How to tell if baking powder is still good

baking powder test

Baking powder does not last forever. Because it’s sensitive to moisture and humidity, it generally has a shelf life of between six months to one year. Baking powder should be kept in a cool, dry place, such as inside a cabinet, and should be discarded when it is no longer active. (Its cousin, baking soda*, has an indefinite shelf life, although some manufacturers recommend changing it every three years.)

baking powder

To test if baking powder is still active, spoon 1/2 teaspoon in a bowl and pour 1/4 cup (60 ml) of boiling water over it. Right away it should bubble up violently. If it does, it’s still good. If it doesn’t, discard it and open a new tin.




Related Links

Is sifting necessary?

Chocolate FAQs

Cocoa powder FAQs

Why you should use aluminum-free baking powder (and how to make your own)

Recipes for using up leftover egg whites

American baking ingredients in Paris

French sugar

Tips to keep cookies from spreading



*The difference between baking powder and baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) is that baking soda requires an acid ingredient in a recipe to activate it, such as vinegar, buttermilk, coffee, or yogurt.

Baking powder has baking soda as one of its components, as well as an acidic ingredient to activate it, so it can be used in recipes that have no other acidic ingredients. Baking soda and baking powder are not interchangeable in recipes.

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55 comments

  • November 10, 2011 6:48pm

    Thanks Dave. I always wondered how to figure it out but never had a computer on hand when I needed it. This is so simple I’m pretty sure I can remember it. P.S. Mine comes with a plastic lid so I always write the month and year that I bought it on the lid.

  • Chrissy @ www.myfarefoodie.com
    November 10, 2011 6:58pm

    Wow, who knew? Thanks for the tip! Now I get to go play mad scientist :)

  • November 10, 2011 7:17pm

    I’ve never seen this being discussed before. Definitely good to know how to test rather than ruining the whole dish. Baking powder has non-culinary uses so I guess instead of discarding it can be used for other purposes.

  • November 10, 2011 7:55pm

    What a great tip! Thanks so much. I’ve never even thought about the freshness of my baking powder, but I’m glad to know there is a way to check.

  • November 10, 2011 7:56pm

    Great tip!!! :) I always learn so much from you.

  • Catherineap
    November 10, 2011 7:57pm

    My grade-school science teacher demonstrated the chemical reaction of baking soda and vinegar by mixing them in a test tube and placing a balloon over the top so it would inflate from the gas that formed. Unfortunately (for her) she didn’t get the balloon on in time. The ensuing mess ensured that I would always remember how baking soda works–thanks, Miss Gavin!!

  • November 10, 2011 8:23pm

    Thank you – this is really good to know and I didn’t until now!

  • November 10, 2011 8:36pm

    @David- Good to know, but where do you get your baking powder in Paris?

    @Catherineap – if you do the baking soda and vinegar trick in an empty 2l bottle (don’t screw the cap on) it fills with CO2. Then put a lit tea candle in a glass. Pour the gas (not the liquid) by tilting the bottle and giving it a little squeeze into the glass to extinguish the candle. My 6 & 4 year olds loved the fizzy bit, but were not impressed by the candle part.

  • November 10, 2011 9:22pm

    So you’re saying I shouldn’t wait until my biscuits fall flat to see if my baking powder is bad? Novel idea! My family thanks you :)

    Do you use the aluminum free baking powder? Do you think it matters?

    Sure love your blog, thanks!

  • Caroline
    November 10, 2011 9:29pm

    Does anyone know why baking powder manufacturers haven’t come up with a smaller container yet? I do a lot more baking than the average person but have never managed to go through one of those cylindrical containers in 6-12 months.

  • November 10, 2011 9:42pm

    Great tip! I have had the suspicion that my baking powder is wayyy overdue for a change. :) Now I have a way to verify!

  • vicki
    November 10, 2011 9:57pm

    i mix my own, in small batches, using cream of tartar + b. soda. A guest on Arthur Schwartz’s radio show recommended this, years ago…can’t remember who. Now, my baking powder biscuits no longer have that metallic taste.

  • November 10, 2011 10:03pm

    This is such useful information. Thanks David. Thus far, my preferred method of checking its freshness is crossing my fingers but this sounds like a much better approach.

  • Jeannie
    November 10, 2011 10:05pm

    Thanks for posting about this ! I’m going to try this out tonight !

  • November 10, 2011 10:21pm

    Good to know indeed. Buying the baking powder in a set of 5 small sachets there is less chance that it goes out of date, but when it does, I will use this trick. I might just try it out to see how it bubbles :-)

  • November 10, 2011 11:25pm

    Great tip! I wish I had known this a few months ago when I baked some quick bread which looked like a brick.

  • November 10, 2011 11:31pm

    Great tip David, thanks a lot.

  • Craigkite
    November 10, 2011 11:37pm

    I thought the “sure-fire” method of checking on ANYTHING in the kitchen still being good was to open the container, shove it in someone’s face and ask “Does this smell like it is still good?” I guess that is not the best method for chemicals that don’t emit foul odors when they are no longer “good” to use.

  • Melanie
    November 11, 2011 2:48am

    Love this kind of information!

  • November 11, 2011 2:55am

    I live at altitude which requires a constant state of ingredient flux from what is read to get results like ‘flatlanders.’

    So…I have to decrease all leavening, increase heat a bit, often add moisture because it’s dry here too and I’ve been thinking that despite all of those machinations I must have old baking powder as I still had something with a major sinkhole in the center the other day.

    I shop at Costco…so gargantuan must be the size of the container of soda that I have. I’ve had it for 3 years probably. I did the test. I was shocked at how much it bubbled up. Thinking maybe our dry environ must not affect it much?

    Doggone, was hoping to blame that sinkhole on the powder!

  • Carol
    November 11, 2011 3:30am

    For akuminum free baking powder, I prefer Bakewell which I buy from King Arthur Flour or Argo which is available in supermarkets. I was disappointed with Rumford. It tends to rise most in the bowl before baking and not have much effect in the oven. They claim it is double acting but the second rise is not impressive at all. I will never use Rumford.

  • November 11, 2011 6:04am

    Wow, I always wondered! Thanks for a great tip.

  • November 11, 2011 6:57am

    i didn’t know it doesn’t last! good to know!

  • November 11, 2011 7:11am

    Thank you for the tip. I’ve never thought about this before.

  • berit
    November 11, 2011 7:51am

    Thanks for this article, I always thought it’s the same, but a different translation for the German word “Backpulver” ;)

  • November 11, 2011 8:34am

    Thanks for the great tip! Your website is fantastic!

  • Jens Madsen
    November 11, 2011 9:48am

    On a related note: I made a mistake last night making your buckwheat cake – luckily, I managed to rescue it – and it got me thinking. Why do you for some cakes use baking powder and baking soda together instead of simply increasing the amount of baking powder?

  • November 11, 2011 9:57am

    ault: I buy baking powder in the states and bring it back, but you can find Rumford aluminum-free baking powder at La Grande Épicerie.

    Carol: That’s interesting – I’ve never really noticed that but I’ve only used one brand. Last time I was in the states, I bought some Whole Foods-brand aluminum-free baking powder, so I’ll be curious to see how it works. Thanks!

    Barbara: According to the Arm & Hammer website, baking soda should be replaced every 3 years. But as far as I know, it keeps indefinitely.

    vicki: If you use aluminum-free baking powder, you usually don’t get any metallic taste. I can’t/don’t use regular baking powder for that reason…

    caroline: Rumford used to make baking powder in 1/2-tin sizes, which was great for those who can’t get through a whole tin.

    (I just checked on Amazon and there is a 4oz size. Perhaps you can find it in a local market?)

  • November 11, 2011 11:12am

    I never throw away baking powder that is out of date because it lends itself to cleaning all kinds of stains on surfaces (just mix with a little water).

    Do you mean baking soda? I’ve not heard of anyone using baking powder as a cleaning agent.. -dl

  • November 11, 2011 3:08pm

    Thanks. Love these expert tips u sometimes blog about. I have learnt a few invaluable tricks along the way.

  • Martha in KS
    November 11, 2011 5:16pm

    To check to see if baking soda is still good, swallow 1/4 cup of b.soda, drink a cup of vinegar & if your head explodes, it’s still good! lol. DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME.

  • Susan
    November 11, 2011 5:49pm

    I’ve applied the tip you gave once before about getting quick breads that use baking soda into the pan and into the oven as soon as the batter is mixed so that you get the most from the leavening power. It’s hard to do that with buttermilk pancake batter, but it’s a good way to see the difference in rise from first batch to last.

  • November 11, 2011 6:21pm

    Thanks for the tip! I’ve totally used dead baking powder before, and it was a sad day. Good to know how to test it if I’ve getting crummy results or if the expiration date is past.

  • November 11, 2011 6:36pm

    It’s kind of embarrassing how quickly I go through my baking powder. It never has the chance to expire. That just tells you how much I love to bake! There are worse “addictions” I suppose :) I think I’m among friends here…

  • November 11, 2011 6:37pm

    Thank you. I never knew how to tell and I only use about a teaspoon every year, so a little jar goes a long way.

    My current jar has an expiry date of September 2010, and I just tested it and it’s still fine. I guess my new spice storage drawer has been doing its job!

  • November 11, 2011 7:05pm

    That’s a really helpful tid-bit, always wondered, thanks David!

  • November 11, 2011 7:24pm

    Always taken it granted until i finish my baking powder..Thx for the tip David

  • November 11, 2011 7:40pm

    Great post! I always get confused between the two. I’m just a novice baker so I have a question. What do they add to the final product. The other day I was making pancakes and the recipe called for both baking soda and powder. I’m just curious.

    Thanks :)
    Anna

  • Cyndy
    November 11, 2011 8:43pm

    @Martha… that’s hysterical.

  • ron shapley/NYC
    November 11, 2011 9:14pm

    All tests completed and I can report my baking power is at full force.. I shed a tear.. Thanks Dave..

  • November 11, 2011 9:38pm

    Hi,

    Thanks my baking power is all good! But Paule Caillat’s French tart dough recipe…. not so much.

    The dough was fine but when i baked it, it is all crumbly! dunno, what i did.

    ka

  • Nari
    November 11, 2011 10:14pm

    Oh shoot, that reminds me that my baking powder has been around for about 3 years. I’m thinking I probably don’t even need to test it at this point…

  • Christina A.
    November 11, 2011 10:53pm

    Great tip David! I live in Greece, and here they sell baking powder in sachets in packets of three. One sachet will be enough for two bakings..so it never goes bad. They do sell in tins the baking soda, which i guess makes sense since it doesn’t really expire…But if your pantry is as “neat” as mine…and one day you come across some leftover baking powder..be sure to test it! I know I will, after having read this tip! :)

  • November 11, 2011 11:25pm

    Very useful tip. Could save some disasters

  • Gavrielle
    November 12, 2011 4:08am

    Wow, I didn’t know that. I replaced my last packet when it ran out, which took, um, fifteen years. Was still valiantly rasing things till the end – I do keep it in an airtight tin though.

  • GMichaud
    November 12, 2011 5:41am

    Great tip David, thanks. It is interesting that Christina A. above, from Greece buys small packets. Some factors worth considering, Christina apparently lives, surrounded by a food loving environment that offers a fresh supply of products daily. How much do design of cities relate to food? Small scale shops vs large mega marts indicate (I guess), that Christina lives in an area of small scale shops, it is not likely a mega chain would bother with such a product.
    She must live in a culture of baking.

  • November 12, 2011 9:32am

    The European countries that I’ve been in sell baking powder in small individual packets, and recipes usually indicate “1 packet” as opposed to a quantity that one must measure out.

    It’s a good way to keep baking powder fresh, however I think it’s because a lot of people don’t bake at home – in France, bags of sugar and flour are much smaller than they are in the states (in the US, there are huge bags of nuts, flours, sugars, and other baking ingredients in supermarkets)- which I think is because there are so many bakeries (and in cities like Paris, kitchens are tiny) and lots of people buy their baked goods rather than make them.

  • November 12, 2011 10:48am

    This was really helpful. The very basics make a good foundation. I am a huge fan and follower, this is probably the first time I am writing a comment but I love all the posts and there diversity. I feel like I am experiencing the whole world through your eyes. :-)

  • eliza
    November 12, 2011 6:10pm

    Is French “lévure chimique” really the same thing as American baking powder?

  • Kathleen
    November 12, 2011 6:49pm

    Thanks, a very useful tip. I just tested mine, it still is active even though it’s from 2006!

  • November 12, 2011 7:53pm

    Yes I do mean baking powder, at least if that’s the right translation to “Backpulver”. It really works :-).

  • November 12, 2011 10:44pm

    Great timing! So many of us are heading into the ‘un’-official, International Bake-Off, marathon season. … I agree with the earlier poster, don’t toss the old baking powder. It cleans countertops, and is especially nice for cleaning stainless steel sinks. I’ll bet it would freshen laundry, as well, but don’t use it with anything lemon scented. It might cause an explosion…no, just joshing, or at least I hope I am. ;)

  • November 12, 2011 11:35pm

    As always great tips David; what makes the difference on your blog is the accompanied demonstration so people can actually compare their test with yours.

    With respect to baking soda, I never keep them more than 1 year. Once you open the container, its shelf life will depend on where you are storing it. Baking soda has the tendency to absorb anything from its surrounding, including moisture. So, while it maybe viable, it may also add unwanted “flavors” to your baking.

    And finally, I’d like to inform your readers, if that is acceptable to you David, that interestingly, chocolatesandfigs.com, has a comprehensive report about flours, since we are entering the busy baking season.

    One of the interesting thing that even I did not know is that even “fresh” flour can contain unwanted “guests”, so you need to inspect it visually prior to use; and the other data I found interesting is how to check color differences between the same flours, but different batches, which may represent quality problems.

  • November 13, 2011 5:07am

    This is actually really timely for me because I’ve had a sneaking suspicion that mine is old! Thanks for the tips.

  • Melinda
    November 30, 2011 7:24am

    Can this logic be applied to cream of tartar?