Does Baking Soda Go Bad?

Baking soda is a commonly mystifying ingredient in the baking world. What exactly is it? Is it the same thing as baking powder? Is it okay that it’s been in my pantry for two years? If you have these questions, don’t worry. We once had them too. 

What’s baking soda used for?

Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is used as a leavening agent in many cakes, breads, or cookies. It make doughs airier and less dense.  

The leavening effect works by combining baking soda with acidic ingredients, like buttermilk or yogurt, to create a reaction. 

While baking soda is a key ingredient to help batter rise, it’s not the only option to help your batter rise.

Does baking soda go bad?

Baking soda has a shelf-life of 18 months, but it’s not quite as cut and dry as reading the expiration date. 

Technically, eating expired baking soda won’t hurt you, so you don’t have to worry about falling ill from a cake gone wrong. 

However, if baking soda has gone bad, it won’t work very well. Using baking soda that’s past its prime could result in baked goods being denser and flatter than expected. 

You usually won’t be able to tell if the soda has gone bad just from looking at it, but a quick experiment can let you know. 

How to test if baking soda has gone bad

The process is simple. Baking soda works to expand dough by reacting to acid, so to see if it works, combine a small amount of the soda with an acidic ingredient. Here’s what we’d do: 

  1. Take about 1 tablespoon of baking soda and place it into a bowl. 
  2. Add a splash, about 2 teaspoons, of an acidic liquid. We recommend lemon juice or vinegar. 
  3. Watch the reaction: if the baking soda and liquid begin to fizz then your baking soda is fine to use. If there is no reaction, then it’s time to throw it out and consider alternatives. 

What to do if your baking soda goes bad

If you’re too busy to go to the store but find your baking soda is no longer active, don’t worry too much. According to Healthline writer Ansley Hill, there are some great alternatives: 

  • Baking powder. Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda and cream of tartar. It’s not quite as strong as baking soda but it’s a simple substitute. For every teaspoon of baking soda you need, use 3 teaspoons of baking powder. 
  • Whipped egg whites. If your recipe already calls for eggs, then simply divide the whites and whip them. They’ll provide an airy texture to mimic the baking soda. If the recipe doesn’t call for eggs, then lessen other liquids. For instance, if you use two tablespoons of egg whites, then leave out the two tablespoons of milk. 

If neither of these options work for you, then consider just leaving it out. Your baked good may be slightly denser, but it will still have the same delicious flavor. 

Check out this video on baking powder vs baking soda:

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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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