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Baking Powder and Baking Soda

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In this Lesson you will Learn

  1. What is the difference between baking powder and baking soda?

Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate. When sodium bicarbonate is combined with an acid, a chemical reaction occurs creating the gas that causes baked goods to rise. This is why baking soda is used in recipes that contain an acid such as lemon juice, vinegar, buttermilk, etc.1

Baking powder is sodium bicarbonate (again, baking soda) combined with a powdered acid. Cornstarch is also added to baking powder to absorb moisture and prevent the baking soda and the powdered acid from reacting prematurely. Since the acid is already included, you do not need another acidic ingredient. In fact, if you are adding an acidic ingredient to a recipe with baking powder, you will need to add baking soda to neutralize the extra acid!2

Note: baking powder and baking soda can lose their effectiveness over time. If you've had yours for awhile, make sure they're still going to work by mixing them with a little hot water (be sure to add some vinegar to the water in the baking soda test). If they don't fizz or bubble, you need to replace them.


  1. Serious Eats - What is the difference between baking powder and baking soda?
  2. The Kitchn - Pantry Basics


  1. Baking soda is used in recipes that contain acidic ingredients like lemon juice, vinegar, or buttermilk. Baking powder is used in recipes that do not (because the acid is already included in the baking powder).
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