Imagine that you are baking in your kitchen, adding the dry ingredients to a bowl, when suddenly you realize you have made a grave mistake. You added baking soda instead of baking powder! Immediately you wonder if your cake is ruined. Or is it? Can you substitute baking powder with baking soda and vice versa? Those questions are going to be answered right now.
Table of Contents
- What is Baking Soda?
- What is Baking Powder?
- Can I Use Baking Soda Instead of Baking Powder?
- What Should I Do if I Only Have Baking Soda?
- Wrapping Up
- FAQs on Can I Use Baking Soda Instead of Baking Powder?
What is Baking Soda?
Also known as sodium bicarbonate, baking soda is a leavening agent used in baking and cooking. It is considered basic on the pH scale, so you need to pair it with something acidic in order for it to do its job. This is why baking soda begins to bubble, releasing carbon dioxide, whenever it meets vinegar or lemon juice, for example.
When baking soda and an acid are mixed into dough or cake batter, the carbon dioxide gets trapped, causing the batter to puff up and expand. However, baking soda can also release CO2 in heat.
Baking Soda in Recipes
Baking soda is used in recipes that have soft batters, like muffins, cakes, and pancakes. Any batter that will be runny or quickly lose its shape will require baking soda. Because baking soda will react quickly to acidic or heat (or both), it will help keep the batter together as it rises then sets into place. Thicker dough does not need support from a leavening agent. Here is my article on is all baking soda the same.
If you use baking soda without acid, the end result is horribly metallic.
What is Baking Powder?
Unlike baking soda which is pure sodium bicarbonate, baking powder is a mixture of alkaline and acid compounds, such as cream of tartar, sodium aluminum sulfate, calcium acid phosphate, and sodium bicarbonate. Since there is already an acid and base mixed together, all you need is water or another kind of liquid to create a chemical reaction. Immediately, carbon dioxide is released to make batters and dough rise.
There are single acting and double acting baking powders. Single reaction powders use either tartrate or phosphate and react slowly. A double acting baking powder has two reactions. The first happens when exposed to moisture. The second is when the ingredients are heated up.
How to Use Baking Powder
Baking powder is used in recipes that do not contain any acidic ingredients. Some examples include thicker batters, like brownies, cookie dough, and denser breads.
Can I Use Baking Soda Instead of Baking Powder?
Here is a question many home cooks and bakers ask themselves: can I substitute baking soda and baking powder? Set them side by side in a chemistry lab and you will find that their base forms are different. Baking soda is much more powerful than baking powder—about 4 times stronger.
In other words, yes you can use baking soda instead of baking powder. 1 teaspoon of baking powder is required to raise a cup of flour while you only need ¼ teaspoon of baking soda for the same result. This is why you need to be careful when measuring out your dry ingredients. You also do not want to mistakenly use baking soda instead of baking powder, because it could cause a doughy explosion. Meanwhile, too little baking powder in a recipe needing baking soda could cause your cake to go flat.
Also, keep in mind that baking powder is not just sodium bicarbonate and acid. It has other ingredients that may react with other components of the cake batter, making the final product bitter or stale.
What Should I Do if I Only Have Baking Soda?
Now, what happens if you need baking powder but you only have baking soda? It’s not the end of the world, thankfully. All you need is a little more acid for the baking soda. Consider this: if you have a recipe for bread or cake that calls for a teaspoon of baking powder, you can substitute that with ½ or ¼ teaspoon of baking soda and a teaspoon of something acidic, like vinegar or lemon juice. 1 cup of brown sugar or buttermilk also work well.
Or, if you have cream of tartar in your pantry, you’re in luck. Simply mix 2 teaspoons of baking soda with a single teaspoon of cream of tartar to mix a tablespoon of baking powder. You can then bake to your heart’s content. Here is how you can substitute baking soda for cornstarch.
So, what happens when you use baking soda instead of baking powder or vice versa? A less than ideal result. Too much baking soda could create a mess in the oven; and even if everything bakes up well, the flavor will be heinous. If you accidentally use baking powder instead of baking soda, the taste could be bitter, and your cake or baked goods won’t be as fluffy. Be sure to pay attention to the recipe you are using!
FAQs on Can I Use Baking Soda Instead of Baking Powder?
What will happen if you use baking powder instead of baking soda?
If you have accidentally used baking soda instead of baking powder in a recipe, the result could be a bitter taste and a batter that is too alkaline. To counteract this, you can add an acid to the batter, such as vinegar or lemon juice, and increase the amount of baking powder used in the recipe. Add three times more baking powder than the recipe calls for in baking soda to fix the mistake. However, depending on the proportions and the type of recipe, the best solution might be to start over with the correct ingredients.
Can I use baking powder instead of baking soda for cookies?
Yes, but with some changes to the recipe. Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda and an acid, and it is used to leaven baked goods. Baking soda, on the other hand, only works when combined with an acid. When using baking powder instead of baking soda in a recipe, you will also need to decrease the amount of acid in the recipe. This is because baking powder already contains some acid. A general rule of thumb is to use about 2 to 3 times more baking powder than baking soda in a recipe. However, this may vary based on the recipe, so it’s best to do some experimentation to determine the best ratio for your specific recipe.
How much baking soda do I use for baking powder?
Baking soda and baking powder are not interchangeable as they serve different purposes in baking. Baking soda is a leavening agent that reacts with acidic ingredients to create carbon dioxide gas, causing the batter to rise. Baking powder, on the other hand, is a combination of baking soda and an acid and is used when there are no acidic ingredients in the recipe.
As a general rule, use about 1/3 teaspoon of baking soda to substitute one teaspoon of baking powder.