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Baking soda vs baking powder: are they the same thing?

Baking powder and baking soda sound and look alike, but are they the same thing? Read on to learn about baking powder vs baking soda. 

The holiday season in Nigeria means one thing: it’s the time to bake homemade pastries, such as biscuits, cookies, and cakes, for your kids. You need leavening agents, like baking powder and baking soda, to raise and soften your pastry products during baking. On casual observation, baking powder and baking soda sound and look alike, but are they the same thing? Read on to learn about baking powder vs. baking soda. 

Baking powder vs baking soda: what are they? 


baking powder and baking soda have the same color (white) and texture.

Baking soda is made from sodium bicarbonate, which is why it’s also called bicarbonate of soda. Sodium bicarbonate is a white alkaline salt that releases carbon dioxide when you add acidic baking ingredients and a liquid. The expulsion of carbon dioxide causes the dough or batter to rise. 

Baking powder, on the other hand, is a mix of three main ingredients: baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), an acid (usually cream of tartar), and a moisture-absorbing agent like cornstarch. The acid ingredient in baking powder reacts with the baking soda (a base) to produce the carbon dioxide gas that causes baked products to rise. The cornstarch absorbs the moisture and keeps the powder dry until you need it for baking. 

Because baking powder contains acid, it doesn’t need acidic ingredients to “activate” it. It can form carbon dioxide once it contacts moisture and heat during baking. In contrast, you need acidic ingredients to “activate” baking soda. 

Both leavening agents are chemically different; they also react and create air differently. For instance, baking soda creates more evenly distributed carbon dioxide during “activation” than baking powder. As a result, baking soda produces a dense, chewy, and brownish texture compared to baking powder. Meanwhile, baking powder creates a light and tender texture. 

Which baking ingredient should you use? 

Prices of baking ingredients such as baking soda, baking powder, flour, and sugar you can purchase on PricepallyBaking powder is suited for recipes with non-acidic ingredients because it already contains the acid you need to raise pastries. Baking powder is also the rising agent for creating a light, super fluffy, and tender texture in cakes, banana bread, and biscuits. 

In contrast, baking soda doesn’t contain acid, making it suitable for recipes with acidic ingredients like buttermilk and cocoa powder to create leavening effects. Besides, baking soda supports browning, making it the best choice for pastries where you need browning. Baking soda is strong and reacts instantly; therefore, you must be ready to bake immediately, using the correct measurement to avoid creating a metallic-like flavor. 

Baking soda is strong and reacts instantly; therefore, you must be ready to bake immediately.

Both leavening agents can help you create a balanced rise and a specific texture or flavor in some recipes. Red velvet cake, homemade biscuits, and buttermilk pancakes are pastry products that require both rising agents. 

Shopping tip: Pricepally is your one-stop shop for home baking ingredients. 

Summarily, here are the differences between baking soda and baking powder.  

Characteristics  Baking soda Baking powder
Composition  It’s a base made from sodium bicarbonate.  It consists of sodium bicarbonate, an acid (e.g., cream of tartar or monocalcium phosphate), and a moisture-absorbing agent (e.g., cornstarch).  
Leavening/rising activation It needs acidic ingredients to cause products to rise. 

The pastries will taste bitter and won’t rise properly when you use baking soda without acid ingredients in the recipe.

Its leavening power is stronger than that of baking powder. 

It doesn’t need acid to cause a leaving effect because it contains acid. It’ll rise once it meets moisture and heat. 
Usage Suitable for recipes with acidic ingredients or that require pronounced browning.  It’s best for recipes with non-acidic ingredients that require a balanced rise. 
Recipes E.g., homemade buttermilk biscuits, chewy chocolate chip cookies, chin chin, puff puff, and banana bread. Pancakes, meat pie, vanilla cupcakes, and soft Nigerian chin chin. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use baking powder instead of baking soda? 

The rule of thumb is not to use baking powder where the recipe needs baking soda. But if baking powder is the only leavening agent you have, you need three times its quantity to create the expected rising effect baking soda would bring. 

Meanwhile, you can use baking soda instead of baking powder in some ingredients. But you need to activate it using acidic ingredients, such as cream of tartar. Generally, 1 teaspoon of baking powder is equivalent to ¼ teaspoon of baking soda. 

Can I bake without baking soda and baking powder?

Apart from baking powder and baking soda, there are alternative rising agents for baking. Examples are: 

  1. Potassium bicarbonate: You can use it as a 1:1 substitute for baking soda, especially if you’re trying to reduce your salt intake. 
  2. Baker’s ammonia or ammonium carbonate: It adds distinct crispiness to pastry products. Like potassium bicarbonate, you can use it as a 1:1 substitute for baking soda. 
  3. Self-raising flour: It’s made from baking powder, flour, and salt. It’s a baking powder and baking soda substitute when making biscuits. 

Is baking soda safe for cooking and cleaning?

Besides acting as a raising agent in pastries, baking soda has household uses and health benefits. It’s useful as a cleaning agent, teeth whitener, and air freshener. 

Additionally, it improves exercise performance by delaying fatigue. Generally, baking soda is safe for cooking but not for people on low-sodium or salt diets. It contains high amounts of sodium, which may increase the risk of kidney failure and dehydration. 

Where can I buy baking soda in Lagos, Abuja, or Port Harcourt?

Pricepally allows you to buy baking ingredients in Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt. 


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