The 6 Best Substitutes for Cream of Tartar

Medically Reviewed on 6/30/2022
The 6 Best Substitutes for Cream of Tartar
If you are trying to follow a recipe and realize you don’t have cream of tartar, here are 6 substitutes you can use instead

Cream of tartar is a powdered version of tartaric acid, which is a naturally forming acid that is present in many different types of plants. It is a byproduct of winemaking (residue left on the barrels). It goes by the name of potassium bitartrate, a component found at the end of the fermentation process. This white powdery substance is acidic and one of the main components of baking powder.

Cream of tartar is a versatile ingredient used in many recipes, especially desserts. However, it is rarely a staple pantry item. If you are trying to follow a recipe and realize you don’t have cream of tartar, here are 6 substitutes you can use instead.

6 substitutes for cream of tartar

1. White vinegar

White vinegar has a similar level of acidity as cream of tartar. It works best for recipes that require stabilizing egg whites, such as meringues or souffles.

Because white vinegar has a stronger and more distinct flavor than cream of tartar, however, there is a risk of it changing the flavor and overall texture of certain baked goods like cakes.

2. Lemon juice

Lemon juice is a great substitute for cream of tartar because it provides the same acidity, meaning it prevents egg whites from deflating after they have been fluffed up.

Lemon juice is also very good at preventing sugar crystallization, which makes it a great option to use when making syrups or cake frostings. Moreover, you can use the exact amount of lemon juice substitute as you would while using the cream of tartar, making it easy to know the quantity required in each recipe.

3. Buttermilk

Buttermilk can work as a cream of tartar substitute if you are looking to try something sweeter in taste than vinegar or lemon juice. 

Buttermilk is the liquid that is left over after butter has been churned from cream. It has a creamy flavor and is liquid, which makes it a versatile substitute that can be used in all kinds of recipes that call for cream of tartar. 

It is especially good to use in baked goods, although some tweaks may be needed before putting cake mix in the oven to account for the liquid (buttermilk does not come in powder form). For every gram of cream of tartar required in your recipe, use at least 120 mL of buttermilk.

4. Baking powder

Baking powder is very similar in composition to cream of tartar. It is made up of a mixture of sodium bicarbonate and tartaric acid, which means that the only difference is that baking powder contains sodium bicarbonate.

You can use this alternative in the same way as cream of tartar because it will not modify the flavor or texture in any way. However, you may have to use almost twice as much baking powder in your recipe.

5. Yogurt

Yogurt has similar levels of acidity to cream of tartar, which means that it works well in certain recipes. 

If you plan on using yogurt as a substitute for the cream of tartar, however, you must thin it out with a little bit of milk to get a consistency similar to that of buttermilk. If you are just trying to stabilize egg whites, yogurt can be used straight out of the container.

6. Leave it out

If you find yourself running short of cream of tartar, you could simply choose to just remove it from the recipe. Sometimes this is easier than trying to find the right substitute.

The absence of cream of tartar is likely to go unnoticed, although the texture may not be as light and there may be some sugar crystallization.

Why is cream of tartar used in baking?

Cream of tartar is commonly used in baking due to the following uses:

  • Acts as a stabilizer in baking
  • Activates the leavening properties of baking soda
  • Strengthens bubbles of air that are created during the whipping process of foods
  • Helps prevent sugar crystallization
  • Good additive to frosting
  • Helps maintain a smooth texture

What are nutrition facts for cream of tartar?

Table. Nutritional facts of 1 teaspoon (3 grams) of cream of tartar (USDA)
Calories 7.7
Fats 0
Sodium 1.56 mg
Carbohydrates 1.84 grams
Potassium 495 mg
Fiber, sugar, and protein 0


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Medically Reviewed on 6/30/2022
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