Is Baking Powder Bad for You?

Baking powder is a common chemical leavening agent used in baking. When used in small amounts, the chemical is completely harmless to our health. Overdosing on baking powder is possible and can lead to serious complications but it is uncommon. 

My name is Angie, I’m a dessert enthusiast and a self-taught baker who started my own cupcake business from home. I know all about the art of baking and I enjoy simplifying this process, making it more accessible to all! 

In this article, I will explain whether or not baking powder is bad for your health, its potential risks and answer any further questions you may have on the topic. 

Keep reading to learn more!

What is Baking Powder?

Baking powder is a dry chemical leavening agent commonly used in baking. It is made up of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate, NaHCO3), cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate, C4H5KO6), and cornstarch. 

Like other leavening agents used in baking, baking powder is added to facilitate the expansion of the batter or dough, giving the final product more volume and a lighter, fluffier texture. 

How does It Work?

The rising or expansion of your baked goods occur when gas (CO2) is released in the mixture, whether it be dough or batter. The foam formed by air bubbles trapped in your mixture is what lifts it, creating more volume. 

In the case of baking powder, gas is produced through the chemical reaction of the acid (cream of tartar) and the base (baking soda). The cornstarch in baking powder acts as a buffer that absorbs moisture, keeping the acid and base separate so that they don’t react prematurely. 

Single vs. Double-acting Baking Powder

As the name suggests, single-acting baking powder reacts only once, forming all of its bubbles when it interacts with liquid. 

You have to work very quickly and be sure not to overmix if you’re using this baking powder otherwise the gas that is formed will escape. 

Double-acting baking powder on the other hand, gives the dough or batter two chances to rise – first when it is introduced to liquids, and second when it is exposed to heat. 

This process minimizes the likelihood of failure which is why it is more commonly seen on the market and used in recipes.

Is Baking Powder Bad for You?

Baking powder is a nontoxic additive. Taken in small quantities, baking powder has no particular effect on the human body. 

That said, it is possible to overdose on or have an allergic reaction to one or more ingredients in baking powder, such as to baking soda.  

Just keep in mind that the FDA suggests a maximum of 200 mEq sodium and 200 mEq bicarbonate per day for those under 60 and a maximum daily dosage of 100 mEq sodium and 100 mEq bicarbonate for those above 60 years old. 

Don’t worry, I promise that you will not be using anywhere close to that amount in your baking. 

How Long is Baking Powder Good for?

While baking powder doesn’t really go bad per se, the suggested shelf life of baking powder is usually between six months to a year depending on the brand. 

Overtime, the powder loses potency and eventually loses its ability to leaven baked goods. To check if your baking powder still works, you can perform a little experiment by adding a teaspoon of it into half a cup of hot water. If bubbles begin to form, that means your baking powder still works. 

FAQs

Below, I’ll briefly answer some other questions you might have related to baking powder. 

Is baking powder the same as baking soda?

No, they are not. Both baking powder and baking soda are leavening agents. Baking soda is one of the three ingredients in baking powder. On its own, baking soda requires the addition of an acid and a liquid to activate. Baking powder does not, as it contains cream of tartar which is an acid. 

Is baking powder with aluminum bad for you?

Aluminum is present in many, but not all, baking powder brands. The addition of aluminum into baking powder is to make it heat sensitive. Aluminum in baking powder is not harmful, but it does give a metallic aftertaste to your bakes. 

What happens if you use too much baking powder?

Too much baking powder can make a cake collapse as the batter rises too rapidly and too much. You may also find that cakes baked with too much baking powder are coarse with large crumbs. The excessive amount of baking soda in the baking powder can also make your baked goods taste bitter. 

Can I use baking soda instead of baking powder?

Best not! Because you will not get the exact same result if you substitute one with the other. If you must, you can substitute baking powder with baking soda in your recipe by mixing your baking soda with twice the amount of an acid (e.g. cream of tartar or vinegar). 

Final Words

Baking powder is widely used in both home and commercial baking. It is not harmful when taken in the right amount. Make sure that you are not allergic to any ingredients in your brand of baking powder by reading the ingredients list on the packaging. 

Now that you’ve got your answer, go wild with your baking and rest assured that baking powder is safe to ingest! 

Let me know if you encounter any other problems with your baking powder and I’ll do my best to help you out. 

About Angie
I am a self-taught baker. I’ve been baking for over 10 years and started my own home baking business as a side hustle. I was born in Hong Kong and spent a pretty big chunk of my life in Canada. If you’re ever looking for me, I am probably there whisking vigorously away in the kitchen.

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