Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Oct 31, 2006 03:52 AM

Baking Powder Vs. Baking Soda

Baking Powder Vs. Baking Soda: What's the difference?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Both are leavoning agents -

    Baking Soda is Sodium Bicarbonate and needs some sort of acid added to create its leavoning power by the creation of Carbon Dioxide -

    Baking powder contains Sodium Bicarbnate but also has an Cream of tartar which will create an acid thus creating the leavoning action

    for more info see

    1. Baking Soda is Sodium Bicarbonate. It forms carbon dioxide gas when heated to act as a levener, but leaves behind sodium carbonate which has an unpleasant taste - unless you use an acidic ingredient (chocolate, butter milk, etc.)

      Baking powder is Baking Soda mixed with an acid (ex. cream of tartar) to absord the sodium carbonate. It also contains some cornstarch to keep the ingredients from mixing.

      The other ingredients in the recipe as well as the amount of levening required dictate whether you use one, or the other, or both.

      Baking Soda is about 4 times as strong as baking powder.

      If you really care about this kind of thing, pick up Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking or Shirley O Corriher's Cookwise.

      1. Really helpful information--thank you to you both!

        1. Baking soda is used when there is some form of acid in the batter. Buttermilk is perhaps the most common acid used in baking. Baking powder includes the acid in a dry form, so it works in recipes that don't have another acid.

          Many brands of baking powder are 'double acting'. That is, part of the CO2 is produced immediately when mixed with water, and the rest is produced when the batter is heated (in the oven).

          A recipe using just baking soda should be cooked right away, before the CO2 dissipates. Some baking powder recipes can sit for a while.


          1. all the above is totally correct. i would only add that if you are creating your own recipes THERE IS NO REASON AT ALL THAT YOU WOULD USE BAKING SODA. baking powder does absolutely everything that baking soda used to be used for.

            6 Replies
            1. re: ben61820

              Except, of course, if you have a recipe already loaded with excess acids, such as pumpking puree, cocoa powder, yogurt, sour cream, etc etc. Not sure what the all-caps is all about. Is there something wrong with baking soda?

              1. re: noahbirnel

                What's wrong with just using baking powder with items that have buttermilk, sour cream, or yogurt in them.

                1. re: krbtv

                  This Cook's Thesaurus page talks about leaving BS out of recipes that call for both:

                  "Recipes that call for both baking powder and baking soda are probably using the baking soda to offset extra acidity in the batter (from ingredients like buttermilk or molasses) and to weaken the proteins in the flour. Omitting the baking soda from these recipes may alter the color or flavor of whatever you're baking, and make it less tender. "

              2. re: ben61820

                Yes, the main reason people still use baking soda is to correct for acidity in the batter.

                Some baking geeks make their own baking powder from baking soda and cream of tartar. It doesn't lose its rising power over time the way commercial baking powder does.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  So what if I'm not a baking geek, but just a gal who's out of baking powder. I can combine baking soda and cream of tartar and substitute it in my recipe?

                  1. re: charmedgirl


                    Making your own baking powder:

                    To make your own baking powder combine 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. This is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of commercial baking powder. If you are not using immediately, add 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch to absorb any moisture in the air and to prevent a premature chemical reaction between the acid and alkali.