It’s a question that has plagued many a baker: what exactly is the difference between baking soda and baking powder? If both can be used to make baked goods rise, does it matter which one you use? As anyone who has ever accidently used baking soda instead of baking powder (or vice versa) can tell you, it most certainly does matter.
Both baking soda and baking powder contain sodium bicarbonate. While baking soda is 100 sodium bicarbonate, baking powder also has acidifying and drying agents. When used in batter, baking soda and baking powder both create a chemical reaction that produces carbon dioxide bubbles. The bubbles then make the batter rise when it’s baked. The difference between baking powder and baking soda is that baking powder needs to be mixed with a liquid in order for that chemical reaction to occur, while baking soda needs to be mixed with a liquid as well as an acidic ingredient.
Deciding between baking soda and baking powder depends on the other ingredients in the recipe. Baking soda works best if it’s combined with an acidic ingredient, like buttermilk or lemon juice. Since baking powder already has its own acidic agent, it’s more suitable for recipes without acidic ingredients.