Can You Use Cream of Tartar Instead of Baking Soda?

by Charlie
Can You Use Cream of Tartar Instead of Baking Soda

Cream of tartar is often a reasonable substitute for things like lemon juice and vinegar, but it cannot be used as a substitute for baking soda. However, it is worth noting that baking powder often contains both baking soda and cream of tartar.

Can you use cream of tartar instead of baking soda? If you don’t have baking soda, cream of tartar is sadly not a suitable replacement for it. Baking soda is an alkaline substance, while cream of tartar is acidic. The two can produce amazing results when mixed together, but they cannot be substituted for each other in most situations.

What is the Point of Baking Soda?

Although it depends a bit on the recipe, baking soda is usually there to react with the other ingredients and help the batter or dough rise. 

It is commonly used in cakes and other similar recipes, and the reaction it makes causes bubbles of CO2, which help to create a fluffy, airy texture in baked goods.

If you don’t have baking soda, your recipe may not rise properly, and it will not be as fluffy. Usually, baking soda (an alkaline) is reacting with an acidic ingredient, such as cream of tartar. If you just use cream of tartar, there is nothing to create the reaction, which means no CO2 bubbles, which means no fluffiness.

Why Can’t You Use Cream of Tartar as a Substitute for Baking Soda?

Cream of tartar isn’t a suitable substitute for baking soda because cream of tartar is acidic, and baking soda is an alkaline. In order to create a reaction, you need another alkaline substance, not an acidic one.

When you look at a recipe, it isn’t always immediately obvious what will and won’t work, but in almost all cases, using cream of tartar as a substitute for baking soda will just result in a flat cake (or other baked good). You may as well not use any substitute at all.

You won’t find that cream of tartar makes your baked goods rise because it cannot react with the acidic ingredients in the recipe, and therefore it will not create the CO2 that makes the recipe rise while it is baking.

What Can You Use as a Substitute for Baking Soda Instead?

If you don’t have any baking soda, you can use baking powder, whipped egg whites, self-rising flour, or club soda. Baking powder is the preferable option, as it will react with the acidic ingredient and create the CO2.

To replace baking soda with baking powder, you will need to significantly increase the quantity that you use, as baking soda is the concentrated form of baking powder. Baking powder contains leavening ingredients and may also contain flour. Usually, you should triple the amount of baking powder if you are using it to replace baking soda.

The other substitutes mentioned above will only work for some recipes, and usually, you will find that the final product is not as good as when you use baking soda. However, it is worth knowing what the options are.

Firstly, you might want to try egg whites. Whipped egg whites will help to add air to a recipe, making it fluffy and light, as baking soda does. However, you need to be thorough about whipping the whites to ensure as much air as possible is incorporated, or you will still get flat, stodgy food. 

You will also need to reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe, or it will end up very runny. Try to reduce it by approximately the same volume as the egg you are adding.

Alternatively, if you have a bag of self-rising flour, you can use this. It already contains baking soda, so you don’t need to add more. Simply swap the flour that you use in the recipe.

In a real pinch, you can also try club soda. This will never work as well as using a proper raising agent, but it may provide a bit of fluffiness if you’re really stuck. However, you should be aware that you need to work very fast, because the CO2 will quickly escape out of the recipe and back into the air.

Don’t try this for cakes or other baked goods that need to rise a lot. However, it should give you enough lift for recipes that just need a little extra puff, like pancakes, or possibly cookies.

What Can You Replace Cream of Tartar With?

If you need to replace cream of tartar with something else, you can use white vinegar or lemon juice. This is usually appropriate for recipes when you’re stabilizing egg whites. Almost any acidic ingredient will stand in for cream of tartar.

Can You Leave Baking Soda Out of a Recipe?

In most cases, you cannot just omit baking soda from a recipe, any more than you can replace it with cream of tartar. Most recipes require this fluffiness in order to cook properly, and leaving the raising agent out will result in a mess baked at the bottom of the pan, which is often raw in the center.

A few recipes will work reasonably well without baking soda, although they are better with it. Recipes that don’t need to rise too much will be acceptable without. For example, cookies are often okay without, and pancakes are also edible.

If you haven’t got any raising agent, it’s best to flatten the food out as much as you can before you bake it. For example, cookies should be pressed down firmly. This may seem counter-intuitive, because you want them to rise, but the simple fact is that they won’t rise without the raising agent, and pressing them down ensures that the center will at least cook properly.

Similarly, spread pancakes out thin. You will not be able to make them fluffy, so instead aim for a crepe-like pancake and fast cooking.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, you can’t use cream of tartar as a replacement for baking soda. If you don’t have enough baking soda for a recipe, you will need self-rising flour or baking powder (triple the original quantity). You may be able to make club soda or whipped egg whites work, but be aware that the final product will not be as fluffy, no matter what you do.

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