Does Cream of Tartar Go Bad? – Full Analysis

by Charlie
Cream of Tartar

Cream of tartar is a staple ingredient. The only ingredient in cream of tartar is potassium bitartrate. Cream of tartar is a one-ingredient food, so there’s nothing that will cause it to rot.

Does cream of tartar go bad? Yes, cream of tartar does go bad. But it only goes bad if it is exposed to moisture or if constant exposure to light breaks it down. If the cream of tartar is in an airtight container and is kept at the back of the cover, it can theoretically last forever. But it would be better to say that cream of tartar can last 5 years. 

Cream of tartar is used to help foods that have yeast rise higher and can keep whipped egg whites stiff. If you do not have cream of tartar in your home or it is expired, you can always use lemon juice or baking powder as a substitute.

How Long Does Cream of Tartar Last?

Theoretically, cream of tartar can last indefinitely as long as it is protected from light, air, and moisture. But very few foods last forever. To be safe, cream of tartar has a shelf life of 5 years.

Just remember to replace the lid firmly back onto the container when you’re done using it. Also, use a clean spoon whenever you need to measure some of this powder for a recipe.

How Long Does Cream of Tartar Last? Shelf Life [Chart]

ItemShelf Life
Cream of TartarIndefinitely or 5 years

Signs that Cream of Tartar Has Gone Bad

The number one way to cause cream of tartar to rot and go bad before reaching its shelf life is to forget to replace the lid when after using the powder.

Hard clumps: Powder hardens and solidifies if it stays too long in one position. But if you see clumps of tartar that won’t separate unless you press hard on them with your finger, throw the jar away. The clumps likely mean there is moisture in the powder, and its chemicals are no longer working.

Egg whites are still runny/won’t stay whipped: Cream of tartar allows egg whites to stabilize, so they don’t melt back into watery eggs once they stiffen up with the help of a blender or mixer. So you will know if the tartar powder is bad if the egg whites cannot stay stiff.

Baked goods won’t rise as high: Cream of tartar helps baked goods, especially those with yeast, rise and become fluffy and soft. So if your bread and cakes are not reaching the height you expect them to, it probably means the cream of tartar is old.

Cream of Tartar is Expired: What’s the Best Substitute?

So if you realize that the cream of tartar in your pantry is old, you may now need a replacement. Plenty of ingredients in your kitchen can act as a substitute for cream of tartar. The two most popular and effective foods that are cream of tartar substitutes are baking powder and lemon juice.

Baking Powder

Baking powder is your best option for a cream of tartar substitute. When a recipe calls for cream of tartar, it will also include baking powder as part of its ingredients. So if you don’t have the cream of tartar in your pantry, all you need to do is double the amount of baking powder the recipe requires. 

Cream of tartar is stronger than baking powder but doubling the amount of baking powder works. This method will not work if the baking powder is old and expired. So, before you start cooking a huge meal or bake some elaborate treats, check all of the expiration dates on the food you’re about to use. 

Lemon Juice

Although lemon juice is radically different from baking powder, it has the same pH. Like cream of tartar, lemon juice is extremely acidic, so it will work to boost the baking powder that’s already in the recipe. 

But when you use lemon juice, do not use the bottle of lemon oil available in many grocery stores. It is a green bottle, but it is not the same as lemon juice. It is best to get the lemon juice by squeezing a fresh lemon and collecting all the juices.

How to Store Cream of Tartar

Cream of tartar is an overlooked but important ingredient, especially since it prevents egg whites from deflating after a few minutes. It also helps the yeast in baked goods rise. 

As you can see, baked goods need cream of tartar. But people don’t make these foods on a daily basis. So, this powder must have a storage area to prevent contamination from things like light, air, moisture, or bacteria. So how should you store cream of tartar?

After you return from the grocery store, take the cream of tartar jar and place it in the spice rack next to your other spices. There’s not much you need to do when storing cream of tartar. 

We recommend storing the cream of tartar in the back of the cupboard. You don’t want to expose it to light every time you open the cupboard. Placing this powder at the front of the cupboard will cause it to deteriorate faster. Light can break down and destroy the effectiveness of this powder.

Conclusion

  • Cream of tartar helps egg whites stiffen and assists yeast in making food rise higher.
  • If kept protected from all outside elements, cream of tartar can last a long time.
  • But it is safer to say that cream of tartar has a shelf life of 5 years.
  • If you see hard clumps in the cream of tartar, then moisture has gotten inside the container, and it must be thrown away.
  • If you don’t have cream of tartar or if it is expired, then you can use baking soda or lemon juice as substitutes.
  • If your bread or cake doesn’t rise as high as it should, it most likely means the cream of tartar is old.

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