The Real Difference Between Baking Soda And Baking Powder

Everyone who bakes has been there, reading a recipe that calls for either baking soda or baking powder, then reaching for the wrong one. Or — worse! — realizing you're out of the one that it calls for. Does it really matter? Absolutely.

Let's take a look at exactly what's inside these containers, starting with baking soda. That's actually straight sodium bicarbonate, and here's a bit of a flashback to grade school science for you.

Baking soda is a base, and that means it reacts when it comes in contact with an acid. When you're baking, that can be in the form of a liquid — typically something like lemon, buttermilk, or coffee — or a solid, like brown sugar. Once the two are mixed, they'll form carbon dioxide bubbles and raise the pH of your dough. What does that mean? Basically, those bubbles make your baked goods rise, and increased pH weakens the gluten to make your final product more tender.

Now, baking powder. That's a little different, because that's actually baking soda plus some other ingredients — usually, says Bob's Red Mill, cornstarch and cream of tartar. It contains two acids, which can vary, and it's only when a liquid is introduced that the first acid reacts with the base. Then, once it's exposed to heat, the second reaction happens. But wait, you're saying, If it contains both an acid and a base, wouldn't it automatically react? No, and Healthline says that's where the cornstarch comes in. That acts to keep the reaction from happening until you want it to. See, it's pretty simple.

Watch the video to learn the real difference between baking soda and baking powder!

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What are they? | 0:15
Why you need them | 1:31
Different kinds | 2:39
Flavor and browning | 3:35
What a rush | 4:49
Just a little | 5:58
How to substitute | 7:34
What about yeast? | 8:46
Non-baking uses | 9:57