Difference between Baking Soda and Baking Powder

It is important to understand the difference between baking soda and baking powder since they both serve as leavening agents but are quite different chemically. A brief description of baking powder and baking soda is provided below along with a tabular column highlighting the differences between them.

What is Baking Powder?

Baking powder is a mixture of sodium bicarbonate, other bicarbonates, and acid salts.

Baking powder is a leavening agent produced by the mixture of an acid reacting with alkali reacting one. These baking acids are tartrate, phosphate, and sodium aluminium sulfate used alone or in combination.

Baking powders are made up of bases, acids, and some buffering materials which help in the prevention of early acid-base reactions.

Generally, the baking powders that are sold commercially consist of baking soda or sodium bicarbonate along with one or many salts that can produce acidic reactions when dissolved in solvents.

What is Baking Soda?

Baking soda is nothing but sodium bicarbonate, which can be denoted by the chemical formula NaHCO3. Baking soda is basically a salt that comprises a sodium cation which can be represented as Na+ and a bicarbonate anion which can be represented as HCO3.

Baking soda is a white, crystalline solid that has a salty taste. It is quite useful in baking as a leavening agent – a substance that causes foaming, leading to the softening of the mixture. It is also referred to as sodium hydrogen carbonate.

The Difference between Baking Soda and Baking Powder

The key differences between baking soda and baking powder are tabulated below:

Baking Soda Baking Powder
Has only one ingredient – Sodium Bicarbonate Consists of many ingredients including Bicarbonates (typically baking soda), and acid salts.
Does not contain Monocalcium Phosphate Contain Monocalcium Phosphate, which reacts with NaHCO3 when wetted and heated.
Reacts immediately with acids It does not immediately react when exposed to acids.
Short leavening process The leavening process extended with the help of a second acid.
Baking products formed when baking soda is used are not as fluffy when compared to baking powder products, due to shorter reaction duration. Gives fluffier products from baking

Baking Soda vs Baking Powder for Cooking

While both products function as leavening agents, baking soda and baking powder serve different requirements. For example, baking soda is ideal for recipes that incorporate acidic ingredients such as buttermilk, cream of tartar, and citrus juice (lime juice). On the other hand, baking powder is preferred for recipes that do not contain any acidic ingredients. This is because baking powder contains acidic substances that can facilitate the production of carbon dioxide.  

Different baked food items typically vary in their acidity. The taste of the product is greatly affected by the pH of the food which is, in turn, dependent on the choice of leavening agent. The differences in the acidities of baking soda and baking powder must, therefore, be considered during the baking process.

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Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs

Are baking soda and baking powder the same?

Baking powder is made of baking soda. It’s a baking soda mixture, tartar cream a dry acid, and sometimes cornstarch. Most of the baking powder sold these days is double-acting. Baking powder is still used as a leavening agent in recipes which need an acidic ingredient.

Can I use baking powder in place of baking soda?

Just using three times the amount of baking powder as you would use soda to replace baking powder. So if a recipe needs a baking soda teaspoon, use three baking powder teaspoons instead.

What is the chemical formula of baking soda and baking powder?

Sodium hydrogen carbonate is the chemical term for the baking powder. You might see it in the supermarket called soda bicarbonate. For the same stuff, this is the old name. It’s got the NaHCO3 chemical formula.

What is the effect of baking powder?

Baking powder is a two-in-one leavening compound that mixes a powdered alkali (sodium bicarbonate) with a powdered acid (originally tartaric acid). A chemical reaction that produces carbon dioxide gas, inflating cookies, cakes, and pancakes occurs when moistened in a dough or batter.

What is the purpose of baking powder?

Baking powder is used to increase the volume of baked goods and to lighten the texture. It works by releasing carbon dioxide gas through an acid-base reaction into a batter or dough, causing expansion of bubbles in the wet mixture, leavening the mixture.

Thus, the difference between baking soda and baking powder is highlighted in the tabular column provided above. To learn more about the preparation, properties, and uses of baking soda, download BYJU’S – The Learning App.

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