Baking powder and baking soda are a huge part of the science called BAKING! Although they work in different ways, both are leavening agents. Their function is to create the ideal texture in baked products like cookies, cakes, and muffins.
But have you ever run out of baking powder while baking with a recipe that says to use baking powder? At that moment, you may be wondering: Can I use baking soda instead of baking powder? How can I substitute baking soda for baking powder? Do they serve the same purpose? What is the best substitute for baking powder?
In this article, you get to know if you can use baking soda instead of baking powder and how you can use them to substitute for each other. I will also give you additional tips and details about these two leavening agents that will take your baking game to the next level and help with day-to-day activities like household cleaning. Now, let’s get to it!
Can I Use Baking Soda Instead of Baking Powder?
Yes, you can use baking soda instead of baking powder but only on one condition – that you have an acid in your recipe.
Baking soda is composed solely of sodium bicarbonate. In contrast, baking powder contains an acidifying agent (cream of tartar), a buffer/drying agent (corn starch or potato starch or flour), and sodium bicarbonate.
To use baking soda instead of baking powder, you must have an acidifying agent like buttermilk already in your recipe. This is because baking soda reacts with the acidic ingredients in your recipe to produce carbon dioxide gas, making the dough rise.
If you replace the baking powder with baking soda in the absence of an acid (in the recipe), your baked goods will have a metallic taste which is certainly a far cry from what you desire!
Please note that even if there’s an acidifying agent in your recipe, you cannot make the substitution directly. Baking soda is about three times stronger than baking powder, so you substitute 1 teaspoon of baking soda for one tablespoon of baking powder. Also, for every ½ teaspoon of baking soda added, you will need 1 teaspoon of the acidifying agent.
Alternatively, you can make your baking powder if you have baking soda, corn starch, and cream of tartar. For example, to ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, add ½ teaspoon of cream of tartar and ¼ teaspoon of cornstarch. This gives you one teaspoon of baking powder. However, you can increase as necessary.
How to Tell the Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder
The two leavening agents, baking soda and baking powder look alike due to their similar names, white color, and powdery texture. Sometimes, you may get confused if the label of a container of white substance in your pantry has come off, and you cannot say for sure if it is baking powder or baking soda in that container.
Here’s how you can distinguish between baking soda and baking powder.
Baking soda is completely soluble in water, but baking powder is not soluble in water because one of the ingredients in baking powder is starch, which is insoluble in water. So, a sure way to know what exactly you have in that container is to test for solubility.
In a bowl, put 1/8 tablespoon of the substance and add water. If the substance is baking soda, the solution will be clear, but you will not have a clear solution if it is baking powder; instead, a cloudy/powdery residue will remain.
Take a pinch of the substance and feel it between your thumb and index finger. If it is baking powder, it will leave a smooth white powdery residue. Baking soda will not leave that much of a residue on your fingers.
Wet your index finger and dip it into the container of white substance, then lick it. It is baking soda if it tastes like soap, but if it has a mildly soapy taste, mildly starch, and slightly fizzes in your mouth, it is baking powder.
What Does Baking Powder Do for Cookies?
Baking powder influences the texture of cookies by providing fluffiness and lift to the cookies. In addition, it adds carbon dioxide to the dough, thereby providing a pressure that makes the dough spread out and rise. And unlike bread dough which has a well-developed elasticity, the gluten strands in cookies snap rather than stretch and start cracking along the surface, giving cookies their typical appearance.
Does Baking Soda Make Cakes Rise?
Yes, baking soda makes cakes rise as a leavening agent, just like baking powder. Leavening agents cause batters and doughs to rise when baked. However, when baking soda and baking powder are used in a recipe, most of the leavening is done by the baking powder. This is because baking soda helps browning and neutralizing the acids present in the recipe. Also, it helps to make the baked product fluffy through its leavening actions.
Can You Use Baking Powder for Bread?
Yes, you can use baking powder for bread ONLY IF the recipe calls for it. Most times, baking powder is used in quick breads like banana bread, zucchini bread, etc., whose batters are mixed and then put in the oven as quickly as possible. Generally, yeast is used in bread baking.
Although both yeast and baking powder are leavening agents, they have different mechanisms of action. While baking powder acts quickly in raising dough, yeast takes more time. In addition to raising dough, yeast also catalyzes the fermentation process in bread dough, which helps in flavor development. So, if the recipe does not call for it (such as in quick breads), there is no need to use baking powder for bread.
Is Baking Powder Acidic or Basic?
Baking powder is basic but less basic than baking soda. Although it contains an acid and a base, baking powder cannot be termed “neutral” because the acid and base can only react when activated (with the addition of water), and then neutralization can occur.
What Makes Baking Soda A Base?
Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is a base because when you dissolve it in water, its pH falls between 8 and 14. pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution or the hydrogen ion concentration of the solution. On the pH scale, solutions below 7 are acidic, solutions above 7 are basic (alkaline), and solutions with a pH of 7 are neutral.
Generally, the pH of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) will depend on the concentration of the baking soda solution and the presence of an additional acid or base. For instance, a freshly prepared 0.1 molar aqueous solution of sodium bicarbonate has a pH of 8.3 at 77oF, while the pH of a saturated solution can be between 8 and 9.
Can You Make Oobleck With Baking Powder?
Yes, you can make oobleck with baking powder. Baking powder has cornstarch (generally used in making oobleck) among its constituents.
Read also: Is Oobleck A Solid Or A Liquid?
Is Baking Soda and Cornstarch the Same?
No, baking soda and cornstarch are not the same. Cornstarch is the starch extracted or obtained from the kernels or endosperm of corn. On the other hand, baking soda is a type of salt scientifically known as sodium bicarbonate or bicarbonate of soda.
These two ingredients (baking soda and cornstarch) have different uses. While cornstarch is a thickening agent used for thickening soups, gravies, sauces, marinades, etc., baking soda is a leavening agent which helps to give rise to baked products.
Is Baking Soda the Same Thing as Bicarbonate of Soda?
Yes, baking soda is the same thing as bicarbonate of soda. Baking soda is scientifically called bicarbonate of soda or sodium bicarbonate.
Can You Substitute Cream of Tartar for Cornstarch?
No, you cannot substitute cream of tartar for cornstarch. Cream of tartar is an acidifying agent often combined with baking soda to make baked goods rise. It can also stabilize and add volume to egg whites or prevent sugar crystallization in the making of candy, icing, or syrups.
However, unlike cornstarch, cream of tartar cannot dissolve in a liquid, such as gravy, soup, sauce, or pie filling, and thicken in a process called GELATION. Therefore, cream of tartar cannot be used in place of cornstarch in a recipe. Good substitutes for cornstarch include arrowroot, rice flour, potato flour, and tapioca.
Can You Substitute Baking Powder for Cornstarch?
No, you cannot substitute baking powder for cornstarch. Baking powder is a leavening agent, while cornstarch acts as a thickening agent in recipes, so baking powder does not have the same functional or chemical properties as cornstarch and therefore cannot replace it. Both have their different uses and functions in a recipe.
How to Know If Baking Soda Is Still Good
An opened pack of baking soda is typically good for about six months if you store it in a cool, dry place, but just like any ingredient, they can go bad sooner depending on the brand or storage conditions. So, first thing first, always check the expiration date on the product package.
If your baking soda has stayed long in your pantry, you may be worried it has lost its potency. But not to worry, it is pretty easy to know if your baking soda is still good.
1. Baking Soda
To test baking soda and see if it is still good or potent, you will require an acidic liquid, such as vinegar. Add ½ teaspoon baking soda to 3 tablespoons of white distilled vinegar in a bowl and then stir. The mixture should bubble or fizz heavily if the baking soda is fresh.
If there is little or no bubble or fizz, the baking soda has lost its potency and is no longer suitable for baking. Therefore, you should dispose of the bad baking soda (or use it for other purposes) and buy a new one.
2. Baking Powder
To test if baking powder is still good or potent, add ½ teaspoon of baking powder to 3 tablespoons of warm water in a bowl and then stir. The mixture should bubble or fizz moderately if the powder is fresh. If it does not fizz, the baking powder has lost its potency and is no longer suitable for baking.
You should buy a new pack of baking powder and use the bad one for other purposes such as cleaning (See uses for baking powder other than cooking).
Although baking soda or baking powder that is no longer potent are still safe to eat, they may not produce as much leavening action; thus, your recipes may not turn out as well as they are supposed to, but you can still eat your baked products.
How Long Is Baking Soda Good For?
Baking soda is good for 18-24 months while still unopened and six months when opened. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) supports the Food Marketing Institute’s recommendation that an unopened pack of baking soda is stored at room temperature for 18 months while an opened package should be stored at room temperature for six months.
Baking soda should be stored in a dry place to maximize its shelf life. You can put your container of baking soda in a plastic ziplock bag or in a tightly covered storage container to keep out moisture.
Best Baking Soda Brands – A List
Experience, they say, is the best teacher. If you bake often, you’ll know the best brands of almost all the ingredients. But if you are new to baking or only bake once in a while, you may not know the best brands of ingredients to use.
Here’s a list of the best baking soda brands available in stores.
- Arm and Hammer Pure Baking Soda.
- Pure Organic Ingredients Baking Soda.
- Duda Energy Pure Sodium Bicarbonate Powder.
- Milliard Baking Soda.
- Clabber Girl Baking Soda.
These brands of baking soda give the best results in baking, but they are also effective when used for other purposes such as cleaning.
Best Baking Powder Brands – A List
Here’s a list of the best baking powder brands available in stores across America.
- Clabber Girl Double Acting Baking Powder.
- Bob’s Red Mill Baking Powder.
- Rumford Double Action Baking Powder.
- Roots Circle Baking Powder Gluten-Free All-Purpose Leavening Agent.
- Davis Baking Powder.
- Hain Pure Foods Gluten-Free Featherweight Baking Powder.
- Argo Baking Powder.
Best Baking Powder Substitutes – A List
Running out of baking powder or baking soda when you are about to bake can be frustrating because most times, you can’t bake without a leavening agent (such as baking powder or baking soda); otherwise, your baked goods may end up being flat and irregularly shaped. Listed below are nine baking powder substitutes you can use for baking.
- Self-rising flour.
- Cream of tartar and baking soda.
- Buttermilk and baking soda.
- Yogurt and baking soda.
- Sour milk and baking soda.
- Lemon juice and baking soda.
- Vinegar and baking soda.
- Molasses and baking soda.
- Whipped Egg Whites.
Best Baking Soda Substitute – A List
If your recipe calls for baking soda, but you’ve run out of it, here are five baking soda substitutes you can use.
- Baking Powder.
- Self-Rising Flour.
- Whipped Egg Whites.
- Baker’s Ammonia.
- Club Soda.
Best Baking Substitutes for Flour – A List
Many of us search for suitable substitutes for flour, probably due to a shortage of all-purpose flour at the local grocery store, dietary restrictions, food allergies, or the desire to try new options. Whatever your reason is, you can find flour substitutes suited to your needs.
Here are ten all-purpose flour substitutes that you can bake with.
- Almond flour.
- Oat flour.
- Coconut flour.
- Chickpea flour.
- Rice flour.
- Cassava flour.
- Whole wheat flour.
- Quinoa flour.
- Brown rice flour.
- Amaranth flour.
Uses for Baking Powder Other Than Cooking
Unlike flour, you only need small quantities of baking powder in your recipe to get the desired result in your baked product. And if you don’t bake often, you’d probably have a lot of expired leftover baking powder! So, to prevent wastage, I’ll show you what else you can use baking powder for other than cooking.
Apart from cooking, baking powder is also useful in the following applications.
Baking powder is an effective deodorizer or freshener for carpets, rugs, fabric car seats, refrigerators- and even shoes! Sprinkle some baking powder on your carpets and rugs, then vacuum clean them to remove odors. You can also do the same for your car seats.
Baking powder is also effective as an odor absorbent in your refrigerator and shoes. To keep your refrigerator smelling fresh, leave an opened container of baking powder in the fridge. To absorb odors in your shoes, fill a pair of socks with baking powder, tie off the ends then put them in your shoes.
Baking powder can help keep ants from invading your house. If you want to use baking powder to get rid of ants, mix an equal amount of baking powder and salt. Then, sprinkle around your windows, doors, and other parts of your house.
Baking powder is effective for removing grease stains from fabrics and kitchen utensils. To remove grease from your fabric, sprinkle some baking powder on the stain spot and leave it to soak up the grease, then wash as usual.
For stubborn grease stains or stuck-on foods on pots and pans, mix baking powder with hot water, then soak your pots and pans in the mixture. The tough stains will dissolve and become easy to wash off.
If you’ve got stuck-on food in your microwave, add 2 tablespoons of baking powder to 2 cups of water in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 2 minutes to loosen the bits of food and make your microwave easy to clean. You can also use baking powder to scrub stains on tiles, sinks, and countertops.
If you have a clogged drain, you can use baking powder to unblock it. To unclog your drain, pour in ½ cup of baking powder, then ½ cup of vinegar, and let bubble. After a few minutes, pour in some hot water. And there you have it; your drain is no longer clogged!
Note: Sodium bicarbonate, an active ingredient in baking powder, makes it effective for the uses listed above. If your baking powder has expired or lost its potency, the leavening agents will not work as well, but you can still use it for non-cooking purposes.
One good thing about baking is that there is room for experimentation or adding your own twist. In the absence of one ingredient, you can substitute it for another with or without tweaking the recipe.
Regarding the topic of discourse, you can substitute baking powder for baking soda directly, but you cannot substitute baking soda for baking powder directly.
Now, having shown you how to use baking soda instead of baking powder and even how to make your baking powder (among other things), I can’t wait to hear how your next baking goes, especially if you applied one or two things you learned from this article. So do share your baking experience.
I write about the intersection between evolutionary biology and food. I also talk about practical applications, sustainable agriculture, and general tasty things