Baking Soda vs Baking Powder: What’s the Difference?

If you enjoy baking, you’ve probably used baking soda and baking powder a time or two. They are often essential ingredients that can help bread or sweets rise, making baked goods taste deliciously fluffy.

Even if you use baking soda and powder regularly, you may be curious about what they are made of. Keep reading to learn the difference between the two and when to use what!

Magic Bar Cookies use both baking soda and baking powder

What is baking soda?

Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is an alkaline salt that creates carbon dioxide when mixed with acid. In turn, carbon dioxide allows what you are making to rise or expand. 

Baking soda must be added to a dough containing acidic ingredients, such as cocoa or buttermilk. As a salt, recipes that call for baking soda will generally call for less salt as well. Baking soda also helps foods brown, so it’s a great ingredient to get that perfect golden look on your baked goods. 

Baking soda has a shelf life of about 18 months. If you want to test if it’s still good, simply throw a spoonful in with vinegar, lemon juice, or something else acidic. If the baking soda fizzes, it’s still good!

What is baking powder?

Baking powder has sodium bicarbonate in it too, but it also includes two other ingredients, cream of tartar and cornstarch. Baking powder is a good option for baking when the mixture doesn’t have any acidic ingredients in it.

Some baking powders are double acting, which means that the powder will expand the dough once added to the mixture, and then again, in the oven.  

Baking powder lasts up to a year. To see if your baking powder is still good, add a spoonful in with some boiling water. If it foams or bubbles up, it’s still good and ready to use!

Choosing between baking soda and baking powder

Baking soda and baking powder often go hand in hand. Sometimes, recipes will call for a bit of both. 

If you’re deciding between the two, consider if your recipe has acidic ingredients in it. If it does, then consider using baking soda or a bit of both. If it doesn’t have any acidic ingredients in it, then it’s best to stick with baking powder. 

Baking is often a science, but learning a bit more about what each ingredient can do goes a long way! 


Sometimes, we don’t have quite what we need, but usually, we can still make it work!

If you need baking soda, you can use baking powder. Baking soda is about 3 times stronger than baking powder, so you’ll want to use about 3 times as much baking powder in your recipe. 

If you need baking powder, substitute with 1/3 the amount of baking soda and 5/8 tsp cream of tartar. 

Need self-rising flour? Self-rising flour is flour that already includes baking powder and salt. To make your own, simply add 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt for every cup of flour. 

Try it out in your kitchen

Ready to see how baking powder and baking soda will affect your dishes? Try out some of our sweet treats listed below. Happy baking!

About Abby Grifno

Abby is a health and wellness writer based out of Washington, DC. As a teacher, she believes health and knowledge go hand-in-hand with helping individuals make the best decisions for their health goals. Through her fact-based research and writing, Abby strives to make nutrition and wellness engaging, accessible, and fun!

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