Baking Powder or Baking Soda? What’s the Difference?

This article will teach you the difference between baking powder and baking soda, and how to use each one properly in your baking.

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Baking Powder

Baking powder is a dry chemical leavening agent, a mixture of a carbonate or bicarbonate and a weak acid. The base and acid are prevented from reacting prematurely by the inclusion of a buffer such as cornstarch. Baking powder is used to increase the volume and lighten the texture of baked goods. It works by releasing carbon dioxide gas into the batter or dough, which causes the batter or dough to rise.

Composition

The major difference between baking powder and baking soda is the acids. Baking soda is just sodium bicarbonate. When it’s mixed with water, it releases carbon dioxide gas. Baking powder contains sodium bicarbonate, but it also has two acids: cream of tartar and salt. When baking powder is mixed with water, the acid and base react and release carbon dioxide gas.

Uses

Baking powder is a dry chemical leavening agent, a mixture of a carbonate or bicarbonate and a weak acid. The baking powder is used to increase the volume and lighten the texture of baked goods. It works by releasing carbon dioxide gas into a batter or dough through an acid-base reaction, causing bubbles in the wet mixture to expand and leaven the mixture. Baking powder is used as a substitute for yeast for breads where fermentation flavors would be undesirable, such as cakes and cookies. The powders are generally sold as double-acting, meaning that they release carbon dioxide when they come into contact with both an acidic ingredient (such as buttermilk, yogurt, chocolate) and heat via baking.

Storage

Baking powder should be stored in a cool, dry place, such as the pantry. It’s best to keep it in an airtight container to prevent it from absorbing moisture from the air. Baking powder that is older than 6 months may not be as effective, so it’s best to use it within that timeframe. Baking powder can be used past its expiration date if it’s still active, but the leavening power will be weaker so you may need to use more of it to achieve the desired results.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a leavening agent that helps baked goods rise. It’s most commonly used in recipes that also include an acidic ingredient, such as buttermilk or lemon juice. Baking soda is a white powder that is odorless and has a slightly salty taste.

Composition

Baking soda is 100% sodium bicarbonate. When it comes to leavening, baking soda needs an acidic ingredient (like yogurt, buttermilk, molasses, chocolate, honey, or lemon juice) to create carbon dioxide gas and cause the batter or dough to rise. That’s why you’ll often see recipes that call for both baking soda and an acidic ingredient.

Baking powder is a combination of sodium bicarbonate and one or more acids. The most common acid used in home baking is cream of tartar. Baking powder also contains cornstarch to absorb moisture so that it doesn’t clump when it’s stored. When combined with liquid ingredients, the acids in baking powder react with the sodium bicarbonate to create carbon dioxide gas. This causes batters and doughs to rise.

Uses

Baking soda is a versatile ingredient for many home-baking projects, as well as and cleaning projects. In baking, it’s often combined with other ingredients, like baking powder, cornstarch, or buttermilk. Baking soda is activated by an acid and forms carbon dioxide gas bubbles, which makes baked goods fluffy and gives them a little rise.

Some common acids used to activate baking soda are cream of tartar, yogurt, buttermilk, molasses, brown sugar, honey, and cocoa powder. If you don’t have one of these on hand, you can also use vinegar (the acidity level will depend on the type of vinegar you use) or lemon juice.

In general, for every 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) of baking soda that a recipe calls for, you can use 1 teaspoon (4 grams) of baking powder. Baking powder is a combination of baking soda and an acid—usually cream of tartar—so it’s already partially activated. That means you don’t need as much in your recipe to get the same rising power.

Storage

Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is a salt that is composed of sodium ions and bicarbonate ions. Baking soda is a leavening agent that is used in baking to help batters and doughs rise. When combined with an acidic ingredient, such as buttermilk or lemon juice, baking soda will release carbon dioxide gas and cause the batter or dough to expand. Baking soda can also be used as a cleaning agent and as a deodorizer.

Baking soda should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Baking soda has an indefinite shelf life and does not expire.

Baking Powder vs. Baking Soda

Both baking powder and baking soda are leavening agents, which means they are used to help baked goods rise. Baking powder is a combination of baking soda and an acid, such as cream of tartar. Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate. When baking soda comes into contact with an acidic ingredient, it reacts and produces carbon dioxide gas.

Similarities

Both baking powder and baking soda are leaveners used in baking, which means they help baked goods to rise. Both are white powders that are activated by liquid and heat. Baking powder and baking soda also share some chemical similarities. They both contain sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), which is a base. When this base is combined with an acid, it produces carbon dioxide gas (CO2). This is what makes baked goods rise as the gas bubbles get trapped in the batter or dough.

Differences

Baking soda is 100% sodium bicarbonate. When it comes to leavening, or the process of creating air pockets in baked goods to make them light and fluffy, it needs an acid to start the reaction. But once that reaction starts, it’s a single ingredient on its own.

Baking powder is a combination of three ingredients: sodium bicarbonate (which is also known as baking soda), cornstarch, and an acidic ingredient. The most common acidic ingredient is cream of tartar, but some baking powders use baking soda that’s been combined with another acid, such as monocalcium phosphate.

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