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This for That: Baking Powder and Baking Soda

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

Have you ever started baking your favorite batch of chocolate chip cookies and realized that you're missing an ingredient, or two?

That's happened to me more than I can remember. I usually run out to the store to get what I need even though I usually don't have time. Thankfully my thoughtful husband usually volunteers to go.

A common question I get asked is, "Are there ingredient swaps you can use if you're out of an ingredient?" the answer is YES!

You do have to be precise and pay attention to measurements and know that not everything will work in every recipe.

There are "healthy" alternatives and then just general swaps if you're in an, "Oh Crap" moment.

Here are some quick examples of "healthy" swaps. (Look out for a future post on this).


If you are doing flour swaps, make sure you are using the spoon and level method when measuring flour, or better get out your kitchen scale and weigh it!

Spoon and level method: spoon flour into the measuring cup and then level it with a knife or leveler. This ensures that you're not over or under measuring flour (there will be a separate post on this because it is so important).

This first post in the mini series discusses baking powder and baking soda.

Baking powder & baking soda:

they are not interchangeable.

The active ingredient in both baking soda and baking powder is sodium bicarbonate. This compound acts as a leavening agent ( it reacts to release carbon dioxide gas (CO2) which gives bread, cake, and pancakes that fluffy texture we know and love). Heat and/or acid can trigger a reaction.

Usually you're baking at around 350°F already. That is an automatic guarantee that there will be a heat reaction. Because the heat needs to be at 180°F or higher to cause a heat reaction.

The difference?

Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate. Recipes that already have some sort of acid, will generally use baking soda.

Baking powder is sodium bicarbonate combined with a powdered acid. Recipes that don’t already include an acidic component will generally use baking powder.

Don't have baking powder? You can substitute 1 tsp and combine 1/4 tsp baking soda + 1/2 tsp cream of tarter.

1/4 tsp of Baking soda can be replaced with 1 tsp baking powder.


Office for Science and Society: Cat Wang

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