffee-like tone. Now you can have your cocktail on your cake and eat it, too!

Sometimes, we just do not have the right kind of coffee that our recipe requires. Here are some coffee-to-coffee alternatives just in case you’re stuck in a rut with the one that isn’t specified in the recipe.

  1. Espresso Powder – As you know, this is much stronger than the instant coffee that most recipes require. You can add it directly or mixed in water, depending on what your procedures call for. Just a caution- lessen the quantity if you don’t want it to be overpoweringly bitter.
  2. Cappuccino Powder – When you have those cappuccino premixes and no black coffee powder, it’ll do for baking. Just make sure to adjust your sweetness since most cappuccino mixes are sweetened.
  3. Brewed Espresso – Have some leftovers from the morning? Yes, you can grab it and add it to your batter or dough. Using brewed espresso to replace a dry coffee ingredient will affect your moisture ratio so adjust the egg, milk, or oil in the recipe accordingly.


Yes, we know the instant coffee, your cappuccinos, and espressos do come from these ground beans. But they have been processed and extracted.

Ground coffee beans – no matter how coarse or fine, will not render enough flavor in the batter or dough. Ground coffee needs hot brewing in nearly boiling water for at least 4 minutes for the flavor to be released.

If all this talk about coffee got you in the mood for a tasty cup, you can prepare the best one using one of my recommended Keurig coffee maker alternatives.

Final Coffee Note

When using a coffee alternative when you bake, remember the function this ingredient plays in the final flavor and texture of your bakery product.

In cases where the pastry or bread’s name has “coffee” or “mocha” in it, substitute with a brew that you have personally tested that mimics coffee. If coffee is used as a flavor enhancer or booster as in chocolate cakes or fruit cakes, any of the above will do.

Another reminder is to always adjust your ingredients when substituting a powder with a liquid and vice-versa. Recipes are always well-thought-out and carefully tested to perfection so the moisture ratio must be spot-on.

With these in mind, go ahead and replace coffee in your favorite baking recipe with confidence. Enjoy your baking!

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