Everyone Needs To Know The Difference Between Baking Soda & Baking Powder - Here's Why
Rachel Sebastian 8/5/2016
While baking your favorite recipe of chocolate chip cookies, you just can't remember if it calls for baking soda or baking powder - they're basically the same, right? What would really happen if you did accidentally mix them up - do you think it would change the taste and texture of the cookies? There are so many questions surrounding the difference between baking soda and baking powder, that really knowing how each one differs from the other could help you the next time you're in this question dilemma.
In the baking realm, baking soda is considered a leavening agent. It helps create air and rise when it's combined with an acidic ingredient that will react with it. Baking soda is a chemical compound, also referred to as bicarbonate soda. Baking soda is about as basic as it gets, and we don't mean that just because it's a useful ingredient in cleaning supplies, home remedies and crafting projects. It's also the opposite of acidic, which means it has a very high pH level and will react when combined with something acidic.
So, when you're using baking soda in your favorite recipe, the baking soda is reacting with something acidic (be it brown sugar or buttermilk) and will create carbon dioxide bubbles.
You may have noticed from your baking expertise that baking powder actually contains baking soda. The other ingredients in baking powder are cream of tartar and sometimes cornstarch. Since both the tartar and cornstarch are both acidic, the reactive ingredients that produce the carbon dioxide are built right in.
Depending on the recipe, you may need to use baking powder instead of baking soda. If the recipe does't have the acidic ingredients that react and make carbon dioxide bubbles, baking powder is the best bet for producing that reaction as well as balancing taste.
Stick To The Recipe
You may be thinking by now that since baking soda is technically in baking powder, you may be able to use them interchangeably. Not so fast - your baked good or treat may come out tasting a bit off if you do that! They do act similar, as they create lift by releasing carbon dioxide, but the questionable element is exactly when they do the job. For best results, stick to the recipe and try not to interchange the two.
Let's say you're in the middle of making one of your favorite recipes that calls for baking powder, but you only have baking soda. What do you do? You could actually turn your baking soda into a version of baking powder. Since baking soda is more powerful than baking powder, you'll want to decrease the amount of baking soda by one third. Then, add in an acidic element like lemon juice to get the carbon dioxide reaction started.
Need Some Baking Soda?
If you need baking soda, but just have baking powder, listen up. This one is a bit easier to substitute, but you may sacrifice on taste, as it may make your dish more bitter tasting. Simply add in three times the amount of baking powder to substitute for the amount of baking soda called for in the recipe.
Check out this video for a quick summary of the difference.
Get To Baking
Now that you know the difference between baking powder and baking soda, as well as the substitutions for each, you're ready to get to work in the kitchen. You can be confident in knowing when to throw out your old baking powder, so you can keep your baking delicious and tasting fresh.