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

Baking powder is alkaline and needs to be mixed with acidic ingredients in order to react. Baking powder is baking soda with an added acidic ingredient. Chemical leaveners are divided into two categories.

Baking Soda:

A bicarbonate (HCO3) that’s bound with a sodium atom (related compounds use potassium or ammonium to similar effect). When added to water, the bicarbonate dissolves and is able to react with acids to generate CO2.

In batter or dough schemes, including cakes and cookies, baking soda is typically used to provide leavening. When it comes into contact with acids and water, it emits carbon dioxide, thereby extending doughs and batters to create baked goods with a porous surface. It is an inexpensive, non-toxic, and easy-to-handle ingredient that doesn’t offer an off taste in the finished product.

Baking Powder:

A self-contained leavening system that generates carbon dioxide in the presence of water. Baking powders by definition contain a baking soda and acids for that baking soda to react with.

The idea that these are categories, not single ingredients, is probably foreign to most home cooks, but the chemicals that make up a baking powder or baking soda can vary. Industrial food manufacturers use different compositions and particulate sizes depending upon the food being produced.

  • Single-acting baking powders require only moisture to release gas. Like baking soda, they can be used only if the product is to be baked immediately after mixing. For all practical purposes, no single-acting baking powders are solid today. Practically single acting baking powders releases gas too quickly to be useful for most products. 
  • Double-acting baking powders releases some gas when cold but they require heat for complete reaction. Cake batters made with these can incorporate the leavening agent early in the mixing period and then stand for some time before being baked.

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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.

How is baking soda converted into baking powder?

Baking soda is converted to a baking powder by adding tartaric acid and starch to the baking soda. Baking soda is basic in nature and bitter in flavor. As the baking soda reacts to the batter that is produced, it neutralizes the bitter taste of the baking powder to give rise to carbon dioxide and water as moisture.

What happens if you mix up baking soda and baking powder?

Baking powder also contains an acidic component. Switching the two can result in an unpleasant taste. When the baking soda is used instead of the baking powder, the flavor would be sour. Additionally, having the wrong one in the wrong quantities may result in an incorrect rise.

Why do you need both baking soda and baking powder?

Essentially, the explanation behind all of them is that often you require more leaven than the acid present in the recipe. It’s just about harmony here. Another reason to use both baking powder and baking soda is that it affects both browning and flavoring.

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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