Baking Soda Vs Baking Powder: Which Is Better?
Baking soda and baking powder are both leavening agents, that is, they cause dough or batter to rise. Another name for them is bicarbonate of soda and bicarbonate of soda respectively. The main difference between them is the way they work.
This article aims to explain the difference between baking soda and baking powder, including their benefits and drawbacks.
What is baking soda?
Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate. It contains an alkali called sodium hydroxide, which is a strong base that reacts with the acid that is present in most foods to release carbon dioxide gas.
For example, when you mix baking soda with vinegar, it reacts to form bubbles of carbon dioxide gas. These bubbles are trapped within the dough or batter and cause it to rise.
What are the types of baking soda?
There are three types of baking soda:
“Non-aluminum baking powder” is typically made of a mixture of sodium bicarbonate and cream of tartar. The latter consists mostly of potassium hydrogen tartrate, a substance that does not react with food. It serves to balance the pH of baking soda so it doesn’t react with acidic components before getting put into dough or batter. Another substance in non-aluminum baking powder is starch which absorbs moisture so the finished product remains light and fluffy.
Aluminum-free baking powder contains calcium acid phosphate instead of cream of tartar since the latter is an aluminum compound that gives baked goods a slightly metallic flavor. Aluminum-free baking powder also has starch added to it for this same reason, as well as to improve the free-flowing properties of baking powder so it mixes evenly with other dry ingredients.
“Double-acting baking soda” is simply a mixture of sodium bicarbonate and one or more acid salts, such as calcium acid phosphate and/or sodium aluminum sulfate. The two acids react at different times while cooking to produce bubbles of carbon dioxide: first when they come in contact with moisture (usually from wet ingredients), and again when heated. This ensures that your baked goods rise during both the making process and while in the oven.
What are the benefits of baking soda?
Baking soda has no real flavor of its own, making it ideal for use in recipes that use strong flavors. Baking soda can be used along with acidic ingredients such as lemon juice or vinegar, buttermilk, or brown sugar to cause dough or batter to rise without affecting the flavor of the finished product.
It’s fast-acting. Once you mix it with an acidic ingredient such as buttermilk, molasses, chocolate, honey, or yogurt it will start producing bubbles of carbon dioxide gas immediately.
It’s easy to use. You don’t have to measure baking soda precisely the way you do yeast. It doesn’t have to be activated by a liquid before being added to dough or batter so there is no waiting for it to do its job.
It makes baked goods puff up by trapping carbon dioxide bubbles which are formed when an acid comes in contact with the baking soda.
It’s inexpensive and widely available (at least in industrialized countries). Most supermarkets and grocery stores carry it for between one and two dollars per pound (half a kilo).
Baking soda can be used along with acidic ingredients such as lemon juice or vinegar, buttermilk, or brown sugar to cause dough or batter to rise without affecting the flavor of the finished product.
Since baking powder already contains both sodium bicarbonate and one or more acids, you can replace some of the baking powder called for in a recipe with baking soda so you don’t have to buy two different ingredients.
What are the drawbacks of baking soda?
There are three main drawbacks:
You can only mix it into wet ingredients. Since we add dry ingredients like flour last when making bread or cake, this means you have to wait until the very end of the mixing process before adding baking soda. If you try to mix it in earlier, it will interact with acids present in other ingredients and release all its gas which would cause your dough or batter to collapse.
For the same reason, if you’re baking something that’s supposed to be dry like scones or crackers, it isn’t practical because there are no wet ingredients for it to react with.
It reacts with certain acidic foods. If you add too much baking soda to a recipe that contains an acidic ingredient such as lemon juice, tomato sauce, chocolate, cocoa powder, buttermilk, sour cream, etc., your baked goods will turn out so alkaline they will taste terrible.
Because it reacts with the acid, baking soda should not come into contact with acidic ingredients before they are fully mixed into dough or batter (unless the recipe calls for an alkaline flavor like in Cream Cheese Cookies ). Unfortunately, this means you generally have to wait until all other wet ingredients are added before adding baking soda. If your recipe has very little liquid, it’s often easier to mix the dry ingredients first and then mix the wet ones last so you can add baking soda at any time during the mixing process.
It can’t produce gas bubbles on its own. Baking powder contains two components that react together: baking soda and one or more leavening acids such as cream of tartar that releases carbon dioxide gas when dissolved in water.
Baking soda can’t produce bubbles all by itself because it needs an acid to help break down the bubbles of carbon dioxide gas so they have somewhere to go, which is why it’s often combined with cream of tartar or another leavening acid.
What are the uses of baking soda?
Baking soda is used to make things like:
Soft pretzels (which are boiled in a baking soda solution before they’re baked)
Cake (when mixed with buttermilk, molasses, or yogurt it causes the batter to rise by creating bubbles of carbon dioxide gas trapped inside).
Pancakes (they get nice and fluffy when you add some).
Waffles (the same effect happens here except the batter is runnier so there isn’t enough time for bubbles to reduce before the waffle cooks through. You can use baking powder instead which produces bubbles more quickly because it already contains an acid).
Molasses cookies (without it, these cookies would be flat).
Pie crusts (it makes them nice and flaky).
Scone dough (baking soda is an easy way to add a little extra rise to your scones, but since they’re typically heavier than baked goods made with baking powder, you usually have to cut down on another leavening agent such as baking powder or yeast so you don’t overdo it).
Bagels (the boiling process before they go in the oven helps set their shape and gives them a shiny crust which makes them a lot more appealing).
Moist cakes like carrot cake. Acidic ingredients can cause some dry cakes to collapse because if there’s too much acidity they won’t hold onto the carbon dioxide bubbles produced by leavening agents. Baking soda helps neutralize this effect.
Baking soda is used to make light and fluffy pancakes, waffles, and biscuits. By reacting with the acid in buttermilk, molasses, yogurt, or sour cream helps create a strong carbon dioxide reaction that makes your baked goods a lot fluffier. That’s why you’ll often see recipes containing baking powder as well as one of those ingredients since they work better together than separately.
In some cases, you can replace baking soda with yeast because yeast produces gas bubbles too which causes the dough to rise as it ferments sugar into alcohol under certain conditions (most commonly when there’s moisture present for it to dissolve into), but this only applies to bread that doesn’t have a lot of other ingredients mixed into them like flour, yeast, water, etc. because they won’t have enough acidity to activate both the yeast and baking soda at the same time so one of them is going to be wasted.
How to use baking soda in everyday tasks?
Use baking soda to scrub things clean. It’s a mild abrasive, but it’s pretty safe to use since the only ingredient is sodium bicarbonate. Baking soda can be used in place of laundry detergent if you put 1/2 cup into the washing machine with your regular detergent and run it through your usual cycle.
Mix 1 tablespoon into an 8-ounce glass of water when you have stomach problems or are experiencing heartburn because it helps neutralize the acid in your digestive system which will help reduce inflammation and prevent vomiting.
The same thing applies if you’re experiencing nausea when you eat something spoiled or very acidic. A teaspoon in 4 ounces of water should help alleviate symptoms within 15 minutes or so because baking soda also has a slight numbing effect on the throat.
In case of a jellyfish sting, mix a little baking soda with vinegar until it forms a paste, and then apply that to your skin where the tentacles have made contact. It neutralizes the venom within 90 seconds along with providing some pain relief.
Baking soda is somewhat effective as a natural home remedy for shortening the duration of symptoms if you have the flu or some other respiratory ailment by reducing fever and easing coughing as long as you also drink plenty of fluids. If your symptoms last longer than 2 weeks, however, stop using it because over time it can irritate your lungs causing chronic inflammation which can lead to serious complications.
In terms of first aid, baking soda is good for a number of things. You can make a baking soda paste to deal with burns, bee stings, toothaches, and other minor irritations by mixing it with enough water to form a thick paste. It won’t provide overnight relief for serious pain though so if you have a break or fracture that’s going to need an X-ray or cast then don’t rely on this as your only remedy because it will only ease the symptoms which you should seek medical attention for.
In case of chemical spills/poisoning, call 911 immediately before taking any additional action because baking soda may work but not always since many chemicals are too strong and the side effects could do more harm than good so don’t take risks unless you’re positive what you’ve come into contact with.
Tips for cooking with baking soda:
Baking soda works best in recipes that have a lot of acid in them. If you’re looking to add some crispiness to your dish, try adding a pinch of baking soda to the oil or butter before frying an item in it. You can also use it for making certain sweets like caramel by balancing out the acidity from the dairy products used with something else acidic like lemon juice or cream of tartar.
In general, don’t replace more than half of the baking powder in a recipe with baking soda even though you could technically do it if you wanted because you can end up with some pretty terrible results that way.
To avoid wasting baking soda when measuring it out, sift it into your spoon along with your flour instead of dumping it in with your measuring cup because it can be trickier to get an exact amount if you’re using the latter.
If you only need a small amount of baking soda for one recipe, try keeping it in your freezer or inside an air-tight container (preferably something made of glass) so that moisture doesn’t get into contact with it and cause it to clump up.
When cooking with ingredients that are acidic, don’t replace more than half of what was originally called for with baking soda. You don’t want to end up creating something that’s too alkaline because then you’ll lose some flavor along with running the risk of souring/bittering your dish along ruining its consistency by making everything too dry.
If you’re trying to avoid buying too much baking powder and/or baking soda, try keeping it in your freezer or inside an air-tight container (preferably something made of glass) so that moisture doesn’t get into contact with it cause it to clump up.
What is baking powder?
Baking powder is a combination of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and some type of acid like cream of tartar or calcium phosphate. When these ingredients are mixed together with water or another liquid, carbon dioxide gas will form giving you the bubbles/foam that causes your dish to rise which also lets it turn solid.
Baking powder should contain one part sodium bicarbonate, two parts acid (cream of tartar), and about 5% inactive ingredients like cornstarch if it’s made commercially so that it doesn’t react too quickly when combined with moisture inside your batter/dough.
When cooking with baking powder, only use recipes that require baking because this ingredient won’t do anything if it’s added to other things like your scrambled eggs.
What are the types of baking powder?
There are three main types of baking powder which are single-acting, double-acting, and slow-acting. Do not confuse this with baking soda because they’re not the same thing even though both ingredients react with each other in certain situations to speed up or delay your dish’s rise.
Single-acting baking powders are just what their name suggests which is that after they come into contact with moisture inside your batter/dough, all of its carbon dioxide bubbles will expand at once causing your dish to rise. If you’ve ever made something like pancakes where it’s best to let the batter sit for a bit before frying them so that the gas has time to develop meaningfully then you’ll know how important it is to use this type for those kinds of recipes.
Double-acting baking powders also have two different phases during the cooking process. Sometimes this type of powder is way worse than single-acting because it can start expanding while your dish is still in the oven and then continue to release some gas when you take it out too. This can lead to a big loss of flavor if you’re not careful about how you cook things that use double-acting powders.
Slow-acting baking powder doesn’t react with any moisture at all until it’s been heated above 300F which means this type is best used for recipes that require at least 2 or three hours on average between heating and eating/serving time. It can be annoying trying to figure out what kind of baking powder was used for a recipe sometimes because most companies won’t list it even if you ask them directly.
How does baking powder works?
When you add water or another liquid to baking powder, the sodium bicarbonate starts breaking down into bubbles/foam of carbon dioxide gas which is what gives your dish its texture and makes it solidify.
Because baking powder already contains some acid in it, this means that there’s no need to add extra if your recipe calls for things like buttermilk or yogurt since the two ingredients will automatically pair together in order to produce carbon dioxide bubbles without having to introduce anything else into them.
If you want your baked goods to have a light and airy texture then use recipes that only require the addition of baking powder because using just one single ingredient almost guarantees that you’re going to get good results every time especially when compared with mixing together baking soda, an acid (e.g. sour cream, buttermilk), and another alkaline ingredient (e.g. egg) which is more likely to cause you problems for reasons that are about to be explained below.
What are the benefits of baking powder?
Baking powder has a lot of advantages which is why it’s almost always used in recipes that are meant to be baked instead of cooked on the stovetop or steamed.
For one thing, it can help make things like cookies and cakes rise more evenly without producing any noticeable lumps because the carbon dioxide bubbles will distribute themselves evenly throughout your batter/dough as long as you don’t over-mix them together or let them sit for too long after adding your wet ingredients.
The cornstarch included with most baking powders is also responsible for giving your dish its desired consistency since it absorbs water (i.e. liquid) and keeps everything moist which lets you cook foods faster without sacrificing the final product just so that you can serve it on time.
What are the drawbacks of baking powder?
The most obvious drawback to using baking powder instead of the more authentic combination of an acid and a base is that you’ll have problems if you don’t know how much or how little to use.
Adding too much baking powder will cause your batter/dough to rise so quickly that it’ll collapse in on itself and turn into a rubbery mess while adding just enough might not be enough for it to expand which prevents your dish from becoming properly solidified.
Another problem with using only baking powder is that it doesn’t heighten flavor compared to things like an acid (e.g. vinegar, buttermilk) or salt since they neutralize some of the flavors found in acidic ingredients like tomatoes or citrus fruits before adding it to your batter/dough.
As always, using too much baking powder will cause problems in the final product while not using enough will prevent you from getting what you want in terms of texture and taste which is why most bakers only use it when following a recipe that calls for it by name.
What are the uses of baking powder?
The main use for baking powder is to help make baked goods rise more evenly without having to worry about adding too much which can ruin your dish.
When forming cookies or even bread dough, use the right amount of baking powder so that you don’t have to worry about getting your batter/dough to the perfect consistency before it expands and becomes solidified once again.
Baking powder can also be used as a leavening agent when making things like meatloaf or meatballs, especially if combined with other ingredients like eggs, milk, and flour/bread crumbs in order to produce carbon dioxide bubbles that cause food like these to become light and airy instead of dense and heavy.
Another use for baking powder is to give the final product a pleasant smell and taste, especially when paired with other ingredients like vanilla extract or chocolate which can neutralize some of its bitter aftertastes.
Tips for cooking with baking powder?
When using baking powder, always remember that you can’t substitute it for other kinds of leavening agents like yeast or baking soda which is why many recipes that call for baking powder don’t include any acidic ingredients to begin with.
Also try to avoid over-mixing your batter/dough after adding the right amount of baking powder because this can prevent it from expanding properly which could mess up your dish, especially if you’re trying to make something like cinnamon rolls or scones instead of cookies.
Use different brands sparingly since they will affect the final taste and consistency too much depending on how strong their flavors are compared to others.
For cooking, make sure that any extra ingredients besides flour are well distributed throughout your mixture without leaving clumps that could end up producing something like muffin tops instead of the desired product that you’re looking for.
Forming dough and batters with baking powder is pretty straightforward:
Mix all your dry ingredients together
Add your wet ingredients
Gently stir until it’s nice and smooth
Let it sit for a while before baking
Depending on how much baking powder you use, be prepared for about a 50% increase in volume which means that if you’re not careful when mixing your batter/dough, you’ll end up making something like muffin tops when all you needed was to make them flat.
Before cooking, always remember that the smaller the baking dish or tin is, the less time it will take for things like cookies or cakes to properly solidify since they don’t have as much space to expand which can help speed up this process without having to worry about getting a rubbery mess instead of a nice and fluffy cake.
Can the baking powder be used in lieu of yeast?
Leavening agents are usually chosen according to whatever product you’re trying to make which is why using something like baking powder instead of yeast can end up with varying results since one kind will affect both your taste and consistency too much compared to another.
The baking powder, however, is a good way for making quick bread or muffins that don’t need any time for them to rise, especially when you want something light and airy without having to worry about waiting hours before being able to enjoy them whereas yeast needs enough time for carbon dioxide bubbles from fermenting sugars to get trapped inside dough/batter which will give bread its classic soft and fluffy texture.
How to store baking powder?
In order to get the most out of your baking powder, make sure that you’re storing it correctly by putting it somewhere cool and dry where it won’t be exposed to water vapor or heat while not being close enough to anything that emits a strong smell since this will affect its flavor too much which means that some extra spices might have been added into the same container which can easily ruin your dish if you add too much of it.
Once it’s been opened, don’t forget to write the date on which you bought it so that you can be aware of its shelf life before using it again since some commercial baking powders can last for years without having issues with their consistency yet others will only keep fresh for a few months at most before they lose their strength and start tasting stale.
If you’re not going to use your baking powder in a while, make sure to add a bit of rice in order to absorb any moisture from its container before sealing everything up tightly since this way your leftover is safe from getting wet or moist from airborne water vapor instead of being covered in an airtight container when refrigerated.
What are some differences between baking powder and baking soda?
Baking powder is quite similar to baking soda since both of them include an alkali compound (bicarbonate) which means they react differently when exposed to heat or water.
Baking soda on the other hand needs moisture in order for it to react properly which means that it’s not good for industrial baked goods that are made super fast without giving dough enough time to expand.
Baking powder is mostly used in industrial settings where the super-fast process of making bread or other similar products can save a lot of money since this common ingredient needs moisture to make things rise, no matter how small amount but this also means that any extra water might dissolve all your hard work and ruin everything.
Baking soda on the other hand only reacts with itself when exposed to heat which means it’s usually added as a separate mixture before adding it directly into another batter/dough usually at the beginning so that they’ll start reacting as soon as possible with each other instead of waiting for the right time to get inside a hot oven which saves a lot of time and money compared to using just baking soda all by itself.
In case you’re interested in learning more about these two ingredients, make sure to take a look at our previous article where we’ll be going through how each one reacts under certain circumstances so that you can get familiarized with the way they work before getting started with your own kitchen experiments.
Can you substitute baking powder for baking soda or the other way around?
As you might already know, baking soda is a lot faster when it comes to reacting with itself or with other ingredients which means that you’re going to have to experiment more in order to get the right consistency while using just baking powder instead.
If this is what you’re planning on doing because one of your recipes requires replacing baking powder for baking soda (or the other way around), make sure to start mixing each ingredient separately before adding them into your batter/dough since this way you’ll be able to see whether something’s off without ruining everything else inside your bowl.
Baking soda usually needs an acid in order for it to work properly (unless it reacts with heat) but this doesn’t mean that you can just grab whatever’s around and add it into your mixture since many times you’ll need to add baking powder in order to get the same consistency when using baking soda by itself so make sure you know what you’re doing before getting started with such kitchen experiments.
How much baking soda is safe to use?
Since baking soda is an ingredient that reacts with water in order to make things rise, it can be dangerous when used improperly since even a small drop of liquid might end up ruining all your hard work.
Baking soda is not only toxic in large doses but also very caustic meaning that it can cause burns when applied directly onto the skin so make sure you’re aware of how much you should use with your next recipe before applying it on your own mixture.
How long does baking soda stay active?
Baking soda loses its potency after 6 months which means that it’s important to check the expiration date before using this common ingredient in your own kitchen experiments.
What happens if you don’t use baking soda?
If you don’t use baking soda in your own kitchen experiments, you might end up with pretty flat results since it’s an important ingredient when making amazing things like crepes or even pizza dough.
What happens if I use expired baking soda?
You shouldn’t worry about using baking soda once it has passed its expiration date which usually means that it’ll still work as an ingredient but you should also keep in mind that there’s a chance that it won’t work as good as fresh ones do even though the end results might seem pretty much the same.
How do you store baking soda?
There are many ways to enjoy using your baking soda since it can make amazing things like pancakes or help you clean the house while preserving its freshness for a long period of time.
You might not believe this but if you keep your baking soda bag inside a cabinet with a tight seal, there’s a chance that it won’t lose its potency which means that it’ll be ready to use whenever you want to add some flavor into your favorite recipes.
How much does baking soda cost?
The price of one kilogram of baking soda varies depending on where you’re getting it from which means that you should be ready to pay between 4 and 5 dollars per bag if shopping around.
Does baking powder need to rest?
There are many things you should know before using baking powder inside your kitchen but it’s important to check whether or not this common ingredient needs to rest prior to being used in order for the end results to be pretty much the same.
Since baking powder is a mixture of different ingredients that have been left to rest so they can release their gas, you shouldn’t use it after just opening its container since there might be some sort of reaction happening which means that you should wait at least 12 hours before getting started with your own experiments.
Is it normal for baking powder to fizz?
Baking powder does more than help your favorite recipes rise since it contains mostly aluminum sulfate which reacts with water in order to make bubbles but if you want to preserve it as much as possible, you should store your baking powder in a dry and cool place away from moisture.
Can I use baking powder for cleaning?
Baking powder might not be as effective as baking soda when it comes to cleaning purposes since there’s a chance that it won’t remove stains but if you want to use this common ingredient for such purposes, feel free to do so since its reaction with water will help clean and deodorize the surface you’re using it on.
Is baking powder acidic or basic or neutral?
Baking powder doesn’t contain any acidic or basic ingredients which means that it’s considered to be neutral, but there are some brands that add an acidic ingredient in the mixture which might affect your final results if you’re using something like baking soda instead.
Is baking powder gluten-free?
There are many people out there asking about the gluten content found inside baking powders since they want to enjoy their favorite recipes without worrying about consuming products made from wheat flour and the answer is no since most of these ingredients do contain a certain percentage of gluten, especially ones based on the cream of tartar.
How much does one teaspoon of baking powder weigh?
One teaspoon of baking powder weights around 5 grams depending on its composition which means that you should be ready to use half a teaspoon if you’re following specific recipes that don’t include the standard measurements.
Does cornstarch have baking powder in it?
Since cornstarch is made from ingredients that have been ground and then baked, there’s a chance that it might contain traces of this common ingredient but you shouldn’t worry too much since these levels will be minimal and won’t affect the overall quality of your favorite recipes.
What happens if I add more baking powder than needed?
If you’re adding an excessive amount of baking powder to a recipe without increasing the amount of liquid going into the mix, chances are that it’ll cause your end results to rise too much which means that you should be careful when following some of the recipes you find online.
What can you use if you don’t have baking powder?
There are many things you can use when baking powder isn’t available, but if you’re in a bind, baking soda proves to be the best alternative since it has the same chemical reaction as water which means that it’ll do the job just fine.
How long does baking powder last?
If stored properly away from moisture and light, baking powder will last for up to 6 months or so but if your container is opened, don’t expect it to remain good for more than 3 weeks.
So, is baking soda or powder better? The answer to this question all comes down to personal preferences and the kind of recipe you’re following.
When it comes down to choosing whether or not you should use baking soda or powder in order to get your favorite baked goods done, don’t worry too much about it since both of these products work well, especially when you prepare your favorite recipes at home.
I’m Lindsey Shaffer, and I love making cake, candy, and all sorts of delicious treats. It’s a passion of mine that I’ve been exploring for a while now, and I’m always looking for new ways to push the envelope.
I got my start in the culinary world as an apprentice pastry chef at a prestigious hotel in downtown Chicago. I worked my way up through the ranks, and eventually became the head pastry chef.
I’m currently working on opening my own bakery, and I can’t wait to share my creations with the world.