Baking Soda vs. Baking Powder: Which One Should You Use

March 14, 2023

In today's food manufacturing world, a successful product needs that memorable texture. And in this magical culinary equation, we find an indispensable element - the leavening agent. Today, we're focusing on two of the most sought-after protagonists: baking soda and baking powder.
Imagine fluffy bread, or a richly textured cake, all thanks to a carefully selected leavening agent. And in this battle of choosing between baking soda and baking powder, which side will be the perfect partner for your product? In this blog, we'll take a deep dive into the properties of baking soda and baking powder to reveal the mysteries of choosing the most appropriate leavening agent.

1.  Understanding baking soda and baking powder

1.1 What is baking soda?

Baking soda is a common leavening agent used in baking, also known as baking soda or sodium bicarbonate. It is a white crystalline powder, odorless and alkaline in taste. It releases carbon dioxide gas when exposed to water and high temperatures, which is the main reason why it can be used for baking. However, the amount of baking soda gas released is not large, and the pores inside the dough are few, so the steamed buns will not be soft enough.

Generally speaking, baking soda is suitable for the fermentation of some thinner batters, such as fluffy cakes, and the acidity produced by the over-fermentation of "old pasta" can be neutralized with baking soda. Similarly, pasta with baking soda can also effectively prevent acidity in summer and extend shelf life. Adding baking soda to some baked and fried pasta can improve the crunchy texture of the pasta. It is important to note that adding too much baking soda will tend to have an alkaline flavor, and the dough will be easy to yellow, and will also tend to destroy the vitamins and other nutrients in the flour.

1.2 What is baking powder?

Strictly speaking, the work of baking powder can not be called " leavening ". After all, it belongs to the chemical bulking agent, the process of releasing gas is a chemical reaction.

Baking powder is a white leavening agent made by combining the alkaline substance baking soda with some acidic substances and using cornstarch as a filler. The purpose of cornstarch is to separate the acid and alkali substances so that they do not come into contact with each other and react prematurely. When the baking powder comes into contact with water, it starts to release gas immediately and will continue to increase the release of gas when it comes into contact with the high-temperature baking process, so that the pasta will be more expanded, thus achieving the principle of "double-effect" fermentation.

According to the nature and use of baking powder, it can be categorized into fast baking powder and slow baking powder. Fast baking powder produces a large amount of gas in a short period of time and is suitable for foods that need to be fluffed up quickly, such as cakes, while slow baking powder is suitable for foods that need to be fermented for a long time, such as bread. It is important to note that baking powder should be used in moderation, as adding too much can cause the pasta to be bitter or produce too many gas bubbles.

2.  What is the difference between baking soda and baking powder?

Whether you're in the food manufacturing industry or you're a home baker, it must be a bit of a struggle when you're faced with rows and rows of different powders of leavening agents, right? Even after we briefly covered two types of leavening agents above, you may still have a hard time deciding. Below, we'll cover the difference between baking soda and baking powder

2.1 Difference of characteristics

ProductsBaking SodaBaking powder
CompositionSodium bicarbonateSodium bicarbonate + cream of tartar + cornstarch
ReactionRequires an acidic ingredient to activateContains an acid, which activates when mixed with liquid
Leavening rateWeaker than baking powderStrong
UsageTypically used in recipes with acidic ingredientsGenerally used in recipes without acidic ingredients

According to the table above, we can clearly see the difference between baking soda and baking powder:

1. Baking soda is alkaline and fluffs better in acidic environments; whereas baking powder can be used to fluff pastry in any environment.

2. Although both baking soda and baking powder can leaven dough, baking powder, and yeast leaven faster and make fluffier, softer pasta.

2.2 Different applicable products

As the carbon dioxide gas produced by the decomposition of baking soda has a large specific gravity, the gas expansion in the pastry cookies is slow, so that the product organization is uniform. However, it is not suitable for heavy oil cakes. Because the decomposition of baking soda produced by sodium carbonate and oils and fats is prone to "saponification reaction", it will produce a nasty "soap flavor" and affect the quality of the finished product and flavor.

And, baking powder is formulated according to the principle of acid-base neutralization reaction, made with it will be fluffy, without big holes, with normal color and pure flavor.

In a word:
Baking soda: for cookies, peach cobbler, and other products made by high-temperature baking.
Baking powder: for fluffy, fluffy foods like cake-like products.
If you've watched the cooking process closely, you'll realize that baking soda mainly makes the product expand to the side, so it's suitable for cake-like pastries, while baking powder mainly makes the product expand upwards, so it's suitable for cakes.

2.3 Differences in price

Because sodium bicarbonate is a widely produced chemical, it costs relatively little. While baking powder is usually a compound powder mixed with baking soda and acid, its cost will be higher than baking soda. As China leavening agents supplier, we give the reference price of baking soda and baking powder in the market based on our past cooperation experience:

Baking Soda526$/T
Baking Powder1253$/T

The prices we provide are for reference only, taking into account the different raw material prices of each manufacturer, as well as the different quantities of wholesale leavening agents and other factors, the final transaction price will be different. When choosing a leavening agent, please don't just look at the price difference, but consider the desired characteristics, performance, and quality of the final product. Baking soda and baking powder each have their own applicability, and we are happy to provide you with more detailed information, if you have any questions please contact us.

3.  How do you choose the right leavening agent?

3.1 Consider the product type

Different product types have different requirements for leavening agents. When choosing a leavening agent, you need to have an in-depth understanding of whether your product is a cake, cookie, bread, etc. Because each product has unique requirements for texture, flavor, and appearance.

  • Quick bread

These types of baked goods are typically leavened with baking powder. Baking powder helps to create a light and fluffy texture in quick bread without the need for yeast or a long rising time. Additionally, the cream of tartar in baking powder reacts with acidic ingredients like yogurt or buttermilk to create carbon dioxide gas, which helps the batter rise even more.

  • Cakes and cupcakes

Both baking powder and baking soda can be used in cakes and cupcakes, depending on the recipe. Baking powder is often used in recipes that require a delicate texture, like sponge cake or angel food cake. Baking soda is often used in recipes that call for acidic ingredients, like sour cream or vinegar, which activate the baking soda and help the cake rise.

  • Cookies

Baking soda is the most commonly used leavening agent in cookies. The alkaline nature of baking soda helps to create a chewy and crispy texture in cookies while also giving them a slightly darker color. In some cases, the baking powder may be used with baking soda to help create a lighter texture.

3.2 Consideration of process requirements

Texture and flavor are key factors in determining whether to use baking powder or baking soda in baking and are important factors in influencing consumer purchasing behavior.

  • Texture

Baking soda is ideal for products that require a denser, chewier texture, thanks to its alkaline nature that breaks down proteins in the batter. Meanwhile, baking powder is great for foods that require a lighter, fluffier texture, thanks to the carbon dioxide gas it produces through a reaction with acid in the batter.

  • Flavor

Baking soda has a slightly salty taste that can impact the overall flavor of your baked goods while baking powder has a more neutral flavor. However, if you're making a product with acidic flavors like lemon or vinegar, baking soda can help balance out the acidity and create a more well-rounded flavor.

  • Combination

Sometimes, a recipe may require baking powder and baking soda to achieve the desired texture and flavor. For instance, a recipe for chocolate cake may be used both to create a fudgy texture and to lift the cake to rise.

3.3 Matching customer demand

According to a survey of the global leavening agent market by Future Market Insights (FMI), a US-based market research company, baking powder is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to baking soda due to consumer preference for baking ingredients with long-term health benefits. Therefore, in this situation, introducing baking products based on baking powder to the market may be more appealing to customers.

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