Is Baking Powder Vegan? All You Need To Know

Sodium carbonate, commonly known as baking soda, is one of the most popular household cleaning agents — either on its own or as part of baking powder.

As a vegan, you may find this ingredient a lot of times on the food product labels. Therefore, it is essential to know if baking powder is vegan. Baking soda is made from sodium carbonate, which is extracted from the earth, or other substances like salt, limestone, kelp, etc. Hence, it is 100% vegan!

Is the case the same with baking powder? After all, several other ingredients are incorporated into it. The answer is yes, the baking powder is considered a vegan ingredient. This item simply contains sodium bicarbonate, an acid, and an inert filler. Before we look at each of them in-depth, let us know more about baking powder.

What Is Baking Powder?

Have you ever wondered how cakes get that fluffy and soft texture? That’s right, from baking powder. It is very common in households and is used for leavening baked goods. However, you can use yeast as an alternative, but its fermentation process may result in strange flavors.

Baking powder achieves its leavening power with the help of a base (sodium bicarbonate), an acid (cream of tartar), and a buffer (cornstarch). When you add moisture to it, the acid/base reaction gets triggered, producing carbon dioxide. Depending upon its frequency, baking powder has two primary types:

  • Single-Acting: After baking powder reacts with moisture, this type requires baking immediately.
  • Double-Acting: This type discharges carbon dioxide twice- one when it is mixed with moisture and the other when heat is applied to it during baking.

Using baking powder instead of yeast or some other raising agent is more beneficial as the gas formation is faster in an acid/base reaction than in the fermentation process. This further leads to the creation of many new cakes, biscuits, etc. Both of these types are vegan. Therefore, incorporating them into your diet won’t affect animals in any way.

Why Is Baking Powder Considered Vegan?

It is considered vegan due to its ingredients. As discussed, it usually consists of baking soda, cream of tartar, and cornstarch. Let us look at each one of these ingredients one by one.

Sodium Bicarbonate 

Sodium bicarbonate is primarily used as an alkaline base in baking powder. If not sodium, then baking powder may contain potassium bicarbonate. But you do not have to worry as it is also vegan. The leavening effect on cakes and other bakery products is due to sodium bicarbonate’s reaction with cream of tartar. Furthermore, household items like toothpaste and detergents have sodium bicarbonate as a cleansing agent.

The primary reason for sodium bicarbonate being vegan is that it is never derived from animals. In fact, sodium carbonate is usually made by industries. Humans mine for this compound in the earth’s crust. Trona (trisodium hydrogen dicarbonate dihydrate) is the primary source of sodium bicarbonate. 

You can find several mining areas in the US alone that look for this precious mineral. This ensures that all the states in the US have a continuous supply of baking soda for domestic consumption. Alternatively, it can also be obtained from alkaline lakes through dredging.

Other potential sources include barilla and kelp. In addition, numerous salt-tolerant plants and seaweed species are often processed to create impure sodium carbonate. It can be purified by using various filtration techniques.

You can also extract this ingredient from the naturally occurring nahcolite deposits. This soft, white carbonate mineral is usually found in Colorado.

Cream of Tartar- The Acidic Component

To produce carbon dioxide, you have to add an acidic ingredient to the baking soda mix. However, when you use baking powder, you need not use an acidic ingredient like molasses. Why? Because it already contains an acidic source. Generally, it is either calcium phosphate or cream of tartar.

Chemically known as potassium bitartrate, cream of tartar is a common household ingredient used extensively in baking powder. Usually, 1/4 teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate is added per 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar to make baking powder.

As cream of tartar is also 100% vegan, you can consume without a doubt. It is created during grape juice fermentation. It is produced industrially and is a byproduct of the alcohol industry.

These days, the larger quantities of cream of tartar come from the industrial winemaking, whereas during the old days, sediments collected on the underside of wine casks were the primary source of it.

If we consider calcium phosphate, it is also safe for vegan consumption. It can also be obtained from animals, but it is mostly emanated from phosphate rocks, plants, etc.

The reason why an acidic ingredient is added to sodium bicarbonate is that the neutralization reaction between an acid and a base produces carbon dioxide faster than fermentation. This carbon dioxide serves as a leavener to expand the surface area of the dough. 

Inert Filler

Inert filler is usually a compound that absorbs the excess moisture present in the air. If this moisture is not removed, it can force the powder to become cakey and/or reduce its potency. In baking powder, the inert filler is typically cornstarch. 

As the name suggests, it is the starch component obtained from corns. Hence, it 100% complies with the vegan diet.

Final Words

There seems to be no particular reason why you should not use baking powder for cooking. It is an essential ingredient that helps in making bakery products. It is a better alternative than yeast to leaven and raise the volume of the final product. 

If you follow a vegan diet, you don’t have to worry much about this household ingredient as it is not animal-derived. All the components present in it are either extracted from the earth or in plants. 

So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead, check out some recipes that require baking powder, and start making them. There can be some trial and error, but since you can experiment with baking powder, you can make as much as you want. 

Brett White