The difference between baking soda and baking powder is something every chef contemplates at one time or another along their culinary journey. I have been baking for over 50 years and can give you a definitive answer on whether baking soda can be used instead of baking powder.
Baking soda can be used instead of baking powder if an acid, like vinegar or buttermilk, is added. Without it, the baked goods will not rise as intended. Both are sodium bicarbonate based, with the main differences being that baking soda is less strong but has cream of tartar (an acid) added.
While you can substitute one for the other with some careful consideration, they should not be used interchangeably without making some adjustments. Let’s explore what these are and cover a few substitutes that can be added to baking soda to make it viable.
Comparing and Contrasting Baking Soda and Baking Powder
While this subject is relatively complicated when it comes to the chemistry behind the topic, I’m going to keep the scope of this simple. I will focus on the aspects of it that will directly affect your recipes. Let’s take a look at the major differences first:
- Baking soda is otherwise known as sodium bicarbonate. It becomes active in baking when it is combined with an acid and a liquid. When all of these things combine, carbon dioxide is produced, which is what makes baked goods rise.
- Baking powder also includes sodium bicarbonate as well as the acid needed for baked goods to rise (cream of tartar, in this case), so an additional acidic ingredient is not required when baking. Baking powder also usually contains cornstarch, which prevents the base (sodium bicarbonate) from reacting with the acid while in storage.
Therefore, baking powder can make baked goods rise alone, while baking soda needs to have an acidic component added to have the same effect.
That’s really all you need to know to substitute baking soda for powder. After that is established, you just need to get the ratios right.
What Can I Use as a Substitute for Baking Powder?
Now, let’s take a look at what can be added to baking soda to make it viable in your recipes. The good news is there are plenty of fine substitutes for baking powder. Most will have to be combined with baking soda to get the desired results.
It’s important to consider the type of recipe you’re making when choosing the correct additive. Keep in mind the quantity needed and the flavor of the ingredients used.
Here are 9 acidic substitutes that can be added to baking soda:
Buttermilk is cultured milk that has a tangy taste similar to yogurt. For every 1 teaspoon of baking powder needed, substitute 1/2 a cup of buttermilk and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. Just remember that since you are increasing the amount of liquid in your recipe, you should decrease the amount of other liquids.
You can use any kind of vinegar for this substitution, but white vinegar will probably taste the best. Use 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar with 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda to get the same result as 1 teaspoon of baking powder.
3. Plain Yogurt
Like buttermilk, yogurt will lend a slightly tangy flavor to your recipe and will require you to pare down on other liquids. In place of one teaspoon of baking powder, use 1/2 cup of plain yogurt and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda.
Molasses is high in sugar, so consider using less sweetener, and definitely don’t use it if you’re making a savory baked good like whole-wheat bread. Use 1/4 cup of molasses and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda for every teaspoon of baking powder.
5. Lemon juice
For best results, lemon juice should be used in recipes that call for small amounts of baking powder. Use 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda with 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice to substitute for 1 teaspoon of baking powder.
6. Cream of Tartar
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar can replace 1 teaspoon of baking powder.
Some stand-ins for baking powder don’t require baking soda at all.
7. Whipped Egg Whites
Whipping egg whites produces air bubbles that increase volume without the need for baking soda or baking powder.
8. Self-Rising Flour
Self-rising flour is made with all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. There is no need to add any baking soda when using this method.
9. Club Soda
Since club soda contains sodium bicarbonate, it works well on its own to leaven baked goods.
How to Tell the Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder
If you’re not sure whether you have baking soda or baking powder at home, it is easy (and fun) to find the difference.
Put 1/8 teaspoon of the powder or soda in a bowl and add water:
- If the substance is baking soda, it will dissolve, and the solution will be clear.
- If the substance is baking powder, it won’t entirely dissolve since the cornstarch in the baking powder is insoluble. The solution will contain a powdery residue.
You can also taste the substance to find out whether it’s baking soda or baking powder.
- Baking soda will have a taste that’s more like soap.
- Baking powder will taste slightly of starch and will gently fizz in your mouth.
What Does Baking Soda Do to Cookies?
When added to cookie dough, baking soda releases carbon dioxide. This makes the cookies rise and results in a soft, fluffy cookie. You should bake them immediately after mixing, or the baking soda will stop reacting, and your cookies will be flat instead of fluffy.
Now you know how to make baking soda work in your recipes when in a pinch. Even so, it’s best just to use exactly what the recipes call for. Otherwise, it’s just a guessing game without spending a ton of time experimenting. I prefer making a quick trip to the store rather than chancing my cooking being sub-par.
I hope this guide has been helpful!
Thanks for stoppin’ by.
Anne James has a wealth of expertise in a wide array of interests, including quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, and making jelly.
She has a professional canning business and has been featured in the local newspaper, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is.
With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass.
Lovingly known as “Jelly Grandma” by her grandkids, Anne hopes your visit here has been a sweet one.