What Does Baking Powder or Baking Soda Do in Cookies?

You’d be hard-pressed to find a cookie recipe that doesn’t have baking powder or soda. (OK, fine, we found these cookies, which were pretty dang good. But that’s not the point.)

Most people are well aware that cookies require a leavening agent, and that’s almost always baking powder, baking soda, or a combination of both.

But have you ever wondered why? What does baking powder or baking soda do in cookies?

Baking powder and baking soda share one common goal for cookies: to leaven them or help them puff up for a fabulously fluffy texture. However, baking soda has the added benefit of helping cookies spread, increasing the flavor profile, and browning the exterior.

Hey! My name is Michelle, and I’m a cookie-baking genius. OK, I’m more of a self-proclaimed cookie-baking genius. Again, that’s not the point. I seriously love baking cookies – so much so that I want to know everything about them – including what baking soda and powder do to them.

Are you a curious cat like me? Then, let’s break down some facts!

What is Baking Powder?

Baking powder isn’t just that super cheap ingredient everyone has stashed in the back of their pantry – although this is true.

Baking powder is actually a mixture of three components:

  • Acid (typically cream of tartar)
  • Base (baking soda)
  • Starch (like cornstarch)

The blend allows for carbon dioxide production when mixed with wet ingredients and when exposed to high temperatures, such as those used for baking cookies (psst, your oven should typically be around 350 degrees Fahrenheit for cookie baking!).

What Does Baking Powder Do in Cookies?

What does this mean for your precious batch of cookies?

Well, the carbon dioxide production from baking powder can only mean one thing: leavening, otherwise known as rising

Basically, when you use baking powder in your cookie recipe, carbon dioxide gasses will be released during the mixing and baking process. As it’s released, the cookies will form small air pockets that allow them to rise and create a fluffy, desirable texture – slightly crispy on the exterior and delightfully soft on the interior. Yum!

Needless to say, baking powder is the star ingredient for the famous “cookie rise” and is essential for premium texture.

What is Baking Soda?

If baking powder is so wonderful, why do most people store baking soda in their kitchen?

Well, baking soda and baking powder are pretty similar – but they’re not the same thing.

Baking soda stands alone as “sodium bicarbonate.” It does not contain acid while baking powder does. That’s why baking soda is referred to as a base instead of an acid.

Because baking soda does not contain an acid, it must be mixed with an acid – such as buttercream or sour cream – to produce the same kind of leavening that baking powder creates.

What Does Baking Soda Do in Cookies?

Because baking soda and baking powder are so similar, they are almost the same thing for cookies.

However, instead of working alone, baking soda reacts to the acidic ingredients in your cookie dough. This reaction causes the carbon dioxide gasses necessary for that picture-perfect rise and lovely texture from the inside out.

Yet, baking soda does a pinch more than baking powder, which is why so many cookie recipes contain both.

  • Flavor – Baking soda reacts with acidic ingredients, which is excellent for leavening. But it’s also great for the overall flavor profile. Essentially, baking soda tames the acidity, resulting in a balanced flavor that’s not as tangy.
  • Color – Wondering where that luscious browning on your cookies is coming from? It’s due to the “Maillard reaction,” and baking soda lends a helping hand.
  • Additional spreading – Your cookie dough should spread while it’s baking – at least a little bit! Baking soda helps cookies spread. So, if you want chewier, flatter cookies, consider upping the baking soda content.


Well, ladies and gentlemen, I hope I’ve answered your question about what baking soda or baking powder does in cookies. If you still want to learn more, though, don’t worry – I’ve got you covered. Here are some frequently asked questions related to this topic.

Is it better to use baking powder or baking soda in cookies?

To be honest, I recommend using both in most cookie recipes. You’ll get the best of both worlds. However, using the ingredients called for in your recipe is always best. If you want chewier cookies, though, you should opt for baking soda. Baking powder will create airier and fluffier cookies.

What happens if you use baking powder and baking soda in cookies?

Using baking powder and baking soda in cookies is a wonderful idea. They will have the ideal texture, flavor, and height. If your recipe calls for both ingredients, don’t hesitate to use them. They work beautifully together!

Does baking powder make cookies crispy?

Baking powder does not make cookies crispy – in fact, it’s quite the opposite! Baking powder creates a very light and fluffy cookie with plenty of height. If you want crispier cookies, use baking soda instead.

Thanks, Baking Soda and Baking Powder for Yummy Cookies!

Baking soda and baking powder are essential ingredients for cookies, used together or separately. They are responsible for creating the much-needed rise for cookies, creating a lovely texture and flavor. (But don’t worry if you don’t have these items on hand – there are a few great swaps that will produce delicious cookies!)

Do you use baking soda or baking powder for cookies?

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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