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Baking soda versus baking powder

Often people confuse baking powder and baking soda as a consequence of their similar names and appearance. Although they’re often combined in recipes because of their leavening properties, they have their own, diverse uses, as well as different chemical structure. Let’s see the differences between them:

Baking soda

Known as soda bicarbonate or sodium bicarbonate, baking soda is a base mineral, which, when mixed with something acidic, produces carbon dioxide. Baking soda is added in a recipe when it requires some kind of acid. When adding it to a recipe, you also need to add something acidic like lemon juice, molasses, cream of tartar, buttermilk, yogurt, and brown sugar to get a chemical reaction going.

If you suspect you might have a yeast intolerance (or allergy) or this has been confirmed by a food intolerance test, and you relish baked goods do not despair – you can substitute a formulation that contains baking soda instead of yeast when making breads, rolls and other baked goods. Similarly, seek “quick-bread” recipes that use baking soda and dodge the use of yeast.  If you’re yeast intolerant you can read more about it here.

Baking soda is more potent than baking powder. But, too much baking soda doesn’t mean more puffiness and, when it fails to react with the acids from the recipe, you’ll be left with baking soda remnants. When it fails to be neutralised with an acid, the food will have a metallic taste due to the presence of baking soda.


As a rule of thumb: when baking, use ¼ tsp of baking soda per a cup of flour.

Baking powder

This is a mixture of baking soda and other acids such as cream of tartar and corn starch. In recipes, the first leavening happens after baking powder becomes wet and the second when baking powder is heated. So, it already contains acid.

Another rule of thumb: use 1 tsp of baking powder per a cup of flour in recipes.

Some recipes require both. Where baking soda is not enough to raise certain acids, some recipes may require the extra puffing power of baking powder.

Expiry dates

Always use fresh baking powder and soda and if not used dispose of them when they are 3 months old. You can always test their effectiveness before using them. The way to do it is to put 3 tbsp of warm water in a small bowl and add half a tsp of baking powder and mix the content. If there is some reaction, then the baking soda is still good.

To check the effectiveness of baking soda, put 3 tbsp of white distilled vinegar in a bowl and add half a tsp of baking soda and stir the content. If it bubbles, the baking powder is still good.

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