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Substitutes for Cream of Tartar

Jul 1, 2010

Cream of tartar is a fine white powder that is called for in many recipes. It is an acid known as potassium hydrogen tartrate, and it's formed during the fermentation of grapes into wine. It has many uses in recipes, but sometimes you may need to substitute cream of tartar in a recipe, such as when you have none on hand. In that case, here is a short guide on how to substitute cream of tartar in your recipes.

What Is Cream of Tartar Used For?

Your substitute for cream of tartar depends on what you are using it in. Cream of tartar is used in several applications. It is often used in baking to give baking soda an acid to react with, to act as a leavening agent. It is also used to stabilize egg whites, particularly during the preparation of meringue. Finally, cream of tartar is often used in the preparation of icing or frosting, as it helps to prevent the sugar from crystallizing.

Baking Powder as a Substitute

When baking and cream of tartar is used in tandem with baking soda, the obvious substitute is baking powder. Baking powder is made up primarily of baking soda and cream of tartar. Every 1 tsp of baking powder is the equivalent of 1/4 tsp of baking soda and ⅝ tsp of cream of tartar.

Lemon Juice or Vinegar

As a substitute for cream of tartar, other acidic ingredients work well. Lemon juice and vinegar are the best acidic substitutes for cream of tartar. If using lemon juice or vinegar to substitute cream of tartar for egg whites, you'll use an equal amount of lemon juice or vinegar as called for in cream of tartar. This is usually ⅛ tsp per egg white prepared.

When using lemon juice or vinegar for a substitute for cream of tartar in baking, the increase in fluid may cause you to adjust the fluids in your recipe. In addition, you need to adjust the level of the substitute you use. For every ½ tsp of cream of tartar called for in the recipe, substitute it with 1½ tsp of lemon juice or vinegar. Some bakers, however, feel that when lemon juice or vinegar is used in this manner, it changes the flavor and texture of the end product.

Leaving Cream of Tartar out of Your Recipe

One substitution for cream of tartar is just to leave it our entirely. In some cases, it is not necessary for the final product to include cream of tartar. With frosting and icing, you just run the risk of crystallization. As long as you use it right away, there isn't much danger. In the case of eggs, you can prepare them without cream of tartar—just make sure the eggs are thoroughly beaten. The only situation that you can't leave out cream of tartar is during baking. Your end product will not turn out correctly.

A Word of Caution

Cream of tartar is not easily substituted. Using a substitute for cream of tartar will change your recipe slightly or majorly. Cream of tartar is easily attainable and should be used whenever possible.

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