Try These Espresso Powder Substitutes to Bring Out Your Food's Flavors

Searching for a good espresso powder substitute? Our Test Kitchen recommends two easy-to-find ingredients that are just as effective at enhancing flavor.

There are reams of recipes featuring coffee to provide that bold, mocha flavor you associate with a cup of joe. While caffeinated desserts—like pumpkin spice latte cookies and espresso brownies—are absolutely divine—we also like to recruit instant espresso powder for another purpose: bringing intensity to savory recipes. And, no, this dark-hued dust doesn't make everything taste like coffee. For example, using instant espresso in a rub for steak adds rich, earthy notes that deliciously complement the meat. If you're making a recipe that calls for instant espresso powder—but don't have any on hand—use one of our Test Kitchen's espresso powder substitutes to finish your dish and still achieve the intended flavor.

espresso powder close-up
Jason Donnelly

The Best Espresso Powder Substitutes

If you don't have instant espresso powder ($5, Walmart) and are wondering what to use instead, try one of these two Test Kitchen-approved espresso powder substitutes:

  • Instant coffee powder: Using an equal amount of instant coffee powder ($6, Walmart) or granules will work fine in your recipes. Keep in mind: Espresso powder is more concentrated than coffee powder, so using the latter as an espresso powder substitute won't impart the same depth of flavor. Although you can add more coffee powder than you would espresso powder, don't go overboard, since this could add a bitter note to your food (especially desserts).
  • Brewed coffee: Use strong brewed coffee—ideally, a super-dark roast—that's been chilled to replace a small portion of liquid in the recipe.

Is Espresso Powder the Same as Instant Coffee?

Not quite. Instant sspresso powder is made from dark-roasted coffee beans that have been ground, dried, and pulsed into a fine powder, which can dissolve in hot water without needing to be brewed in a coffee pot or filtered. While it looks the same as instant coffee powder and the two can be used interchangeably, instant espresso powder is more concentrated.

Now, go ahead, try an espresso powder substitute in more of our rich, flavorful recipes, like these espresso tarts or this stunning maple-mocha pull-apart bread.

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