Substitute for Cream of Tartar

Ever found yourself preparing a delicious meal and then discovered that you’re missing an essential ingredient? You’re not alone.

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 If you’ve currently begun preparing a recipe and have discovered that you’re short on the cream of tartar, don’t panic! This article will show you what to substitute it for instead. 

Below, you’ll find some of the most popular alternatives that you can use to swap out for the cream of tartar. So, read on to discover your new go-to alternative. 

What is Cream of Tartar?

Whether you’re whipping up a meringue or wanting to give your snickerdoodles a tasty tang, cream of tartar will work to stabilize your whipped egg whites, act as a leavening agent, all while helping to prevent the chances of sugar from becoming crystallized.

Even though we know it like cream of tartar, it also goes by the name of potassium bitartrate and is a powdered version of tartaric acid. Don’t be put off by that, though, because tartaric acid is a completely naturally forming type of acid that is present in many different types of plants, and is even a vital element required to make wine. 

Most commonly used for egg-based baked goods, cream of tartar is very important because it is the main ingredient that is able to strengthen the little bubbles of air that are created during the whipping process of foods such as frosting or meringues.

So, without the addition of cream of tartar, it can cause the whipped egg whites to deflate in volume. 

However, that doesn’t mean that cream of tartar is the be-all-end-all! If you can’t eat cream of tartar, or you simply want an alternative because you’ve run out, let’s check out some of the most popular substitutes that will work just as well. 

Cream of Tartar Alternatives:

White Vinegar

The first alternative that you can reach for is white vinegar, which we’re sure you’ve probably already got in one of your kitchen cupboards!

Similar to the cream of tartar, white vinegar has a similar level of acidity, so it’s a great substitute to reach for if you don’t have time to run to your local grocery store.

Though it has a slightly different composition to the cream of tartar, white vinegar can be used in all recipes that require the use of cream of tartar, although it will work the best for recipes that require the stabilization of egg whites, such as for making meringues. 

As a side note, it’s important to keep in mind that white vinegar may not be the best substitute for all types of cream or tartar recipes. This is because white vinegar has a stronger and more distinct flavor than cream of tartar, which does not have one.

Therefore, for baked goods such as cakes, white vinegar poses the risk of changing the flavor and overall texture of the sponge.  

Our verdict: White vinegar is similar in acidic levels to that of cream of tartar, making it a great substitute for stabilizing egg whites. However, it may not be the best for baked goods. 

Lemon Juice

The next type of cream of tartar substitute that is available to you is lemon juice.

Similar to white vinegar, lemon juice has similar levels of acidity as cream of tartar, meaning that it will be able to help prevent egg whites from deflating after they have been fluffed up.

Lemon juice is also very good at preventing sugar crystallization, so it’s also a great substitute for the cream of tartar when making syrups or cake frostings.

What’s more, you can use the exact same amount of lemon juice substitute as you would while using the cream of tartar, so it’s easy to know how much you’ll need.

Our verdict: All in all, lemon juice is a great substitute for cream of tartar, Unlike white vinegar, it can be used for all types of cream of tartar recipes, and is particularly good at preventing sugar from crystallizing. 

Buttermilk

If you want to try something that is sweeter in taste than alternatives such as vinegar or lemon juice, buttermilk might be the perfect cream of tartar substitute for you.

In a nutshell, buttermilk is a type of liquid that gets leftover after the churning process of butter from cream. As buttermilk has very high acidity levels, it means that it can be used as a stand-in for the cream of tartar. 

Just like its name suggests, buttermilk has a creamy taste and has a liquid consistency, which makes it a versatile substitute that can be used in all kinds of cream or tartar recipes.

Buttermilk is especially good for using in baked goods, although you’ll have to tweak your recipe prior to putting your cake mix in the oven, in order to account for the buttermilk which is a liquid, not a powder.

So, with that being said, for every 1 gram of cream of tartar required in your recipe, take away 120ml of the buttermilk, so that the mixture won’t be too runny inconsistently. 

Our verdict: Buttermilk is a pretty good alternative to the cream of tartar, though it isn’t as easy to use as other types of substitutes that we have mentioned on this list.

If you choose to use buttermilk, you’ll need to tweak the measurements, so that your recipe will turn out correctly. 

Baking Powder

By far, one of the easiest ways to substitute cream of tartar in a recipe is by swapping it out with baking powder, which is very similar in composition to the cream of tartar.

Baking powder is made up of a mixture between sodium bicarbonate and tartaric acid (which is cream of tartar) meaning that the only difference between the two is that baking powder contains an additional element of sodium bicarbonate. 

For this reason, baking powder can be used in the exact same way as cream of tartar and, so you can be confident that this alternative won’t modify the taste or texture in any way.

What’s more, baking powder is a common staple in the kitchen, so it’s great to reach for on the shelf if you notice halfway through a recipe that you’re short on the cream of tartar. 

Our verdict: Baking powder is an excellent substitute for cream of tartar, and can be used in all types of recipes without affecting the taste or flavor.

As a side note, you will have to use almost twice the amount of baking powder as you would if you were using the cream of tartar, which is something to keep in mind.

As an example, for 3.5 grams of cream of tartar, you’d need to bump it up to around 6 grams of baking powder for the same recipe. 

Yogurt

Another type of alternative to the cream of tartar that you can use is, believe it or not, yogurt! Very similar to buttermilk, yogurt has similar levels of acidity to the cream of tartar, which means that it works just as well in certain recipes.

 However, unlike some of the other cream of tartar substitutes that we have listed, yogurt requires some additional steps in order to properly prepare it, so that it can be used in place of the cream of tartar. 

If you plan on using yogurt as a substitute for the cream of tartar, then you will need to thin it out prior to use with a little bit of milk for baked goods, so that it will have a similar consistency to that of buttermilk. In contrast, if you only need to stabilize egg whites, then you can use the yogurt straight out of the container. 

Our verdict: If you don’t have anything else available, then yogurt is a pretty good alternative to use in place of cream of tartar.

Do keep in mind that you may have to thin the yogurt out with milk which may be time-consuming, though this will only be a requirement for baked goods, such as cakes.  

Skip it

Last but not least, if you find that you’ve run out of cream of tartar, you could simply choose to just remove it from the recipe. 

If you’re making meringues and you choose to leave out cream of tartar and cream of tartar substitutes, then there is a very strong chance that the meringues will not rise, which is something to keep in mind if you want them to have a fluffy, raised appearance. 

Additionally, if you have prepared a syrup that doesn’t contain any cream of tartar and you’ve noticed that the sugar has crystallized, then all you will have to do is place it in the microwave for a few seconds to return it back to its original texture.

Our verdict:  Sure, though the food’s texture may not turn out as whipped as you like, or you notice that some of the sugar has crystallized during the baking process, the cream of tartar’s absence will likely go unnoticed, while the taste will remain the same.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I leave cream of tartar out of a recipe?

You can leave cream of tartar out of a recipe if you wish. Depending on the recipe this will either make very little difference or affect how the food rises when it’s cooked.

For example, if you skip cream of tartar when making meringues, there is a pretty good chance they won’t rise at all. This won’t give them their fluffy appearance but, they will still taste pretty good.

We find that skipping cream of tartar and choosing not to replace it with a substitute is perfectly fine but, the food’s texture won’t be a whipped and fluffy as it could be with cream of tartar or a substitute.

Additionally, foods that contain sugar often tends to crystallize if they don’t contain cream of tartar, although this can be easily fixed by microwaving for a few seconds.

Overall, the absence of cream of tartar in your baking will likely taste the same and just look a little different.

If you’re concerned about skipping it entirely, try using a cream of tartar substitute like lemon juice or buttercream.

Is baking powder the same as cream of tartar?

Baking powder is very similar to cream of tartar in what they do to food. If you’re looking for a good substitute for cream of tartar baking powder is the best place to start.

In fact, baking powder actually contains cream of tartar and the only difference between them is the added sodium bicarbonate.

So, you can confidently swap out cream of tartar for baking powder and expect the same great, tasty results. Plus, baking powder is easier to find at the store and will likely already be in your cupboard.

If you plan to substitute cream of tartar with baking powder you’ll need to use double the amount to replicate the results in the recipe.

What can you substitute for cream of tartar in angel food cake?

A common substitute for cream of tartar in angel food cake recipes is lemon juice. This is because the acidity level in lemon juice is pretty similar to that of cream of tartar. This is good because it helps keep eggs whites fluffy after rising in the oven, benefitting the overall texture of the cake.

You don’t have to worry about the substitution ratio when swapping lemon juice for cream of tartar, so you can follow the recipe exactly without having to stop to figure out conversion rates.

Lemon juice is also great for preventing sugar crystallization which is particularly useful when making cake frostings.

Alternatively, you could remove cream of tartar from the recipe altogether.

Can I use lime juice instead of cream of tartar?

While most people opt for lemon juice rather than lime juice for a cream of tartar substitute, lemon and lime juice can be used interchangeably in most recipes.

Lime juice has similar levels of acidity as cream of tartar which is what helps egg whites from deflating after they’ve risen. For this reason, lime juice would be a great substitute when making meringues.

You also won’t have to adjust the amount needed so you can follow the recipe exactly without having to work out conversions.

Another good example of lime juice as a substitute for cream of tartar is when making cake frostings or syrups because lime juice helps prevent crystallization.

Overall, we think lime juice is great to use instead of cream of tartar if you’ve run out or don’t want to use it.it can be used in any recipe and won’t affect the overall texture or taste.

Final Thoughts

So, there we have it! Thank you for reading our guide on the best substitutes for the cream of tartar, we hope that this article helped you discover a few alternatives that you’d like to try, whether you’re running low on your usual cream of tartar go-to, or you want to get a little more creative in the kitchen.

As you can see, there're plenty of great alternatives that you can use to substitute cream of tartar for in a recipe, and the best part is that these alternatives are likely items that you already have lying around in your kitchen! 

Remember, as these are substitutes, there is a chance that you might end up with a slightly different flavor or texture to the recipe that you’re used to, so we recommend making sure to crosscheck the information we have provided as some work best for stabilizing egg whites, while others are great at preventing sugar from crystallizing.

While you’re here, why not give this page a bookmark? That way, if you ever happen to forget anything or want to come back and brush up on your cream of tartar alternatives knowledge, you’ll always know where to find us. Thanks for reading! 

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community.
She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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