If you've ever baked anything, more than likely you've come across the need for baking powder or baking soda. Did your recipe call for one or the other – or even both? Do you know the difference between these two staple baking ingredients? We're going to break it down for you! This quick read will cover how these two are the same, different, why some recipes call for both, and what you can use in a pinch to substitute if you do not have one on hand.
Baking soda is purely sodium bicarbonate, and it requires an acid like buttermilk, lemon juice, yogurt, or cream of tartar to be added for the leavening to happen.
Baking powder is a combination of sodium bicarbonate and a powered acid, and it only requires a liquid and heat for the chemical reaction to activate.
Why does my recipe call for both baking soda and baking powder?There are two main reasons a recipe would call for both baking soda and powder are taste and browning needs. Think of buttermilk biscuits: tall, perfectly browned, and slightly tangy.
Common substitutes for baking soda and baking powder.If you are missing baking powder:
- The easiest swap is 1 teaspoon of baking soda to 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar to make 1 tablespoon of baking powder.
- If you don’t have the cream of tartar, you can take an acid liquid – like buttermilk, lemon juice, yogurt, or even vinegar – and combine it with baking soda. Refer to The Pioneer Woman's article for a full breakdown of these ratios.
- All the above options require baking soda. And if you don’t have baking soda, don’t worry. It gets a little more complicated, but it’s still possible with whipped egg whites. You will need to remove the same amount of liquid from another liquid ingredient as the eggs whites you add. For example, if you add 2 tablespoons of unbeaten egg whites, remove 2 tablespoons of milk.
If you are missing baking soda:
- You can substitute baking soda with baking powder; you'll use three teaspoons of powder for every 1 teaspoon of soda.
- Egg whites again for the win. The same rules apply.
- If you can work fast and gently at the same, club soda can add that bit of extra CO2. Same as the egg whites, you'll need to remove part of another liquid.
Were you one of the millions that jumped on the baking train during the 2020 pandemic shut down? Has it been about that long since you used your baking soda or baking powder? No shame! You will need to test to see if your ingredients are still good. We have a little science experiment for you today!
Test to see if baking soda is still active.
Think school volcano project. You'll need to add a little vinegar to about a teaspoon of baking soda. If your solution expands like a lava flow out of a volcano, your baking soda is still good to use!
Test to see if baking powder is still active.
This experiment is much less exciting. Take a teaspoon of baking powder and add it to a small glass of hot water. If it bubbles, you're good to bake.