What are they and can I substitute one for the other?

Bi-carb soda & Baking Powder

You will often see Bicarb soda as an ingredient in baked products and often bakers wonder if it is the same as Baking Powder, Bicarbonate of Soda or Baking Soda. Let me shed a bit  more light on this to reduce the confusion.

So what is Bicarb Soda?

It is the shortened nick-name for Sodium Bicarbonate and is also commonly known as Baking Soda, Sodium Bicarb, Bicarb and Bicarbonate of Soda. It is not the same as Baking Powder – I will discuss this further in this post.

It is known as Food additive E500.

Baking uses Bi Carb Soda:

Bi Carb Soda is widely used as a leavening agent when baking where it creates bubbles when it reacts with wet acidic ingredients. This causes the rising of cake, bread and pancake batters as carbon dioxide is released. The acidic ingredients that react with bicarb soda are lemon juice, vinegar, yoghurt, cream of tartar, cocoa, pumpkin, honey and buttermilk.

Lemons & bicarb soda

Bi carb soda also reacts to heat as a raising agent, producing carbon dioxide above 80°C (180°F) but when used in this way by itself, can create a soapy taste if too much is used and produce a yellow coloured product. Bi Carb soda creates a unique texture that cannot be achieved with baking powder so it has specific uses in certain types of recipes.

Always sift bicarb soda before adding to your recipe as it can difficult to measure exactly as it can become lumpy due to any exposure to moisture.

So what is Baking Powder?

Baking Powder is also a raising agent for baking. It contains approx. 30% bicarb soda and is combined with acids, cream of tartar and cornflour, which activated with water acts as a raising agent without further liquid acids being added to the recipe. 

How do I make my own or substitute:
  • Make your own Baking Powder –  by mixing 2 parts cream of tartar with 1 part bicarb soda.
  • Substitute 2 -3 teaspoons of baking powder for 1 teaspoon of  Bicarb soda in recipes.

TIP: If you use this substitute for Baking Powder, it will activate as soon as it comes into contact with wet ingredients and will need to be mixed into your mixture immediately.

Baking powder recipe


Store both Bicarb Soda and Baking Powder in a dry, cool place. Bicarb can last for a very long time where as Baking powder last up to a year. Always check the use by dates on the containers before using. 


Bicarb Soda – Mix a little with vinegar and if it bubbles it is still fresh enough to use. Do this carefully over  the sink as it can cause quite a foaming reaction.

Baking Powder – Mix with a little water. It will become foamy if fresh enough to use. Otherwise throw them out.

OTHER USES for Bi Carb Soda:

Bicarb soda is often used to tenderize meats and can be added to crumbing for fried foods to enhance crispiness and reduce the crumbs from cimg away from the meat in the frier.

I have used Bicarb soda for many years to clean and reduce musty smells as well as an emergency deodorant when I’ve run out or forgotten to use any.  

There are so many other non cooking uses for bicarb soda such as unclogging drains, getting crayon marks off walls, scuff marks off floors, there are just too many to go through here. I will aim to do another post on those soon.


Sources for inspiration: Wikipedia; Best;;;


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