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I am making a pancake recipe that calls for 2 teaspoons of baking powder, which I do not have.

I was wondering if it would be ok to use baking soda as a substitute, and if so, how much would I need to use?

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Baking powder contains baking soda, plus acidic ingredient(s).

If you have cream of tartar, you can make baking powder directly:

  • 2 parts cream of tartar
  • 1 part baking soda
  • 1 part corn starch

Without cream of tartar, you can substitute baking soda for baking powder as long as you have an acid in your recipe, like buttermilk. If your recipe does not contain an acid, you should add one or the baking soda will remain inert. Based on the above proportions, you should be able to substitute 1/2 tsp baking soda + acid for 2 tsp baking powder.

For pancakes specifically, if you rest your batter, you should fold in the baking soda at the end so you do not lose all the leavening action.

  • 4
    Here is a Bon Appetite article that goes into some detail on the substitution: bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/cooking-tips/article/baking-soda. They put the substitution at 1 tsp BP = 1/4 tsp BS + 5/8 tsp cream of tartar. Should not need the corn starch unless you are going to store it, that is really a stabilizer or anti-caking agent and considered inert to the reaction. They also give a few guides of when you can just substitute, that is how much acid needs to be in the recipe. I think on a straight substitute you may however be effecting rise and taste with a 1-for-1 substitute. – dlb Aug 2 '17 at 16:21
  • You can also make your own buttermilk by adding lemon juice to milk, or a combination of yogurt and milk. Not sure if that should be in a different question/answer though. – Wolfgang Aug 2 '17 at 18:26
  • @dlb Thanks for the reference. I realized I flipped the ratio for baking soda and cream of tartar. Curiously, Bon Appetit uses a slightly higher ratio of cream of tartar for the 1 tsp amount than it does for the larger amount: 1/4 cream of tartar (4 Tbsp) to 2 Tbsp baking soda. – mattm Aug 2 '17 at 19:15
  • @mattm Easy to flip numbers like that. 2/1 is the usual rough numbers I have seen, I think they were just going a bit more precision. Not many of us I think really measure 5/8 of a tsp that accurately, but good to know if you are going to error, go to extra CoT rather than skimping. – dlb Aug 2 '17 at 20:20
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    If the recipe calls for e.g. baking powder and buttermilk, then you still need to add extra acid. Tartaric acid powder is recommended as it doesn't have any other effects (such as increasing water content). – OrangeDog Aug 3 '17 at 10:20
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Baking powder and baking soda ARE NOT THE SAME THING.

Baking powder is a mix of soda and an acid that reacts to produce gas that will leaven (rise) the cake.

Baking soda is only 1/2. It has a high pH which will cause proteins to be weak and also cause the cakes to be dark.

Cream of Tartar is an acid which will react with the soda to help produce gas. It will work, but it is not the best as the neutralizing value and rate of reaction is different. It is better to go buy the ingredient you need instead of trying to reverse engineer. Most baking powders are design to give off a little gas in the bowl to lighten the batter and the majority of the gas is produced in the oven after about 40% of the cooking process to allow the product to rise in the oven. Cream of tartar reacts very fast and will gas mostly in the bowl

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    But baking powder is baking soda plus cream of tartar. It shouldn't make any difference whether they're mixed by a machine in a factory or a cook at home, as long as the ratio is correct. And it really isn't possible to "design" a mixture of two powders in the way you claim. The powders have no idea when "40% of the cooking process" is. – David Richerby Aug 3 '17 at 8:06
  • Don't forget "and taste like soap" for the effects of substituting baking powder for 100% soda. – OrangeDog Aug 3 '17 at 10:20
  • @DavidRicherby That's incorrect. Commercial baking powder does not generally use cream of tartar as the acid, precisely because it reacts too soon. I just checked my Dr Oetker baking powder, and it uses E450 (diphosphates) as the acid. – Mike Scott Aug 3 '17 at 14:44
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    The reaction starts happening immediately, and continues happening for a while. The quantities of leavening agents involved are very small compared to the overall amount of liquid. Also, carbon dioxide is very soluble in water. The goal is not to have the reaction start happening during heating, but to have the dissolved CO2 form bubbles as the rising temperature reduces the solubility of the CO2 in the liquid. It's the same thing that happens if you heat up a bottle of soda. This is how beer bread rises. – barbecue Aug 3 '17 at 15:52
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It's basically the same thing. Baking powder produce more bubbles and make things more puff. Use the same amount. If you want that extra puffines just add something acidic (vinegar, lemon) to the soda so it will start producing carbon dioxide and then add to flour and milk.

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    Sorry, but this is completely wrong. – David Richerby Aug 3 '17 at 8:06

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