How to Substitute Baking Soda for Baking Powder

Can you substitute baking soda for baking powder in a recipe? The classic baking dilemma: you're halfway through a recipe when you realize you're out of baking soda. Don't panic. Deep, cleansing breaths. You can do this!

Before you go tearing down the driveway to the grocery store, take a bit of time to learn about baking soda and its roll in cooking and baking.

Baking Soda and Chemistry

Baking soda is 100 percent sodium bicarbonate, a slightly high (8) pH substance. In a recipe, baking soda is mixed with moisture and acidic (low pH) ingredients like buttermilk or chocolate. When exposed to heat, these ingredients react chemically to create carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide bubbles are what make baked goods rise and have a fluffy texture.

Although baking power contains sodium bicarbonate, it has a much lower concentration. Baking powder is made from mixing baking soda and cream of tartar (an acidic substance). Cornstarch is typically added to keep the chemical reaction in check until it's time to bake.

You Say Baking Soda, I Say Baking Powder

Which ingredient goes in which recipe? As a neutral pH substance, baking soda has a bitter taste. In a recipe, pairing baking soda with an acidic ingredient-yogurt or honey, for example, will offset this sad fact. Baking powder has a more neutral taste and will often be paired with more neutral ingredients like milk or sugar.

But What About A Baking Soda Substitute?

Since baking powder contains baking soda, couldn't you substitute baking powder? Of course, but as with most things, it's not that simple. First, take the amount of baking soda required by the recipe and double it-the result is how much baking powder you'll need.

But wait, there's more! Since baking powder already has the acidic kick it needs, you'll have to reduce or replace the amount of acidic ingredients in your recipe. Some items to watch out for:

  • Chocolate
  • Buttermilk (substitute whole or skim milk)
  • Yogurt
  • Honey
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