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Leavening: What is the difference between baking powder and baking soda?

A new baker recently asked me, “What is the difference between baking powder and baking soda! When do you use each of these two ingredients!”

Both baking powder and baking soda are leavening agents; they release carbon dioxide to make baked products rise. Baking soda is bicarbonate of soda. It is an alkali and must be mixed with an acid in order to produce carbon dioxide. It is used in recipes that include an acidic ingredient such as citrus juice, buttermilk, yogurt, molasses, or chocolate but the proportion of baking soda to acid must be correct or a soapy flavor will be produced. It is important to use tested recipes to prevent that problem.

Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda and an acid such as cream of tartar in the correct proportion along with cornstarch to keep the two from mixing before they are put into a baked product. It is used in baked goods that don’t include an acidic ingredient.

2 Responses to Leavening: What is the difference between baking powder and baking soda?


  1. soda it says:

    My brother recommended I might like this website. He was entirely right.
    This post actually made my day. You can not imagine just how
    much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

  2. Bruce says:

    Thanks! Nine years later, your explanation is still helping people. When I look in my cupboard, I will no longer be frustrated by perceiving I had redundant leavening agents!

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