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11 Best Citric Acid Substitutes for Baking

Some pastries need a little kick on the tongue using a touch of sourness from citric acid, while some baked goodies just need their preservation properties to produce a longer shelf life!

To make every baking session successful, you want to have your complete ingredients on hand. However, what if you don’t have citric acid, and your recipe calls for it? What will you do then? 

Here are 11 citric acid substitutes for baking 

  • Lemon Juice
  • Tartaric Acid
  • Cream of tartar
  • White Distilled Vinegar
  • Ascorbic Acid/Vitamin C
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Lime Juice or Orange Juice
  • White Wine

Read on if you are keen to find out in detail why these ingredients are suitable to complete your baking recipe until you get hold of citrus acid again.

The Complete Substitutes For Citric Acid List

Citric Acid Substitutes

A baking recipe will call for citric acid for numerous reasons: flavoring, preservative, and texture. Whatever its use is, you would never want to miss it.

Unlike cooking where you can just eyeball your ingredients, baking needs exact measurements to achieve a particular texture and form on the finished product. Cakes cannot be too liquidy or too tense, or else, they can never be called cake! 

Never miss a recipe using the following quick citric acid substitute cheat sheet. Just a little note, this one is made for the bakers!

Lemon Juice

Lemon Juice

Easily earning its spot on the top of the list is lemon juice. Not only does it make a superb substitute for your missing citric acid, but it can also be easily found in your kitchen. It has a similar sour flavor (especially if you want a sprinkle of vitamin C).

To calculate how much lemon juice you will need in replacement of citric acid, add four to five tablespoons of lemon juice for a single tablespoon of the said missing ingredient. Citric acid has an estimated three grams of citric acid in one juiced lemon.

Other than the juice, you can also utilize your lemon to make lemon zest and lemon extract—both make an excellent substitute for citric acid in baking.

However, keep in mind that you might need to reduce the measure of liquid ingredients if you’re trying to achieve a specific consistency.[Source]

Tartaric Acid


Still don’t have lemon juice lying around? The next best choice after lemon is tartaric acid. It is sold as a powder and is most commonly used as a wines’ acidic agent. Although the acid is grape-flavored, you can’t deny its strong taste.

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If you are using tartaric acid as a substitute, it is best that you reduce the amount from what is required in the recipe. One-fourth teaspoon of tartaric acid can already replace a whole teaspoon of citric acid.

Quick Tip

Many people confuse tartaric with citric acid as the two are almost similar. The only thing you have to remember is that tartaric acid possesses a more robust sour flavor, hence the recommendation to use this in a smaller amount.

Cream Of Tartar

Anthony's Premium Cream of Tartar, 2 lb, Gluten Free, Food Grade, Non GMO, USP, FCC, Made in USA 

Tartaric acid and cream of tartar are two entirely different ingredients, so don’t be confused. Tartaric acid is the water-soluble variant, while the cream of tartar is the obvious cream and non-water-soluble option.

Cream of tartar has a distinct sourness, which makes it the right fit as a substitute for citric acid just as much as tartaric acid. Its taste is close to the lemon juice, the top stand-in for citric acid.

White Distilled Vinegar


Another one that made it into the list, thanks to its similar sour flavor, is white vinegar. This might be one of the most accessible options on the list, but its acid has a weaker kick than citric acid. With that said, you would need to pour in a lot of that vinegar, which will surely affect the consistency of your baked goodies.

For every tablespoon of citric acid, you will need three tablespoons of vinegar. It is triple the amount of liquid, so you’d have to adjust to your recipe’s other liquid ingredients. If you already have the ones mentioned beforehand, it’s better to use them than the handy vinegar!

Ascorbic Acid/Vitamin C

Vitamin C by Nature's Bounty for Immune Support. Vitamin C is a Leading Immune Support Vitamin, 500mg, 250 Tablets 

It might come to you like a shock, but Vitamin C tablets, also referred to as ascorbic acid, actually makes a good substitute for citric acid. Aside from being derived from citrus fruits (which made it into this list), it also shares the same characteristics with citric acid.

If you add citric acid in your recipe for preservation of your pastries, you can substitute it with Vitamin C as it is an excellent preservative too! What we love most about this substitute is that you can follow the recipe quantity as is, as if you are using citric acid.

It’s easy to use Vitamin C in your recipe. Just crush the Vitamin C tablets you have in hand, and it’s good to go!

Apple Cider Vinegar


Apple cider vinegar is very acidic. Therefore, it can be used in place of white distilled vinegar or citric acid. The exact quantity of white vinegar is needed when using apple cider vinegar as a substitute—triple the amount from the recipe.

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Apple cider vinegar didn’t make it quite high up in this list for the same reason as white vinegar. You’ll need to adjust the other liquid ingredients too, which can be a hassle if you’re just following a recipe. Its slight sweetness can also affect the taste if you add too much. If you already have white vinegar, just use that instead of the apple cider vinegar!


Substitute Jam for Sugar in Baking

This one will definitely not work on all recipes, but it’s worth mentioning. It can only be used by those who need citric acid for coating.

For example, opt for sugar if the recipe calls for a sour coating on your gummy candies, but you prefer something sweet and crunchy instead. Other than that, don’t use sugar as a complete substitute for citric acid! You will not get a hint of the sour flavor or food preservation you might be looking for.


Box of salt

Here’s another one that may or may not work as a stand-in for citric acid, depending on what you’re baking. As we all know, salt is already used in baking.

A pinch or a teaspoon of salt is usually added to baked goods for preservation, so it definitely can substitute for citric acid. That is if the recipe only uses citric acid for its mere characteristic of food preservation.

Like sugar, again, do not use salt as a substitute for anything else as it doesn’t have even a tinge of sourness in it.

Lime Juice or Orange Juice

Orange Juice 

These two kinds of juice are very in-line with the first runner up (lemon juice). All three came from citrus fruits, which are sour in nature.

If you don’t have lemon juice but are already familiar with using it in your recipe instead of citric acid, you can further substitute it with lime juice or orange juice.

Quick Tip

Keep in mind that a large amount of lime or orange juice can likely change the flavor of your pastries.

Nevertheless, we think it will still be citrusy and sour.

We recommend lime juice better than orange juice, as the latter has more impact on the flavor due to its difference in flavor profile. Meanwhile, lime juice is the most similar to lemon juice taste-wise and acidity-wise.

White Wine

White Wine

This one is kind of an intense substitute for citric acid. You’ll only need a small amount if you’re using white wine. It’s kind of tricky to use this as its acidity can definitely intensify your baked pastries.

It will surely brighten the flavor, but white wine is better used in savory dishes than sweet goodies. As a last resort, you can use this, but pay very close attention to every drop![Source]

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Citric Acid Substitutes Related FAQ

Is there a way to make my own citric acid at home?

Yes, it is possible to make citric acid at home! It’s not easy, though, as you’ll need to search for an ingredient that is even harder to find, the citric acid crystals. If for some reason, you have this at home, you can mix it with water to make a citric acid solution.

Another common way that was mentioned as a substitute above is to take lemon juice or lime juice. Check if the juice is at two or three levels with a pH strip to produce citric acid.

Again, pH strip isn’t readily available in every home. This is a detailed instruction; we already listed the measurements of lemon juice per citric acid asked in the recipe to make everything easier for you.

What Fruits Have Citric Acid?

Numerous fruits contain citric acid. Some of the most popular ones are sour lemons, limes, and oranges. As long as it is a citrus plant, it will contain citric acid.

Other than the three, you can also find citric acid in grapefruits, pineapples, cherries, tomatoes, berries like raspberries and cranberries, as well as other acidic fruits.

All citrus plants and most acidic fruits contain citric acid.

How And Where Can I Purchase Citric Acid?

Citric acid is sold in the market in its powder form, odorless, and sour flavor. It has a lot of distributors, and you can find them in your usual marketplace.

If you can’t find it in physical stores, online e-commerce sites would definitely have them available for delivery at your doorstep!

Can citric acid harm my health or give other harmful effects to my body?

Natural citric acid will not harm your health, and it is reasonably safe to use except for those who are allergic to it. People who are allergic will show symptoms of rashes, red skin and eyes, which are common for those exposed to their allergens. However, it’s not very common to be allergic to citric acid, so it’s not much of a threat.

Besides that, citric acid can only be damaging if you use it excessively. You will experience swollen or stiff joints, stomach and muscle pain, or even shortness of breath. As the saying goes, too much of anything is not healthy!