Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder tells you how these two similar-looking ingredients are different and whether there is any similarity between the two, as I strongly believe in the mantra: Know Your Ingredients, And, Be A Smart Baker.

Before we dig into this topic, I would like to share something with you all. I often come across a lot of people who are very much confused regarding these ingredients. Some even think that they are different names of the same thing. 

However, it is important to have a right understanding of each of these as this can make a huge difference to the quality of your bakes.

 

Difference between Baking Soda And Baking Powder

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Baking Soda Or Baking Powder?

Baking a cake? List of ingredients shows baking powder or baking soda or both. But what exactly are these two ingredients? The resemblance in name, similar in looks, used in baking, anybody can easily get confused as to whether they are the same thing or different? If they are same then what are the similarities? And if different, then what is the difference between baking soda and baking powder?

Baking soda and baking powder are different and I was very well aware of this but I am glad I chose this topic as I got to learn various other aspects or say scientific explanations of the two ingredients. Really, blogging is enriching me day by day in so many different ways. I have tried to explain the difference between baking soda and baking powder in the most simplistic manner I could.  Hope it helps you all.

Also, please read it at least twice or maybe more for a clear understanding of the topic.

Both Baking Soda and Baking Powder are leavening agents. 

What Are Leavening Agents? 

Leavening Agents are added to baked products before baking to produce bubbles of carbon dioxide and cause them to rise.

When heated, these bubbles expand and create channels, which is what gives baked goods a fluffy and light texture. The trapped carbon dioxide bubbles are what allows the baked goods to expand/rise.

Probably now you know why your cake/ dhokla gets double in size.

There are three commonly used leavening agents. These are :

  • Baking Soda,
  • Baking Powder and
  • Yeast.

Yeast is a separate topic in itself. Here we will focus only on Baking Soda and Baking Powder.

  • So, both Baking Soda and Baking Powder are leavening agents but they are chemically different. 
  • They cannot be interchanged with each other. 
  • Using the wrong amount of Baking Soda or Baking powder or interchanging these two can significantly alter the texture of your baked dishes.

 

Before going into the difference between the two, let us understand in brief what these two ingredients are. It will involve little science so please read it patiently and maybe more than once.

What is Baking Soda?

  • Composition Of Baking Soda

Baking Soda has only one chemical and that is, Sodium Bicarbonate.

  • Different Names Of Baking Soda

  1. Also, baking soda is commonly known as Cooking soda.
  2. In Hindi language, Baking Soda is called ‘Meetha soda’  or ‘khane ka soda’.
  3. Thus, Baking Soda, Cooking Soda, Meetha Soda, Khane ka soda…. they all mean the same thing…. different names of the same thing.
  • Facts About Baking Soda

  1. Baking Soda is a BASE ( alkaline ), having a high pH and needs to be balanced by adding an acid, which has a low pH.
  2. When a Base is mixed with an acid, a chemical reaction takes place as a result of which carbon dioxide ( CO2 ) is produced. 
  3. Baking Soda helps in browning and adds a crispier texture to baked goods. This is the reason it is preferred while baking cookies.
  4.  Add only that much is listed in the recipe. Even little more of it will give soapy taste to your baked products so add cautiously following the recipe.

 

What is Baking Powder?

  • Composition Of Baking Powder

Baking Powder is a mixture of a BASE and an ACID and thus have a balanced pH.

It contains Sodium Bicarbonate, Cream of Tartar (an acid) and Corn Starch (drying agent).

  • Facts About Baking Powder

  1.  When this mixture is mixed with water, a chemical reaction takes place, bubbles form, providing aeration in the batter and making the baked goods fluffy.
  2. Nowadays, for commercial purposes, double-acting Baking powders are available which contain more than one acid salts, which are both slow-acting and fast-acting acids.
  3. These slow and fast-acting acid salts release carbon dioxide at different levels of the baking process. 
  4. Some gas is released at room temperature while you mix the batter but the majority of the gas is released at high temperatures when the food is being baked.
  5. This means that the batter rises for a longer period of time, making lots of bubbles thus fluffier cake, muffins etc.
  6. And for many baking recipes, we want an extended reaction of this type only so that the rising doesn’t take place all at once. Hence, baking powder plays an important role.
  7. At some point during the baking process, the liquid foam of rising batter becomes a solid foam because the batter sets. 
  8. Follow a recipe as to the quantity of baking powder to be added. If added more, your baked goods will taste bitter and if added less then the baked goods will be dense.

 

Difference Between Baking Soda And Baking Powder

  Baking Soda Baking Powder
Nature Base Base + Acid
Composition Only Sodium Bicarbonate Sodium Bicarbonate + Cream of Tartar + Corn Starch
Reaction
  • Reacts with Acid
  • Immediate Reaction
  • Reacts with Water
  • Extended Reaction
Uses Used for multiple purposes, baking as well as non-baking items. It makes them soft. Particularly used in eggless cakes. Used only for Baking cakes/cookies. It makes them rise

 

Similarities 

  1. Appearance:  Both are white in colour.
  2. Texture:  Both are in powdered form.
  3. Result:  Both produce Carbon Dioxide when exposed to some reaction.
  4. Odour:  Both are odourless.

 

Some Commonly Asked Questions

Q. What is the purpose of baking soda in baking/cooking?

Baking soda is used in cooking as well as baking. It makes the baked products light and fluffy. You steam Besan dhokla without baking soda and it will be hard and dense. The same dhokla, when steamed after adding baking soda, turns out to be super spongy and soft. Same is the case with baked goods especially eggless cakes. 

Q. What is the purpose of baking powder in baking?

Baking powder is used only in baking and it rises and expands the baked goods. Whether eggless baking or with eggs, baking powder cannot be avoided except some exceptions like Vegan Chocolate Muffins

 

Q. Why Baking Soda Is Added To Eggless Cakes?

Baking Soda is added whenever any acidic ingredient is present in our ingredients. Since eggless cakes have either curd or vinegar or buttermilk or applesauce or lemon juice or brown sugar or cocoa powder (as egg substitutes) therefore it becomes must to add baking soda in eggless cakes. When baking soda mixes with either of these acids, a chemical reaction takes place producing bubbles of carbon dioxide that further expand under oven temperatures, causing baked goods to rise. 

And this reaction begins immediately upon mixing the ingredients and is usually complete in about 2 minutes. So if you leave the batter on the counter for a long time before cooking, the carbon dioxide in the batter will escape leaving your batter flat. Hence, it may not be the most reliable leavening agent.

 

Q. Can I Use Baking Powder Instead Of Baking Soda?

No, if you use Baking powder instead of baking soda then your baked goods will have a softer texture, less colour and will be acidic.

Q. Can I Use Baking Soda Instead Of Baking Powder?

No, if you use Baking Soda instead of Baking Powder then your baked goods will taste bitter and also won’t rise much. Why?

 

Q. How To Substitute Baking Powder and Baking Soda?

Baking soda is much stronger than baking powder, almost 3 to 4 times stronger than baking powder. Just 1 tsp baking soda is equal to 3 tsp of baking powder!

So, if you replace the baking powder with baking soda you will be using very little quantity of it which will have a negligible effect, hence not advised.

Similarly, if we replace baking soda with baking powder then we require to add too much of it which will give soapy taste to the baked goods, hence not advised.

Therefore, for best fluffy cakes/muffins, just do what the recipe says.

 

Q. Why Baking Soda is added in very less quantity?

Baking Soda is added in very little quantity. This is because if too much baking soda is added without having enough acid to react with ( activate it) then there will be unreacted soda leftover which will give a soapy or bitter flavour. So now you know why at times your cake or instant idly or dhokla tastes of soda.

 

Q. Why Do We Use Both Baking Soda And Baking Powder in a Recipe

But some recipes use both Baking Soda as well as Baking Powder. Why so? Well, two reasons for this…

  • First is that these recipes usually contain some acidic ingredient like fruit or curd or any other. Baking soda added might be enough to neutralize the acid in the recipe but not actually enough to lift the batter. Little Baking powder will give the extra lift needed to make the recipe perfect. And if only baking powder is used then finished product might taste too acidic.
  • Another reason for using both Baking Soda and Baking Powder in a recipe is that they affect flavour and browning in different ways.

 

Q. How to Check The Expiry Of Baking Soda?

Put little, maybe 1/4 tsp Baking soda in a bowl and pour 1/4 tsp Vinegar on it. If the bubbles appear, means it is active. Go ahead with your baking. If not then go-ahead to put in the trash bin.

Q. How to Check The Expiry Of Baking Powder?

 Put little, maybe 1/4 tsp Baking powder in a bowl and pour 1/4 tsp Water on it. If the bubbles appear, means it is active. Go ahead with your baking. If not then go-ahead to put in the trash bin.

 

Tip

  1. Keep them labelled as there are high chances of getting confused owing to their similar looks. After clicking the pic of both baking soda and baking powder to post here, while refilling the two in their respective bottles  I myself got a bit confused. Then to check I performed the above tests only and then successfully refilled them.
  2. They both expire very fast. So, if you are not a regular baker or are baking after a long time then please check and ensure that they are not expired.

 

Hope you have found this post on the difference between baking powder and baking soda useful. I would love to have your views regarding this.

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This post was originally published in May 2017 and has been republished in July 2020 with updated pics and text.