Malt powder is a versatile ingredient used in many recipes to add a rich, sweet, nutty flavor.
Made from sprouted barley, wheat, or other grains, it gives baked goods color and aids in fermentation.
However, finding a good substitute is key for times when you've run out or want to avoid malt powder.
What is Malt Powder?
Malt powder, also called malt flour, is made by sprouting cereal grains like barley, wheat, or rice, then quickly drying and grinding them into a fine powder.
It has a subtly sweet taste and flour-like texture. Barley malt is the most common type used in baking and cooking.
The malting process activates enzymes that convert starches into fermentable sugars. This increases the malt powder's sweetness and ability to help yeast grow.
There are two main varieties:
- Diastatic malt powder contains active enzymes to convert starches into sugars. This helps bread dough rise faster with a better crust.
- Non-diastatic malt powder has no active enzymes left. It's used purely for flavor and sweetness.
Malt powder shouldn't be confused with malted milk powder. While similar, malted milk powder also contains wheat flour and milk powder.
Key Takeaway: Malt powder comes from sprouted, dried, and ground grains like barley. It adds sweetness and aids baking.
Common Uses for Malt Powder
Malt powder has several culinary uses:
- Adds sweetness, color, and nutty flavor to baked goods like bread, bagels, cookies, and cakes
- Improves dough rise and crust formation in yeast breads
- Thickens and enriches the flavor of sauces, gravies, soups, and shakes
- Gives a rich, malty taste to desserts like ice cream, pudding, and chocolate
- Enhances the flavor, aroma, and fermentation of beers and whiskeys
The diastatic enzymes make malt powder especially useful for creating lighter, fluffier baked goods that rise well. Non-diastatic malt adds mainly flavor and color.
Malt powder contributes to the distinctive taste of chocolate malted milkshakes and malt-flavored foods like malted milk balls. It's a versatile way to insert malt flavor beyond just alcoholic beverages.
Key Takeaway: Malt powder is used in baked goods, sauces, desserts, and beverages to add sweetness, aid fermentation, and improve texture.
Health Benefits of Malt Powder
In addition to making foods taste great, malt powder offers some health perks:
- High in fiber - The whole grain barley adds lots of filling fiber. This promotes good digestion.
- Contains antioxidants - Malt provides phenolic antioxidants that combat cell damage by free radicals. This may lower inflammation.
- Rich in B vitamins - It's high in energizing B vitamins like niacin, riboflavin, and folate. These support metabolism and nerve function.
- Mineral-rich - Malt powder provides iron, magnesium, zinc, calcium, and other minerals vital for health. Its nutrients boost immunity, bones, and blood.
- Prebiotic effects - The natural sugars feed probiotic gut bacteria. This enhances digestive health.
While malt powder contains some sugars, its fiber and nutrients help slow sugar absorption and supply lasting energy. Enjoying it in moderation can be part of a balanced diet.
Key Takeaway: Malt powder offers a range of nutrients and antioxidants that provide health benefits, especially for digestion, immunity, and energy levels.
Best Malt Powder Substitutes
When you run out or want an alternative, these options make good malt powder swaps:
1. Malted Milk Powder
Malted milk powder contains malt powder along with milk solids, so it mimics the flavor well. Use it 1:1 in place of malt powder in recipes.
The added dairy gives malted milk powder a richer, creamier taste. But it still provides that signature malty sweetness.
2. Malt Extract/Syrup
Replace malt powder with malt syrup or malt extract. Reduce the amount since these liquid forms are far sweeter. Start with 1/4 to 1/3 of the malt powder amount.
Thin malt syrup with milk or water for a drinkable malt flavor. Its thick syrupy texture works better in sauces than batters.
3. Milk Powder
Regular milk powder (dairy or non-dairy) mimics malt powder's subtle sweetness. Add it in a 1:1 ratio.
However, milk powders lack malt's distinctive flavor. Add a little malt extract to boost the malty taste.
4. Maca Powder
Nutrient-rich maca powder makes an excellent malt substitute. It has a similar sweetness, beige color, and nutty taste.
Maca comes from a Peruvian root vegetable. It gives a healthy energy and mood boost.
Use maca powder 1:1 in place of malt powder. Its earthy flavor pairs especially well in heartier baked goods.
5. Soy Milk Powder
Like plain milk powder, soy milk powder stands in for malt powder's texture and whitish color. It has a mild, malty sweetness when combined with sugar or honey.
Boost soy milk powder's nutritional value by choosing organic, non-GMO varieties whenever possible.
6. Oat Powder
Oat powder offers a neutral base to build malt-like flavors. Made from ground oats, it has a light sweetness and smooth texture similar to malt powder.
Sweeten plain oat powder with molasses, honey, or maple syrup to mimic malt. Use oat powder and milk powder together to better approximate malt's dairy notes.
7. Bread Flour
Some bread flour contains barley malt. Check the ingredients first, then use it cup for cup in place of malt powder.
The added gluten helps breads rise but gives a different texture than plain malt powder. Bread flour still provides that subtle sweetness and beige hue.
Sticky, bittersweet molasses replaces some of malt powder's sweetness and brown hue. Use 1 tablespoon molasses for every 3 tablespoons malt powder.
Blackstrap molasses has the boldest flavor. For milder recipes, try regular molasses or experiment with blends.
Honey makes a fine substitute in terms of malt powder's sweetness and viscosity. However, it lacks the malty taste. Start with 1/4 to 1/3 of the malt powder amount.
Honey is sweeter than malt powder, so use a light hand to avoid overpowering other ingredients. Consider mild-flavored honeys like orange blossom.
10. Brown Rice Syrup
With its maltose-like sweetness, brown rice syrup substitutes well for malt powder. Use about 3/4 cup per 1 cup malt powder. Add milk powder to approximate malt's dairy side.
This gluten-free syrup has a smooth, thick texture reminiscent of malt. It works nicely in gluten-free baked goods.
11. Barley Malt Syrup
Barley malt syrup is made from sprouted, malted barley like malt powder. Using 1/4 to 1/3 cup provides pure, concentrated malt flavor minus the powdery bulk.
Thin sticky malt syrup with milk or water for optimal consistency in different recipes. It adds great malt taste to shakes and frostings.
12. Corn Syrup
Corn syrup substitutes well for malt powder in terms of thickening and sweetening properties. Use a moderate amount as it's sweeter than malt powder.
Combine with milk powder and extracts to better replicate malt's dairy and grain elements.
13. Vanilla Powder
Vanilla powder can't mimic malt's flavor exactly. But it does supply a sweet, aromatic dimension when malt powder is unavailable.
Use 1 teaspoon vanilla powder per 1 tablespoon malt powder. Add milk powder as needed to modify the consistency.
14. Quinoa Powder
Quinoa powder makes an impressively healthy malt alternative with its protein content and amino acids. It has a natural sweetness and beige color similar to malt powder.
Because quinoa powder has a strong, grassy taste, use about 1/2 the amount of malt powder called for. Sweeten to taste.
15. Potato Flour
Potato flour works well to replace malt powder in recipes needing more thickness, like gravies. Its neutral taste requires added sweetener and dairy powder.
Use a moderate amount as potato flour absorbs lots of moisture. Start with 3/4 the amount of malt powder.
How to Substitute Malt Powder in Recipes
When using malt powder alternatives, keep these tips in mind:
- Match the consistency as needed. Thicken syrups or thin powders with milk or water.
- Balance the sweetness levels. Many alternatives are sweeter or less sweet than malt powder. Adjust sugar accordingly.
- Add powdered milk, malt extract, or molasses to better mimic malt's signature flavor.
- For breads, choose substitutes containing wheat or gluten to improve rising. Or allow for extra rising time.
- Reduce strong-flavored subs like quinoa powder so they don't overwhelm the recipe.
- Experiment with combining multiple options like oat powder, vanilla, and rice syrup.
Frequently Asked Questions
What's the best malt powder substitute for bread?
For bread recipes, use malted milk powder, maca powder, or bread flour containing barley malt to best mimic malt powder's flavor and dough-raising abilities.
What can I use instead of malt powder for milkshakes?
Malted milk powder, milk powder plus malt extract, Ovaltine powder, or honey make good malt powder substitutes for shakes.
Is barley malt syrup the same as malt powder?
Barley malt syrup is made from sprouted, malted barley like malt powder. But it's a thick liquid instead of a dry powder. Use 1/4 to 1/3 cup syrup per 1 cup malt powder.
Can I replace malt powder with all-purpose flour?
All-purpose flour can work texture-wise but lacks malt powder's sweetness. Add sugar and dairy powder to approximate the flavor. Allow more rising time for yeast breads.
What's the healthiest malt powder substitute?
Maca powder and quinoa powder are two of the most nutrient-dense alternatives. Soy milk powder also provides a high-protein option.
Malt powder offers a delicious, sweet nuttiness that enhances recipes ranging from breads to shakes. Thankfully, viable alternatives can mimic malt's distinctive qualities when you're in a pinch.
For malt powder's signature flavor, try malted milk powder, malt syrup, maca powder, molasses, or honey. Oat, soy, and milk powders provide neutral bases to build malt-like tastes. And options like potato and quinoa flours substitute well in terms of function.