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Does Baking Powder Go Bad?

 Does baking powder go bad?

There are some times here and there where my wife and I make something—pancakes, pumpkin bread, etc.—that gets a sour flavor. The only common element we'd been able to figure out so far was they all have baking powder, so we wondered if maybe baking powder can go off?

Thank you for your help! I'm so, so glad to be a Milk Street fan and subscriber. Every issue has blown me away, and the Milk Street approach to cooking mirrors my own.


  • Thanks for your question. Baking powder doesn’t go bad but it does get old and lose its ability to leaven. It is usually recommended not to keep it much longer than a year. However, that has nothing to do with the sour flavor you are experiencing. When you get a sour or metallic flavor that usually has to do with an imbalance between the acid and alkali in the recipe.

    Baking powder is both baking soda (alkali) and cream of tartar (acid). It is used when there is no acid present in a recipe. Baking soda only works in recipes that already have an acid present, such as buttermilk in buttermilk pancakes. So it sounds like this balance is off somehow in your recipes. Make sure that you measure accurately, especially in those recipes that call for both baking soda and baking powder. Usually both are called for in very highly acidic recipes, the baking soda is there to balance out the acid.

    I know this is a little technical but it boils down to getting that acid/alkali balance correct. Since the baking powder you buy is already in balance, something else is out of balance. You also could try a different brand of baking powder and see if that makes a difference.

    Hope this helps.

    Deb at Milk Street

  • I am wondering whether the presence of aluminum in the baking powder could be the culprit. Do not go for the bargain brands and replace it every six months. I also put it in a well sealed glass jar.

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