5 Best Cream of Tartar Substitute

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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If you ever need a cream of tartar substitute, there are a number of viable options for your recipes.

Cream of Tartar

Cream of tartar is a powdery and acidic byproduct of winemaking, namely something that is left behind when the grapes are fermented. Chemically known as potassium hydrogen tartrate, this is a common ingredient in many baked goods and desserts, as it can thicken and stabilize things like angel food cake and meringue toppings. It can also be used to stabilize whipping cream and retain the color of vegetables when you cook them.

Cream of Tartar Substitute

The best cream of tartar substitutes includes buttermilk, yogurt, baking powder, and white vinegar, among others.

Lemon Juice

One of the best options as an alternative is lemon juice, as this highly acidic fruit juice can similarly stabilize baked goods and prevent sugar from crystallizing when you are making cookies and cakes. It will also work if you’re using cream of tartar for meringues.

A bowl of homemade cream of tartar, pickles, parsley, dill, and mustard on a wooden table

White Vinegar

Whenever you’re working with egg whites, white vinegar can accomplish most of the same things as potassium hydrogen tartrate, due to its acidity. You can also replace cream of tartar in a 1:1 ratio with vinegar.

Baking Powder

When a recipe calls for the use of cream of tartar and baking soda, they are actually asking for baking powder, which is what those substances make. Obviously, you can shorten your recipe by using baking powder from the start!

Yogurt

Primarily when making baked goods, you can mix a bit of yogurt with milk to thin it out, and then mix it into a recipe. You will want to remove 1/2 cup of liquid from the recipe for every half-cup of yogurt you use to retain the consistency.

Buttermilk

With a similar level of acidity, buttermilk can replace cream of tartar in most recipes, but again, you will need to compensate for the buttermilk liquid by removing equal amounts of other liquid from the recipe.

Word of Caution: Potassium hydrogen tartrate has a rather distinct taste, so when using a cream of tartar substitute, it is important to consider what the final effect on the flavor of the food will be. If it is a tangy flavor that is desired, such as in a snickerdoodle cookie (which often contains cream of tartar), using an alternative ingredient may change the end product in an unwanted way.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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