Baking Powder vs Soda – Knowing the Difference

baking powder vs soda

Has this happened to you before? You’re following a recipe and it says to use a teaspoon of baking powder. Checking your cupboard it appears you only have baking soda. Surely they’re the same thing and you can just use whatever? In today’s blog we’ll aim to answer the question of baking powder vs soda and what to do if you don’t have the other. 

Before exploring the difference, let’s first see what these baking ingredients are comprised of. 

Baking Powder

The magic of baking powder is all in its chemistry. Comprising of a carbonate, an acid, and a cornstarch to stop premature reactions, baking powder increases the volume and lightens the texture of baked goods. This is due to release of carbon dioxide. 

Revolutionising cooking, the first single-acting baking powder was developed in England in 1843. Following that, American food manufacturer Eben Norton Horsford released a double-acting baking powder in the 1860s. Double-acting means two reactions: one with when combined with liquids and another when heated. 

Before its advent, bakers often used yeast to raise their dough. However, most commercial products were not reliable. Instead, yeast was sourced from brewers or distillers. Exposing mixtures of flours and water to the open air also allowed for the opportunity to capture wild yeasts, but ran risks of contamination. 

As a general rule, one teaspoon of baking powder is used to raise the mixture of one cup of flour, one cup of milk, and one egg. If the mixture is acidic, the baking powder is unable to react accordingly and can lead to very unpleasant tasting food. Paying attention to the use of high acidity ingredients such as yogurt and honey will help to avoid this blunder. 

Remember that baking powder should be stored somewhere dry and cool in order to be its most effective. To test the ingredient place a teaspoon of powder into a small amount of hot water. If it bubbles, it is still usable. 

Baking Soda

Known otherwise as Sodium Bicarbonate, baking soda is a salty substance that helps to raise baked goods. The ingredient needs an acid in order to react which can take the form of lemon juice, yogurt, buttermilk, cocoa, or vinegar. Like baking powder, this is an acid-base reaction where carbon dioxide is released. 

Besides cooking, baking soda has a plethora of other uses:

Baking Powder vs Soda

The main difference between baking powder vs baking soda is that the latter requires an acidic ingredient in order to create a reaction. Otherwise, they respond very similarly. Thus, substituting the two substances is fairly straight forward.

As a rule of thumb 1 teaspoon of baking powder = 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. 

About the Author

Lydia B.

Lydia B.

Lydia B. is a Marketing Coordinator and Music Club Coach for Gooroo, a tutoring membership that matches students to tutors perfect for them based on their unique learning needs. Gooroo offers Math, English, SAT, Coding, Spanish tutoring, and more.