The Complete Guide to Quick Breads

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Quick breads are baked goods that are made with a chemical leavening agent such as baking powder and/or baking soda. They are called quick breads because they can be baked immediately after mixing rather than waiting hours for them to rise.

Loaf of zucchini bread in pan

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Examples of quick breads:

  • Muffins
  • Cakes
  • Brownies
  • Cookies
  • Pancakes
  • Waffles
  • Biscuits
  • Scones
  • Donuts
  • Cornbread
  • Loaves

Yes, quick bread is more than just your trusty loaf of banana bread. All of the items mentioned above are technically quick breads.

Pile of Raspberry Lemon Ricotta Pancakes topped with mixed berries
Raspberry Lemon Ricotta PancakesSavor and Savvy

What makes quick bread rise so quickly?

Baking Soda: Baking soda is a base ingredient that can be used as a leavening agent in recipes that contain an acidic ingredient. See chemistry class was useful! When baking soda combines with an acidic ingredient it begins to bubble and release carbon dioxide. This release of gas causes baked goods to rise. This reaction begins immediately so it is best to put your baked goods in the oven as quickly as possible.

Common acidic ingredients include:

  • Buttermilk
  • Yogurt
  • Chocolate
  • Natural Cocoa Powder (Not dutch processed)
  • Fruit Juice
  • Applesauce
  • Brown Sugar
  • Molasses
  • Honey
  • Vinegar
  • Cream of Tarter

Baking Powder: Baking powder contains baking soda (base), cream of tartar (acid), and cornstarch to prevent clumping. Most baking powders are double-acting, meaning there is one reaction when they get wet (mixing dry ingredients into wet ingredients) and a second reaction when they are heated. Because baking powder already contains an acidic ingredient it is often used in recipes that do not call for an additional acidic ingredient.

Did you know you can make your own baking powder?

For more information on the differences between baking powder and baking soda check out this post on Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Apple Cinnamon Quick Bread With Cider GlazeKelly Neil

Why do some recipes use both baking soda and baking powder?

Thicker batters often require additional leavening. They already contain an acidic ingredient put need the extra boost from baking powder to rise properly.

Another reason both baking soda and baking powder may be used in a recipe is to maintain the acidic twang in the final product. For example, if all of the acid in buttermilk pancakes or a loaf of lemon bread is neutralized you will loose their natural tanginess.

Three types of quick breads

  • Pour Batters: This type of batter has a dry to liquid ratio of 1:1, which allows it to be poured from the mixing bowl. It produces a moist and dense baked good. Examples include my recipes for crispy waffles, and pumpkin pancakes.
  • Drop Batter: This type of batter has a dry to liquid ratio of 3:1. The batter is thicker and needs to be scraped from the bowl. It produces a moist, but fluffy baked good. Examples include muffins, biscuits, loaves, and coffee cake.
  • Stiff Dough: This type of batter has a dry to liquid ratio of 7:1. The batter is firm enough to roll and shape by hand. It produces a very light and fluffy baked good. Examples include biscuits, doughnuts, and scones.
Cranberry Orange Oatmeal MuffinsRadical Strength

Mixing methods

  • The muffin method combines the liquid, sugar, liquid fat (such as melted butter or oil), and eggs at the same time. The dry ingredients are then added to the liquid ingredients. This method is commonly used for making muffins, loaves, pancakes, waffles or my Fresh Apple Cake.
  • The creaming method uses softened fat rather than liquid. The softened fat is creamed together with the sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. The eggs are then added one at a time. Finally, the dry ingredients and remaining liquid ingredients are alternately added. This method is used for various types of cookies. Try these fresh mint cookies or these caramel stuffed peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.
  • The biscuit method involves first cutting the fat into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. I find a food processor particularly great for this process. Then the liquid ingredients are added. This method produces flaky items such as biscuits and scones.

Whichever method you are using it is important to mix the batter or dough as little as possible. This limits the amount of gluten that is developed ensuring the final baking product will be light and tender.

Types of baking pans

The type of pan you choose for baking makes a huge difference in the outcome of the final baked good.

Shiny Aluminum Pans produce baked goods that are consistent in color and texture. They prevent quick baked goods from becoming too dark on the bottom and around the sides of the pan.

Dark Nonstick Pans prevent baked goods from sticking but they tend to brown too quickly on the bottom and around the sides of the pan. To slow the browning process try reducing the oven temperature by 25°F.

Insulated Pans are made of two thin sheets of aluminum with a layer of air between them. Baked goods baked in insulated baking pans may require a longer baking time and often don’t brown as well on the bottom and around the sides of the pan.

Ovenproof Glass pans like dark nonstick pans absorb heat quickly. Baked goods baked in glass tend to brown too quickly on the bottom and around the sides of the pan. To slow the browning process try reducing the oven temperature by 25°F.

Disposable Aluminum Pans are perfect for baked goods which will be given away as gifts.



Slice of fresh apple cake on a white plate
Homemade Fresh Apple CakeRaspberries and Kohlrabi


Hazelnut Brownies on a cutting board
Nutella BrowniesRaspberries and Kohlrabi



Pumpkin Spice Pancakes
Pumpkin Spice PancakesRaspberries and Kohlrabi


3 crispy waffles on a white plate
Crispy WafflesRaspberries and Kohlrabi


Healthy Pumpkin Sage BiscuitsSweet Peas and Saffron


Cinnamon SconesThe Anthony Kitchen


Vanilla Birthday Cake Donuts on a blue board with a glass of milk
Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake DonutsGluten-Free Palate



I am always looking for new quick bread recipes. What are your favorites?

Thanks for Reading!

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Love learning all about certain types of foods and culinary processes? Check out a few of my other culinary guides.

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