We select and review products independently. When you purchase through our links we may earn a commission. Learn more.

Are Baking Soda and Baking Powder the Same?

A tablespoon of baking soda
Michelle Lee Photography/Shutterstock.com

Baking soda and baking powder are two ingredients you probably have in your pantry right now. They are often used in baking and have a similar consistency, but are rarely used interchangeably in recipes. While their differences are subtle, they are important to know.

Are Baking Soda and Baking Powder the Same?

A woman with a jar of baking soda
Dragon Images/Shutterstock.com

Baking soda and baking powder are not the same. Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate, which is a chemical compound that creates carbon dioxide gas when it is mixed with an acid.

Baking powder, on the other hand, is a mixture of sodium bicarbonate and an acid. This means that baking powder does not require an acid to create carbon dioxide because the acid is already in the mixture.

Both baking soda and baking powder are leavening agents, which means they cause things like breads and cakes to rise. But because they require different components to create carbon dioxide, they cannot be used interchangeably.

What is Baking Soda?

A bowl of baking soda
Sunny Forest/Shutterstock.com

Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate. When it comes in contact with an acidic ingredient, like yogurt or lemon juice, it releases carbon dioxide gas. This gas helps to leaven baked goods, giving them a light and fluffy consistency.

Sodium bicarbonate comes from mineral deposits that are found around the world. It has been used as a leavening agent for centuries, and it is still one of the most popular leavening agents today.

In addition to being used while cooking, baking soda offers some health benefits as well. Sodium bicarbonate can neutralize stomach acid, which makes it a popular antacid to help relieve indigestion, heartburn, and acid reflux. Mayo Clinic recommends that adults don’t take more than five teaspoons of baking soda per day as an antacid. Be sure to check with your doctor before using baking soda as an antacid, as it can negatively interact with many medications.

Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda

Stock up on this well-known brand.

What is Baking Powder?

A bowl of baking powder
Naviya/Shutterstock.com

Baking powder is made up of sodium bicarbonate and an acid, such as cream of tartar. It also contains cornstarch to absorb moisture and prevent caking. When wet ingredients are added to baking powder, the acid reacts with the sodium bicarbonate to release carbon dioxide gas. This gas helps leaven baked goods.

Although baking powder has a long shelf life, it can lose its effectiveness over time, especially if moisture enters its container. You can test the freshness of baking powder by adding one teaspoon of baking powder to one cup of hot water. If the mixture bubbles, your baking powder is still effective.

Bob's Red Mill Baking Powder

This large bag will last you ages.

How to Use Baking Soda

Someone puts baking soda in the sink to clean
New Africa/Shutterstock.com

Baking soda is an incredibly useful ingredient for both cooking and cleaning. Here’s how to get the most use from it.

Cooking

As we’ve discussed, baking soda works as a leavening agent to help recipes rise. To use baking soda for cooking, add it to the recipe as directed. If you’re out of baking soda, the best substitute is baking powder used at a 1:3 ratio. For example, if a recipe calls for one teaspoon of baking soda, you should use three teaspoons of baking powder instead.

Baking soda is also an integral ingredient for making bagels and soft pretzels. Adding baking soda to water and boiling the dough for a few minutes before baking gives these treats their iconic chewy texture.

Add a pinch of baking soda to a pot of beans to help them cook faster or rub some on a steak to help tenderize it before cooking. Cooking potatoes in water with baking soda can also help produce super crispy potatoes when they’re baked afterward.

Cleaning

Baking soda can also be used as a cleaning agent. It’s great for scrubbing pots and pans, getting rid of stains, and freshening up carpets.

This ingredient is great for deep cleaning without being too abrasive. Sprinkle some on a sponge and use it with your normal cleaning products to clean sinks, bathtubs, toilets, and other parts of the home with stubborn residue.

MR.SIGA Dual-Sided Dishwashing Sponge

Scrub stubborn grime off your dishes with coffee grounds and a basic sponge.

To make your own nontoxic cleaner, mix baking soda with vinegar and water to use on most surfaces. If you can’t stand the smell of vinegar, baking soda mixed with hydrogen peroxide also makes a good all-purpose cleaner. For areas you can thoroughly rinse with water, mix this ingredient with dish soap for a foamy cleanser that cuts through grease and grime.

Finally, baking soda works great for cleaning your garbage disposal because it also absorbs odor that can build up in that part of your sink. Just pour half a cup of baking soda down your garbage disposal and let it sit for a few minutes before running the water and turning on the disposal to rinse everything away.

How to Use Baking Powder

A person adds baking powder to a bowl with flour
Olga Dubravina/Shutterstock.com

Baking powder is most commonly used in baking. It’s a leavening agent that helps baked goods rise. To use baking powder, add it to the recipe as directed. Baking powder is often used in recipes that don’t contain an acid, such as pancakes or biscuits.

If you’re out of baking powder, the best alternative is baking soda combined with an acid. For every teaspoon of baking powder called for in a recipe, mix together one-quarter teaspoon of baking soda with half a teaspoon of an acid, such as cream of tartar, lemon juice, or vinegar. Keep in mind that adding extra liquid to a recipe may change the consistency of the final product.


You probably own both baking soda and baking powder, but do you know the difference between the two? Here’s what you need to know about cooking and cleaning with these similar, but distinct, ingredients.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
LifeSavvy is focused on a single goal: helping you make the most informed purchases possible. Want to know more?