How to Substitute Baking Soda for Baking Powder

Sprouts brand Natural Baking Soda

The long and short of it is this: Yes, you can substitute baking soda for baking powder in most recipes.  No, you cannot substitute baking powder for baking soda in most recipes.

What is baking soda?  

Baking soda is a compound that can be naturally mined from the ground, but is most often created through a process using the mined product (Arm and Hammer).  It’s used as a leavening agent in baking – that is, it reacts with acidic liquid to form gas bubbles, which then are baked into your product to make it lighter and fluffier.

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The Best Baking Book on the Planet!

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What is baking powder?  

Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda, as well as cream of tartar and usually some starch.  With baking powder, there’s no need to provide acid to the product to start a gas bubble reaction – the cream of tartar does that for you.

Baking powder comes in single-action and double-action.  Double is the most common.  Single action means that all the bubbles are going to form as soon as the product gets damp, so you have to work fast to preserve that lightness.  Double action has a secondary reaction, so you have more to work with the product. Once it’s in the oven, the heat creates another bubble reaction.

You can make your own baking powder.  

Just mix 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar, 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch.  This will give you single-acting baking powder.  That means that once you add the powder, the bubbles will start to form, so GET THAT CAKE IN THE OVEN.

If you choose to make your own, make as small a batch as possible and store it in an airtight container in a cool, dark place – but not the refrigerator!  Baking powder just doesn’t retain its “oompf” for very long, so you’ll be throwing it away quite often.  To test if it’s still good, heat up some water and add a teaspoon of your powder to it.  If it fizzes vigorously, it’s probably still good.  If it just sits there – throw it out.

Another idea is to substituting baking soda for baking powder.


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Natural versus “Unnatural” Soda

Natural soda versus the typical Arm & Hammer soda is just this: natural soda is mined directly from the ground from special sources; man-made soda is made through a chemical process out of similar ore that is mined from the ground.  You can buy natural soda in most organic markets these days, and I recommend it.  It’s like the Evian of the baking soda world!

Using soda in place of baking powder requires adjustments – the baking soda needs an acid to react with in order to form the little bubbles that cause your cake to rise.  Baking powder already has that built-in.  So if you substitute baking soda, use these items:

1 teaspoon of baking powder = 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda PLUS 1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice

You can also sub vinegar for the acid, or swap out 1/2 cup of the milk called for with 1/2 cup of buttermilk.  All these will provide the acid you need to get the baking powder to “do it’s thing.”  In any case, you need to get the product in the oven quickly, as bubbles will begin to form immediately upon adding the soda.

Baking in a kitchen is just like experimenting in a laboratory, so you need to keep notes on how something worked.

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Looking for more great baking tips?  Read up on natural v. UNnatural food coloring choices by clicking here.

Comments?  Questions?  Please use the comment box below.  I would love to hear from you.

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21 Comments

  1. NSOH ALIEH LAURINE

    Baking was one of my favorite hobbies when I was young. I developed a strong passion for it, and wouldn’t let a bakery book go by without getting my own copy. AlI I knew was to mix the various ingredients in their proportions and bake my cakes. And my favorite treat was Nutmeg Cake followed by Devil’s Food Cake. Wow. I also had the recipes of German Chocolate Cake as well as Yellow Cake off hand. What has happened to all these passions?  This blog has brought back some good memories. I’m getting to realize that I learned quite a lot during my younger years.

    But learning how to create the ingredients myself, never ever thought of that. And very surprised and how easy it is to improvise in the kitchen. Thank you very much for such an informative post. You actually brought back good memories. 

    1. Lots of good memories come out of the kitchen, eh?  It has all the sensory elements – smell, taste, touch, sight and even hearing the crackle of something crisping up on the stove.  Glad to have brought some of that back for you.

      1. Absolutely. Great post!

  2. Baking was one of my favorite hobbies when I was young. I developed a strong passion for it, and wouldn’t let a bakery book go by without getting my own copy. AlI I knew was to mix the various ingredients in their proportions and bake my cakes. And my favorite treat was Nutmeg Cake followed by Devil’s Food Cake. Wow. I also had the recipes of German Chocolate Cake as well as Yellow Cake off hand. What has happened to all these passions? This blog has brought back some good memories. I’m getting to realize that I learned quite a lot during my younger years.

    But learning how to create the ingredients myself, never ever thought of that. And very surprised and how easy it is to improvise in the kitchen. Thank you very much for such an informative post. You actually brought back good memories.

  3. Fantastic article. I never knew the difference between the 2, I always added what the recipe asked for. What is the benefit of making your own and knowing you have to work fast to get it in the oven? It sounds like a great idea using natural soda and definitely going to give that a try. I took down the recipes I want to make my own and see how it works wish me luck on that and I will return and let you know how it went. I also went through your site and some amazing recipes that chicken pot pie looks to die for and I’m going to try and make that. This is a great website and I will keep returning for more great recipes. 

                                          Thank you,

                                                     David

    1. Generally, you want to use baking POWDER if you have it – but if you DON’T, you can substitute the soda.  You just need to remember to add some acid with it (which is what baking powder already has in it, with the cream of tartar).  You will love the pot pie!  Let me know how it turns out for you!

  4. Don,

    I love to cook but I have never been a great baker.  When I went gluten free it became even harder to make good baked goods!  This article was so wonderful because when I do choose to bake I usually end up missing an ingredient…usually baking powder!  I also had no idea that there was a man made vs a natural baking powder.  This will make me think twice about the brands I buy for cleaning versus cooking!  Thank you so much for this article I learned so much from it!

    KARA

    1. It’s a common mistake, hence the article!  Going gluten-free definitely adds a lot of other variables to your baking.  I’ve had some good success with gluten-free mixes by Bob’s Red Mill.  Give those a try sometime.  It saves a LOT OF HASSLE!  🙂

  5. Thank you very much for the recipe of baking powder. I didn’t know it could be prepared at home using natural means. We use chemicals so often in our modern life that it’s really great to learn something new that can prepared at your own home. I will try it and share my experience with it.  

    1. Yep, it’s really a pretty simple concept – something to create bubbles!  But knowing when and how to use it can be a bit of a trick.  Glad it’s helpful.  

  6. hi 

    Is it then easier to use baking powder as it has all the ingredients needed to create the reaction to release the gas bubbles ? 

    I do enjoy baking and I have to say I have always used baking powder rather than soda and my cakes have always baked light and fluffy and now I know why! 

    This has been a very insightful read and has got me in the mood to bake! 

    1. Baking powder is DEFINITELY easier, as it gives you a lot more time to fuss around with getting the batter mixed right and any other items mixed in.  With the soda substitute, while it will work fine, you kinda have to get it in the oven, chop-chop!  I would only use it if you were in a bind.  But that happens!  

  7. Hey Don;

    What a great post on Baking soda and baking powder. I became totally absorbed in reading it. I do bake from time to time, but I didn’t know there was so much to know about these two products.

    I’m inspired now to do some more baking and experiment with them to look for the differences. I think that those of us who like to work in the kitchen are really kids at heart who like to play “scientist.” Just as you pointed out!

    Thanks! 🙂

    1. I know!  The whole art of it appeals to my science teacher background.  I mean . . . you put this liquid mass in a hot oven and a few minutes later – PRESTO!  You have something completely different.  Glad you enjoyed it.

  8. i of those separations is to get a baking powder and made cake which i love to eat. And baking soda will help you to reduce problem in the body system.

  9. All of this seems so simple, but I have to admit that I never knew the difference between baking soda and baking powder! I don’t cook much, but I’m trying to learn how to bake mostly by following recipes and hoping for the best. I figured soda and powder were about the same thing, but I see now that they can really make or break your final product. I’m going to print this and put it on the fridge so I don’t forget what can and cannot be substituted.

    1. Good idea!  Once you’ve done it a few times you’ll never forget.  Keep reading for other tips!

  10. When I was a kid I always wondered what the difference was between baking powder and baking soda, and my mom just said one rises whatever you’re baking and the other one doesn’t. Ever since that advice I have never done any research on it but I wanted to find EXACTLY what the differences were and thanks to your article now I know. I’ve never heard of creating your own baking powder but I want to try it out and that’s what I intend to do this weekend. Thanks a lot my friend!

    1. You are most welcome, and tell your mom she’s exactly right!  🙂

  11. Wow! Just took a screen shot of your variations. Good to know. Thanks for the information!

    1. Glad to be of help.

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