Baking can be more of a challenge if you discover all your baking soda got used up for chemical volcanoes! Baking powder and baking soda are both leavening agents that make baked good rise. Baking soda combines with water and an acidic ingredient to produce carbon dioxide bubbles, while baking powder already includes an acidifying agent. The two baking ingredients aren’t the same, but they can be substituted for one another. If you have baking powder, you can use it in place of baking powder. If your problem is being out of baking powder, you can make your own using baking soda and cream of tartar. Here’s how to make the substitutions:
Substitute for Baking Soda With Baking Powder
You can switch baking powder for baking soda, but you need to adjust the amount and expect the flavor to change a little.
- You need to use 2-3 times more baking powder than baking soda. The extra ingredients in the baking powder will have an effect on the taste of whatever you are making, but this isn’t necessarily bad.
- Ideally, triple the amount of baking soda to equal the amount of baking powder. So, if the recipe called for 1 tsp baking soda, you would use 3 tsp baking powder.
- Another options is to use twice the amount of baking powder as baking soda (add 2 tsp of baking powder if the recipe calls for 1 tsp baking soda). If you use this substitution, omit or reduce salt. Salt affects flavor, but it also affects rising.
Make Homemade Baking Powder
Unfortunately, you can’t simply substitute baking soda for baking powder in recipes. You need both baking soda and cream of tartar to make homemade baking powder. Cream of tartar increases the acidity of a baking mixture, which affects the flavor and production of bubbles that make baked goods rise.
- Mix 2 parts cream of tartar with 1 part baking soda. For example, mix 2 tsp cream of tartar with 1 tsp baking soda.
- Use the amount of baking powder called for by the recipe. No matter how much homemade baking powder you made, if the recipe calls for 1-1/2 tsp, add exactly 1-1/2 tsp of your mixture. Store any leftover mixture in a sealed container for later use.
Do Baking Soda and Baking Powder Go Bad?
Even if you’re not out of baking soda or baking powder, there’s a chance the product you have isn’t effective anymore. Baking soda and powder don’t go “bad” exactly. They don’t grow pathogens or decompose into nasty chemicals. However, the leavening agents lose their effectiveness over months or years. The key factor in how long they last is humidity. Baking soda and baking powder react with water vapor. So, be sure to store them in dry, sealed containers.
Test Baking Products for Freshness
It’s a good idea to test baking soda or powder before using them in any recipe:
- Test Baking Powder: Mix 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/3 cup hot water. If you get lots of bubbles, the baking powder is fresh. If you see few or no bubbles, it’s time to replace your powder.
- Test Baking Soda: Dribble a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar onto 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. Vigorous bubbling means baking soda is still good to use.
Tips for Baking Success
A recipe may contain other ingredients besides baking powder or baking soda that help it rise. Also, it’s important to pay attention to certain instructions. For example, creaming sugar and butter (or other solid fat) introduces tiny air bubbles as the sugar cuts through the fat. Whisking egg whites or cream introduces air bubbles to make a foam. Finally, be sure to start preheating the oven before mixing the ingredients. Mixed ingredients left on the counter tend to fall flat because the extra time lets the gas bubbles escape. Baking in a cool oven has the same effect, as the bubbles don’t get locked into place by cooking quickly enough.
- Brodie, J.; Godber, J. (2001). “Bakery Processes, Chemical Leavening Agents” in Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology. John Wiley & Sons. doi:10.1002/0471238961.0308051303082114.a01.pub2
- Simmons, Amelia; Mary Tolford Wilson (1984) . The First American Cookbook. Mineola, NY: Dover. ISBN 0-486-24710-4.