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Does Baking Powder Spoil?

Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner who believes in the power of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to prevent and fight illness.

What Is Baking Powder?

Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda, cornstarch, and cream of tartar. It’s an essential component in many baked goods. When you add it to a baked item, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) reacts with an acid to create carbon dioxide, which causes baked goods to rise.

Cream of tartar has acetic acid in it, which helps the reaction along by lowering the pH level of the batter or dough. Cornstarch acts as a thickener for batters and doughs so that when they bake up into cakes or cookies with plenty of air pockets—they don't fall flat!

Does Baking Powder Go Bad?

Baking powder doesn’t spoil in the classic sense (you won't get food poisoning), but the chemical leavening agents in the powder do lose potency over time.

Most baking powder is labeled with a best-by date that indicates its peak freshness, but if you have some in your pantry that’s past its prime date, don’t have to toss it. Using it won’t make you sick. However, it may not perform as well as when it was fresh.

Therefore, spoiling isn't an issue but potency is. If you use an old batch of baking powder in a recipe, you might end up with under-leavened cookies, cakes, or brownies that no one wants to snack on.

How to Test Baking Powder

Luckily there's an easy way to test baking powder's potency:

  1. Mix 1 teaspoon with 1/3 cup hot water.
  2. Check for fizzing within 30 seconds.
  3. If no fizzing within 30 seconds, then toss it. If the powder does bubble up right away, you're good to go.

No fizz or bubbling means it’s likely past its prime and won’t do your baked good justice. It could even cause them to fall flat. Always check whether your baking powder is still useable before using it in recipes.

How to Properly Store Baking Powder

It's best if you keep it in its original container when storing it. This way it will stay fresh longer because it won't attract moisture.

Always store baking powder in a cool, dry place and keep the container tightly closed when not in use. Exposure to moisture can cause the powder to clump. If you have clumped baking powder, try sifting it before using it.

The normal shelf life for this product is around six months to a year. The exact shelf life depends on the type of ingredients used (e.g., cream of tartar), but all types should be replaced after 12 months or so if you're unsure whether they are still potent enough to properly leaven baked goods.

Final Words

Although baking powder doesn’t spoil, it does lose potency over time. This means that your baked goods won't turn out as well as you would have hoped.

There’s nothing more frustrating than spending your hard-earned time creating delicious baked goods only to have them not turn out poorly because you used baking powder that lacks potency.

So be aware of the best-by date on the package and use it as a guideline. If it’s past its best-by date, do the simple test above to determine its potency and whether you should use it. If you do a lot of baking, keep an extra baking powder in the cabinet, so you won’t get caught without it when you want to try a new baking recipe!


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.