Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder

What is Baking Soda?

Early bakers had to leave their dough in the open to make the wild yeast in the air make them rise. The yeasts digest sugars in the flour and chemicals like carbon dioxide through a process called fermentation.

The carbon dioxide gas makes the dough rise slowly to create fluffy pastries. To make the rising of dough faster the next day, people soon started to save some of their raw dough or some of the flour water microbe goop. 

In the 1830s, bakers found out that they could make use of a substance to bring about the chemical reaction faster so that they won’t have to wait as long as before.

This way, other baked consumables like cakes and biscuits are made to be more fluffy and lighter. At the center of these leavening agents was baking soda.

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a leavening agent that is made from ash, which was made from the ashes of sodium-rich marine plants like seaweeds.

It can also be made synthetically by making table salt and other minerals and chemicals react together. Today, the chemical substances needed to make soda ash and baking soda all come from mines.

Fun Fact: The baking soda found on the shelves of supermarkets today is made up of the same compounds that have been in use for close to two centuries. Wild I’d say…

What is Baking Powder?

In early baking carried out in the 1830s, Cream of Tartar (potassium hydrogen tartrate) was used as a leavening agent. The Cream of Tartar is an acidic by-product of wine fermentation.

When the Cream of Tartar is mixed with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and some water, carbon dioxide bubbles are formed, which is what’s needed for leavening.

Cream of Tartar did well in making baking more consistent in the earlier years, but it had the downside of having irregular availability and price levels that are solely anchored by the volume of the grape harvest in a given year.

Come 1856, a Chemist named Eben Horsford invented an acid named monocalcium phosphate from beef bones.

The mixture of monocalcium phosphate, baking soda, one acid or two, and some cornstarch added in is called baking powder, which was first known as Horsford’s bread preparation.

The baking powder available on the market has some labeled as double-acting baking powder.

This type of baking powder reacts twice: reacts with an acid when wet ingredients are added, and with a second acid because of the heat of the oven.

The latter makes your dough rise more when they are being baked to get you a fluffier end-product.

Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder

  1. Baking soda is a single ingredient while baking powder consists of baking soda and some acids.
  2. Baking soda is activated by heat while baking powder is activated by moisture.
  3. Baking soda is a stronger leavening agent compared to baking powder.
  4. Baking soda has to come in contact with an acidic ingredient to create a chemical reaction while baking powder, on the other hand, contains an acidic constituent always, and does not need to come into contact with another acidic ingredient to create a leavening reaction.
  5. Baking soda is a basic substance, while baking powder is acidic.

Comparison Table Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder

Parameters of ComparisonBaking SodaBaking Powder
ActivatorActivated by heat.Activated by moisture.
StrengthBaking soda is stronger.Baking powder is weaker compared with baking soda.
Chemical Classification of SubstanceBasic substance.Acidic substance.
Mode of ReactionHas to come in contact with acids.Doesn’t need to come in contact with acids.
ConstituentsHas a single constituent.Has multiple constituents.


  1. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/ed003p492
  2. http://www.scielo.org.co/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0012-73532020000300009