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Difference between Baking Powder and Baking Soda: Unveiling the Distinctions and Common Ground

Many people are tempted to use baking soda and baking powder interchangeably, but these two ingredients differ. Keep reading to learn about their differences and why they can not be substituted equally.

By Cookist

Baking soda and baking powder are two very different products, and it is not advisable to use them interchangeably. While baking powder contains bicarbonate of soda, aka baking soda or sodium bicarbonate, the two react differently when it comes to cooking.

What Is The Difference Between Baking Powder and Baking Soda?


Baking powder and baking soda are leavening agents, meaning they cause dough or batter to expand by releasing gas.

Baking soda and baking powder are more commonly used in recipes for cookies, cakes, and quick breads and are known for giving baked goods that light, fluffy, porous structure that makes them sumptious.

For those wondering, “Which of the two makes bread rise?” the simple answer is both, depending on the recipe.

It is true baking soda and baking powder perform the same job in baking, however, they are chemically different and cannot be substituted equally in recipes. This is because they react in different ways and create air differently.

How Baking Soda vs. Baking Powder Differ in Recipes

Baking Soda

Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate that looks like fine white powder and it has many uses.

Baking soda is a quick-acting leavening agent. When pure baking soda is blended with water and an acidic ingredient, like honey, buttermilk, molasses, chocolate, yogurt, sour cream, brown sugar, or cocoa, a chemical reaction occurs that leads to the formation of carbon dioxide bubbles. These bubbles are what produce the light texture bakers generally desire.


Baking Powder

On the other hand, baking powder is a blended mixture containing baking soda, acidic salts, or dry acids, and often a starch such as corn starch. Baking powder usually contains tartaric acid, more commonly known as cream of tartar, a dry acid.

As such when you use baking powder, it means adding the acidic ingredient that will produce the carbon dioxide bubbles at the same time. Baking powder is usually called for in recipes that do not otherwise have an acidic ingredient, such as molasses or buttermilk.

The purpose of using baking powder is also to create air bubbles that give baked products their light, airy texture. There are two types of baking powder: single-action and double-action.


Single-action baking powder creates carbon dioxide bubbles when it comes in contact with moisture while double-action baking powder, though more commonly used, and has two leavening periods. The first surge of air bubbles happens when the alkaline baking soda and the acidic cream of tartar are mixed with the recipe’s milk or water. The second leavening period occurs when the ingredients reach a specific temperature.


Baking soda and baking powder may look similar and have some similarities however they are not to be substituted one for one when cooking. If it must happen baking soda can be substituted for baking powder by dividing the amount of baking powder needed by 4 and adding twice that amount of cream of tartar.

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