Have you ever run out of baking powder and thought of using baking soda instead? Or vice versa? Do you know what’s the difference between these two ingredients? If you didn’t know, it’s time for you to learn. And, the answer is really simple – acid. But, it makes a huge difference for bread and other baked goods.

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The Difference Between Baking Powder And Baking Soda

Although very similar and used for similar purposes, baking powder and baking soda are chemically different. However, they still have the same base, which is sodium bicarbonate.

Baking soda is actually pure sodium bicarbonate. It’s a base that reacts with acids, and as such, it is often added to dishes that contain acidic substances. Some of those include lemon, vinegar, yogurt or buttermilk. When it comes in contact with sodium bicarbonate, the acid starts a chemical process that releases carbon dioxide, creating bubbles and foam. When making bagels and other baked goods, we call this chemical process leavening, and it’s what causes the dough to rise.

Baking soda can sometimes be bad for baking, as it reacts immediately upon contact with an acid. And, most baking recipes require a prolonged reaction. This is when baking powder comes in very handy.

Baking powder is a special mixture of sodium bicarbonate and two different types of acids. One is the monocalcium phosphate, which reacts with the sodium bicarbonate only when wet. Thus, the moment we stir the baking powder into a dough, the ingredients start to react. The other acid is either sodium aluminum sulfate or sodium acid pyrophosphate. Since these two acids don’t react with sodium bicarbonate while wet, they are what causes the prolonged reaction. They come into action only when the dough is placed in a pre-heated oven. This way, we get fluffy and spongy muffins, bagels and cakes.

So, baking powder has a double effect, and it’s all what we’re looking for when making baked goods.


If you want to use baking powder instead of baking soda, all you need to do is increase the amount and add it in a 1:3 ratio. If your recipe requires 1 tsp of baking soda, add 3 tsp of baking powder.

If you want to use baking soda instead of baking powder, all you need to do is add acid, to activate the sodium bicarbonate. A teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar will do the job just fine. Just remember, baking soda is 3 times stronger than baking powder. Thus, divide the necessary amount by 3.

And last comes the expiration date. The shelf life of baking soda depends on how we keep it. Thus, if stored in a dry and cold place, it can last for a really long time. Baking powder on the other hand, spoils faster, losing its properties within 3 months to a year.

The Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder