What can replace cream of tartar in snickerdoodles?

Quick Answer

The most common replacements for cream of tartar in snickerdoodle recipes are:

  • Baking powder – Use 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder for every 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar called for in the recipe
  • Lemon juice or vinegar – Use 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or white vinegar for every 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar
  • Double acting baking powder – Use 1/2 teaspoon of double acting baking powder for every 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar

What is Cream of Tartar?

Cream of tartar, also known as potassium bitartrate, is an acidic byproduct of winemaking. It is used in baking to add tartness to recipes and interact with baking soda to help baked goods rise. Here are some key facts about cream of tartar:

  • It has a powdery texture and sour taste.
  • Helps stabilize egg whites and whipped cream.
  • Makes baked goods light and airy by producing carbon dioxide bubbles when combined with baking soda.
  • Adds tanginess to cookies, cakes, frostings, and candies.

In snickerdoodle recipes, the cream of tartar works with the baking soda to create the cookies’ signature rise and airy texture. It also lends tartness that balances out the sweetness of the sugar.

Why Replace Cream of Tartar in Snickerdoodles?

There are a few reasons you may want or need to replace the cream of tartar called for in a snickerdoodle recipe:

  • You don’t have any on hand – Cream of tartar is not always a staple baking ingredient people keep stocked in their pantries.
  • Dietary restrictions – Cream of tartar contains traces of alcohol from its winemaking origins. This can be problematic for those with alcohol intolerance or who avoid it for religious reasons.
  • Flavor preferences – The tanginess from cream of tartar may be too pronounced for some bakers who prefer a less tart cookie.
  • You want a single-acting leavener – Cream of tartar needs baking soda to effectively leaven baked goods. Substitutes like baking powder work on their own.

Fortunately, there are a number of viable substitutes for cream of tartar that can be used to make great snickerdoodles.

Baking Powder

The most common and easiest substitute for cream of tartar is baking powder. Baking powder is a leavening agent that contains its own acidifying and neutralizing agents. The acidifying agent in baking powder reacts with wet ingredients in the dough, producing carbon dioxide bubbles that cause rising.

There are two types of baking powder – single acting and double acting:

  • Single acting baking powder – Only reacts when liquid is added to the batter. Best for quick breads and muffins.
  • Double acting baking powder – Reacts first when liquid is added, then again during baking when heat is applied. Best for cookies like snickerdoodles.

Here is how to substitute baking powder for cream of tartar in snickerdoodle recipes:

  • For every 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar, use 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.
  • Use double acting baking powder for best results.
  • Whisk the baking powder in with the flour and other dry ingredients.
  • Proceed with the recipe as normal.

The biggest advantage to using baking powder is convenience – you don’t need another ingredient like baking soda to make it work. The drawback is that using too much baking powder can give a metallic or bitter taste. Be sure to use the substitution ratio of 1/2 teaspoon baking powder for every 1 teaspoon cream of tartar.

Baking Powder Substitution Amounts

Cream of Tartar Baking Powder
1 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon
2 teaspoons 1 teaspoon
1 tablespoon 2 teaspoons

Lemon Juice or Vinegar

The high acidity level in lemon juice or distilled white vinegar allows them to be used in place of cream of tartar. Though they lack the neutralizing ability of cream of tartar, they can still provide the desired tanginess and acidity.

Substitute 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or white vinegar for every 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar. Because vinegar and lemon juice are liquids, you’ll need to compensate by reducing another liquid ingredient in the dough by 1 teaspoon to avoid altering the consistency.

Here are some tips for using lemon juice or vinegar as a cream of tartar substitute:

  • Stick to distilled white vinegar or fresh squeezed lemon juice.
  • Avoid flavored vinegars like balsamic or apple cider vinegar which would alter the flavor.
  • For lemon juice, remove 1 teaspoon of milk or water for every teaspoon of juice.
  • For vinegar, remove 1 teaspoon of milk for every teaspoon of vinegar.
  • Add the lemon juice or vinegar to the wet ingredients when making the dough.

Lemon juice adds a nice subtle citrus note that enhances many cookie recipes. Vinegar provides acidity without flavor impact. Both do contribute some extra rise, though not as much as baking powder.

Double Acting Baking Powder

As mentioned earlier, double acting baking powder can be used in place of cream of tartar and baking soda. It provides a neutral-tasting, single ingredient substitute.

Use this substitution ratio when replacing cream of tartar with double acting baking powder:

  • 1/2 teaspoon double acting baking powder for every 1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Be sure your baking powder is double acting rather than single acting for the proper chemical reaction. Add it directly to the dry ingredients.

Compared to regular baking powder, double acting baking powder will give you a closer final product to the cream of tartar original. The cookies will spread slightly less and have a bit more rise.

Potassium Acid Phosphate

Potassium acid phosphate is a leavening acid that can be used in place of cream of tartar. It reacts with baking soda to produce carbon dioxide for leavening baked goods.

Use a 1:1 substitution ratio:

  • 1 teaspoon potassium acid phosphate for every 1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Reduce another liquid in the recipe by 1 teaspoon to account for the liquid nature of potassium acid phosphate.

This substitute can be hard to find in regular grocery stores but is available online or at specialty baking stores. It has a neutral flavor like cream of tartar. The only drawback is that the packaging tends to be aimed at large-scale commercial bakeries rather than home bakers.

Sour Milk, Buttermilk or Yogurt

Dairy products like sour milk, buttermilk and yogurt are mildly acidic and can be used to substitute for cream of tartar in small quantities. They will add extra tang and tenderness to snickerdoodles.

For every 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar, use:

  • 1 teaspoon sour milk, buttermilk or plain yogurt

Since these are liquid substitutes, reduce another liquid ingredient by 1 teaspoon. Be aware that using larger amounts could impact the cookie texture, making them cakier. Don’t replace more than 2 teaspoons cream of tartar with dairy.


Blackstrap or dark molasses can provide acidity, moisture and rich flavor for snickerdoodles. Use it sparingly as large amounts will make the flavor profile too intense.

Substitute 1 teaspoon molasses for every 1 teaspoon cream of tartar, reducing the sugar or another liquid by 1 teaspoon.


While cream of tartar has some unique properties, in a pinch there are suitable replacements that can be used to make great snickerdoodles. Baking powder, lemon juice, vinegar, and double acting baking powder are essentially neutral substitutes that mimic the leavening action. Dairy products, molasses, or potassium acid phosphate alter the flavor slightly but also substitute well.

Be sure to adjust the acidity, liquid content, and leavening power properly by using the recommended substitution ratios. With a good cream of tartar alternative, your snickerdoodles will still be pillowy soft and chewy on the inside with crispy edges and sugary tops. The cinnamon-sugar coating is what really makes snickerdoodles shine, with or without the cream of tartar.

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