Can you Use Cupcake Liners as Coffee Filters?

Stack of White Cupcake Liners

No, you cannot switch cupcake liners for coffee filters. The two serve very different purposes in the kitchen and are not interchangeable. There are alternatives if you need a substitution for coffee filters or cupcake liners.

Coffee Filters vs. Cupcake Liners

A coffee filter consists of materials such as coarse paper or cloth. The purpose is to filter brewed coffee through it without allowing the solid ground coffee to pass through.The paper filters are made of coarse long fiber materials from trees and can be purchased bleached or unbleached.

Cupcake filters line the baking pan when cooking. They consist of thin material that is waterproof, heat resistant, and food safe. Traditionally cupcake liners just came as waxed parchment, but now there are options to choose from.

  • Colored paper liners are the standard and can be used to theme your cupcake for events such as a sports team or a favorite color
  • Foil liners are thicker and more sturdy than traditional paper liners but often cost more. You can find these in a wide range of colors, themed decorations, and metallics.
  • Tulip liners are waxed paper liners that come as a heavier material than most paper liners. The edges rise above the top of the cupcake to create a decorative tulip shape. These can be found in professional bakeries most often.
  • Specialty liners exist for every occasion. Find them at your local grocery store. These will cost more than plain paper liner but can be a pretty touch to match a themed party.
  • Silicone liners are an eco-friendly alternative for your cupcakes. Though they cost a bit more, you only purchase them once. This reusable option

Are they interchangeable?

No, you cannot use a coffee filter as a cupcake liner or vice versa.

A coffee filter’s porous nature means cupcake batter will pass through the filter and onto the baking pan, creating a mess.

Coffee filters are also not made for hot baking temperatures and are a fire hazard. While coffee filters can withstand boiling water, they are considered flammable. The dry heat from an oven or air fryer can cause coffee filters to catch on fire or burn.

The long fibrous strands that make up a coffee filter are prone to sticking. Coffee filters will not come off your cupcake the way liners do. Instead, they will stick to your pastry and tear the paper.

Cupcake liners are not a porous material like coffee filters. If you attempt to use a cupcake liner as a coffee filter, the liner will overflow and not allow the liquid to pass through as needed.

What do I substitute for a Cupcake Liner?

Cupcake liners are not necessary to make delicious cupcakes. Greasing the baking tray well before baking is all you need to do to prevent sticking. Butter, oil, or cooking spray all work to keep cupcakes or muffins from sticking to the pan.

You can also make your liners out of parchment paper or foil. Some choose to roughly cut the liners. For those who want a little more accuracy or neatness from their liners, here’s how to cut them to size.

  1. Check what size your cupcake pan is. Standard cupcake pans are about 2.5 inches.
  2. You determine your liner size based on the size of a cupcake pan. The square for your liner will be double the size of the cupcake pan. For a standard size, you will want a 5 by 5-inch liner.
  3. Measure and cut the liners out of parchment paper or aluminum foil
  4. Lay your cupcake liners flat on the table. Place a glass the size of your cupcake pan in the center and fold the edges up to form the shape of the cupcake. This only works with waxed paper or aluminum foil. Regular parchment paper is not going to have the necessary hold power.
  5. Place the liners in the tray as you would a normal cupcake liner. Press the edges against the side of the pan for a better fit.
  6. Pour the batter carefully and check for leaks as you go.

What do I substitute for Coffee Filters?

When you’re out of coffee filters, any paper product will do. In a pinch, napkins and paper towels are a common swap but can be flimsy and contain chemicals you don’t want to ingest.

A mesh sieve can get the job done. This alternative is easy to use and eco-friendly. The downside is they aren’t as thorough as coffee filters. Expect to find a few more coffee grounds than usual in your drink.

A cloth napkin or dish towel is another zero-waste option to replace your coffee filters. These are sturdy and inexpensive but will almost certainly stain and may absorb a little too much of your brewed coffee.

Tea bags are a great option if you happen to have them on hand. They are easy to use and will make you a strong cup of coffee. Reusable alternatives for tea bags and coffee filters can be purchased but may be expensive.

The easiest solution to not having a coffee filter is to not use one. You can use a filter-free method such as the French press, or take an old-school approach with Cowboy coffee.

This method has you brew your coffee directly in the pot and let the grounds settle at the bottom before pouring to have as few coffee grounds as possible in your cup. You’ll still likely have some grounds but not too much as to prevent your enjoyment of a fresh cup of coffee.

Other uses for Coffee Filters

Coffee filters have plenty of other uses beyond their intended purpose. You can use them in a pinch to hold snacks instead of a napkin or a paper towel.

Coffee filters absorb moisture, so they are great for food storage. Swap out your zip-lock bags for coffee filters when packing a sandwich or baked goods. You’ll find your food fresh with a slightly damp filter.

Instead of using paper towels to wipe down glass and metal, try a coffee filter. The filters make great streak-free cleaners. Use them on your windows, wine glasses, or even your coffee machine.


There are plenty of great substitutions to help you out in the kitchen. Remember, though, that every item and accessory serves a specific purpose and not all substitutions are equal. Make sure to do a little research before making substitutions, especially when putting something in the oven.