Sherbet powder is a fizzy sweet, often enjoyed by dipping a lollipop, licorice whip, or finger into flavored powder. This type of sherbet is also called kali, keli, or sherbet powder. It’s completely different from American sherbet, which is a frozen sorbet-like dessert. Here are recipes for making your own fizzy sherbet powder. This tasty treat is a great chemistry demonstration because the fizz results from an acid-base reaction between the ingredients, which release carbon dioxide gas bubbles.
Sherbet Powder Recipes
There are lots of recipes for fizzy sherbet powder. The key ingredients are an edible acid (citric acid, malic acid, or tartaric acid), and edible base (sodium bicarbonate, sodium carbonate, or calcium carbonate), sugar or another sweetener, and flavoring. The ratio of the ingredients isn’t critical, but most recipes call for a 1:1 ratio between the acidic and basic ingredients. Gelatin and flavored drink mixes often flavor, color, and sugar.
This recipe yields sweet, tangy sherbet:
- 3 tablespoons (23 g) powdered sugar (icing sugar)
- 2 tablespoons (19 g) flavored gelatin powder
- 1 teaspoon (5 g) baking soda
- 1 teaspoon (5 g) citric acid
Customize this recipe for any flavor. Usually, the powdered drink mix also adds color.
- 3 tablespoons sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
- 2 tablespoons citric acid powder
- 4 tablespoons sweetened powdered drink mix (e.g., Kool-Aid)
This sherbet recipe works with sugar substitutes.
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 packet unsweetened drink mix
- 3 tablespoons baking soda
- 3 tablespoons citric acid
Remember, you can substitute any of the edible acids for the citric acid and any of the edible bases for the baking soda. Get color and flavor for powdered ingredients rather than liquids. Feel free to use sugar substitutes instead of sugar, but again, make certain they are powders.
Make Sherbet Powder
- Use a spoon or mortar and pestle to crush any large crystals or chunks in the ingredients. Mixing the ingredients in a plastic bag and crushing them with a rolling pin also works.
- Store sherbet powder in an air-tight container until use. Moisture in the air can start the reaction between the ingredients. If the powder gets damp, it won’t fizz.
- To use, dip a finger into the powder to taste it, roll a lollipop or licorice in it, or pour it into water or lemonade.
Chemistry of How Fizzy Sherbet Powder Works
Before carbonated drinks came into vogue, people mixed sherbet powder with water to make fizzy drinks. When used as a candy powder, the ingredients activate when dissolved in juice or the water in saliva. The acid reacts with the carbonate base to release carbon dioxide gas (the bubbles). It’s much like the chemical reaction between baking soda and vinegar in the chemical volcano.
The the balanced chemical equation for the reaction between baking soda (NaHCO3) and citric acid (H3C6H5O7) to form sodium citrate, water, and carbon dioxide is:
3 NaHCO3 + H3C6H5O7 → Na3C6H5O7 + 3 H2O + 3 CO2
While most people enjoy the tangy flavor of the acid, the base has a soapy flavor. Fruit flavor and lots of sugar mask the unpleasant taste.
- Meyers, R. (2003). The Basics of Chemistry. Greenwood Press.
- Slater, Nigel (2007). Eating for England: The Delights and Curiosities of the British at Table. London: Fourth Estate. ISBN: 9780007199464.