Difference Between Sodium Bicarbonate and Baking Soda

Main Difference – Sodium Bicarbonate vs Baking Soda

There seems to be a lot of confusion over the difference between sodium bicarbonate and baking soda. However, baking soda and sodium bicarbonate are different terms for the same thing since baking soda refers to pure sodium bicarbonate. However, baking soda is mainly used for culinary purposes whereas sodium bicarbonate is mainly used for chemical analysis. This is the main difference between sodium bicarbonate and baking soda. In this article, let’s elaborate the difference between sodium bicarbonate and baking soda in terms of their intended uses.

What is Sodium Bicarbonate 

Sodium bicarbonate is a white crystalline powder (NaHCO3) and it is also known as baking soda, bicarbonate of soda, sodium hydrogen carbonate, or sodium acid carbonate. Its IUPAC name is sodium hydrogen carbonate. It is categorized as an acid salt, made by combining an acid (carbonic) and a base (sodium hydroxide), and it responds to other chemicals as a mild alkali. It has a slightly salty and alkaline taste. Nahcolite is the natural mineral form of sodium bicarbonate. At temperatures above 149°C, baking soda breaks down into a more stable substance of sodium carbonate, water, and carbon dioxide.

2NaHCO3 → Na2CO3 + H2O + CO2Difference Between Sodium Bicarbonate and Baking Soda - formula

 Figure 1: Molecular formula of sodium bicarbonate

NaHCO3 can be obtained by the reaction of carbon dioxide with an aqueous solution of sodium hydroxide or the reaction of sodium chloride, ammonia, and carbon dioxide in water. It is an amphoteric compound and can be used to remove any acidic impurities from a liquid, to produce a purer sample.
Difference Between Sodium Bicarbonate and Baking Soda

What is Baking Soda

Baking soda, also known as bicarbonate of soda, is a pure leavening agent. It is added to baked food before cooking, in order to produce carbon dioxide and cause them to ‘rise’ or increase volume and obtain the desirable texture. However, baking soda needs to be mixed with moisture, and acidic constituent must be added for the required chemical reaction to take place in order to make the food rise. Since an acid is needed to produce the rising quality, it is frequently used in recipes that already contain acidic ingredients such as yeast, lemon juice,  chocolate, buttermilk or honey. Baking soda is an ingredient of baking powder. Baking powder is produced by mixing baking soda with a dry cream of tartar acid and other salts. 
Main difference - Sodium Bicarbonate vs Baking Soda

Difference Between Sodium Bicarbonate and Baking Soda

The differences between sodium bicarbonate and baking soda can be divided into following categories. They are;  


Sodium bicarbonate is the sodium hydrogen carbonate.

Baking soda is the trade name for Sodium bicarbonate.

Alternative names

Sodium bicarbonate is also known as sodium hydrogen carbonate, or sodium acid carbonate.

Baking soda is also known as bicarbonate of soda, bread soda, or cooking soda.

Intended users

The Intended users of Sodium bicarbonate are analysts, chemists, and the pharmaceutical industry.

The Intended users of baking soda are chefs, housewives, bakers, and confectioners.


Sodium bicarbonate belongs to analytical grade.

Baking soda belongs to food grade and it is a food additive encoded by the European Union. Its E number is E-500


Sodium bicarbonate is available in pharmaceutical stores or chemical stores.

Baking soda is available in culinary ingredients stores or food ingredients stores.


Sodium bicarbonate is produced by the chemical industry as a chemical.

Baking soda is produced by the food industry as a food ingredient.


As a chemical, sodium bicarbonate is used for following applications.

  • Pest control: For example, is it can be used to kill cockroaches.
  • Used as a bio-pesticide
  • Paint and corrosion removal
  • Used as a pH Balancer
  • Used as an effective fungicide
  • Used to extinguish small fires caused by grease or electricity.
  • Used as an antacid to treat acid indigestion and heartburn.
  • Used as an ingredient in some mouthwashes and toothpaste.
  • Used as a washing powder to remove tea or coffee stains or to remove odors from clothes.

As a cooking ingredient, baking soda is used for following applications.

  • It is mainly used as a leavening agent. When baking soda is mixed with moisture and an acidic ingredient such as yogurt, chocolate, buttermilk, honey, the resulting chemical reaction produces carbon dioxide bubbles that help the dough increase and expand under high oven temperatures, triggering baked goods to increase the volume. Heat causes baking soda to act as a raising agent by releasing carbon dioxide. However, baking soda reacts quickly when wet, so it would always be incorporated to dry ingredients first. Baking soda is a common ingredient in buns, pastries, cakes, and biscuits. Sodium bicarbonate can be replaced by baking powder.
  • Earlier, baking soda was used in cooking vegetables, to make them softer. But now most consumers favor firmer vegetables.
  • However, it is still used in Asian and Latin American cuisine to tenderize meats.
  • It is also used in breading/crusting such as for fried foods to enhance crispness.
  • It is used to wash fruits and vegetables to remove traces of pesticides and other impurities.

In conclusion, sodium bicarbonate, also referred to as baking soda, is primarily used in baking, as a leavening agent.



A.J. Bent, ed. (1997). The Technology of Cake Making (6 ed.). Springer. p. 102. Retrieved 2009-08-12.

Baking Powder. Fine Cooking. Archived from the original on 1 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-06.

Lindsay, Robert C. (1996). Owen R. Fennema, ed. Food Chemistry (3 ed.). CRC Press. p. 772. Retrieved 2009-08-12.

Matz, Samuel A. (1992). Bakery Technology and Engineering (3 ed.). Springer. pp. 71–72. Retrieved 2009-08-12.

Matz, Samuel A. (1992). Bakery Technology and Engineering (3ed.). Springer. p. 54. Retrieved 2009-08-12.

Image Courtesy: 

“Sodium bicarbonate CN” by Tszrkx – (Public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons

“Now, add baking powder..” by Bianca Moraes  (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

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