Difference Between Baking Powder and Yeast

Key Difference – Baking Powder vs Yeast


There seems to be a lot of confusion over the difference between yeast and baking powder.  Yeast and baking powder are mainly used for culinary purposes as leavening agents. Baking powder is a chemical ingredient also known as a mixture of sodium bicarbonate and acid salts. In contrast, yeasts are eukaryotic microorganisms categorized as members of the fungus kingdom. This is the key difference between yeast and baking powder. In this article, let’s elaborate the difference between yeast and baking powder in terms of their intended uses and other physical characteristics.

What is Baking Powder?

Baking powder is a dry chemical, and it is a mixture of sodium bicarbonate and one or more acid salts. Its typical formulations are known as 30% sodium bicarbonate, 5-12% monocalcium phosphate, and 21-26% sodium aluminium sulfate mixture by weight. Last two ingredients are categorized as an acid salt. Baking powder is also produced by mixing baking soda with a dry cream of tartar acid and other salts.  However, when too much acid is present, some of the baking powder should be substituted with baking soda. When acids combine with the sodium bicarbonate and water, the gaseous carbon dioxide will be produced.

NaHCO3 + H+ → Na+ + CO2 + H2O

Baking powder also include potato starch or corn starch to improve their consistency and stability. It is a pure leavening agent, which means it is added to baked goods before cooking to produce carbon dioxide and cause them to ‘rise’ or increase volume and obtain the desirable texture.

Difference Between Baking Powder and Yeast

What is Yeast?

Yeasts are unicellular, eukaryotic microorganisms categorized as members of the fungus kingdom. By fermentation, the yeast species such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae transforms carbohydrates to carbon dioxide and alcohols. The gaseous carbon dioxide is used in baking and the production of alcohol in alcoholic beverages. As a leavening agent in baked goods, carbon dioxide causes the dough to expand or increase as gas forms bubbles. When the dough is baked, the yeast dies and the air bubbles “set”, providing the baked product a soft and spongy texture.

Key Difference - Baking Powder vs Yeast

What is the difference between Baking Powder and Yeast?

The differences between baking powder and yeast can be divided into following categories. They are;

Definition of Baking Powder and Yeast:

Baking powder: Baking powder is a dry chemical leavening agent.

Yeast: Yeast is unicellular living microorganisms also used as a leavening agent.

Characteristics of Baking Powder and Yeast:

Mechanism of carbon dioxide release:

Baking powder: Baking powder works by releasing carbon dioxide through an acid-base reaction. Since carbon dioxide is released at a quicker rate through the acid-base reaction than through fermentation, bread made by chemical leavening are known as quick bread.

Yeast: By fermentation (anaerobic respiration), the yeast species converts carbohydrates to carbon dioxide and alcohols.

Carbon dioxide producer:

Baking soda: Baking powder (NaHCO3) is the source of the carbon dioxide.

Yeast: Carbohydrates is the source of the carbon dioxide in yeast.


Baking powder: It includes sodium bicarbonate plus a mixture of monocalcium phosphate, and sodium aluminium sulfate or cream of tartar, a derivative of tartaric acid. In addition to that, it also contains corn starch or potato starch. Baking soda (NaHCO3) is the source of the carbon dioxide production in the baking powder.

Yeast: Saccharomyces cerevisiae is the main microorganism presents in yeast extract.

Natural or synthetic food ingredients:

Baking powder: It is a synthetic food ingredient.

Yeast: It is a natural food ingredient.

Major function and applications:

Baking powder: This is mainly used as a leavening agent. When baking powder is mixed with moisture, the resulting chemical reaction produces carbon dioxide bubbles that the dough increases and expands under high oven temperatures, triggering baked goods to increase the volume. Heat causes baking powder to act as a raising agent by releasing carbon dioxide. However, baking powder reacts quickly when wet, so it would always be incorporated to dry ingredients first. Baking powder is a common ingredient in buns, pastries, cakes and biscuits. It is also used as a replacement for of yeast for end-products where fermentation flavors would be disagreeable or for convenience and improves the consistency and stability of cake and some other bakery products.

Yeast: Yeast is used in baking, and the produced alcohol is used in the production of alcoholic beverages (wine, rum, beer). As a non-food application, in modern cell biology research, yeast is one of the most systematically researched eukaryotic microorganisms. Furthermore, yeasts have lately been used to produce electricity in microbial fuel cells and create ethanol for the biofuel industry.


Baking powder: It is not suitable to use in high acidic foods such as buttermilk, yoghurt, etc.

Yeasts: It can produce in high acidic foods and the presence of sugars. During their development, yeasts break down some food components, and these causes the physical, chemical, and functional properties of food to alteration, and the food is spoiled. As an example of yeasts food spoilage are, the development of yeast within foods surfaces such as in cheeses or meats, or by the fermentation of sugars in beverages, such as juices, and semiliquid products, such as syrups and jams.

Lose its effectiveness:

Baking powder: Moisture and heat of baking powder can cause baking powder to lose its effectiveness over time

Yeasts: Heat can cause destruction of living cells to lose the effectiveness of yeast.

Safety issues:

Baking powder: It exists both with and without aluminium compounds. Consumers prefer not to use baking powder with aluminium because of possible health concerns associated with aluminium intake.

Yeasts: Some species of yeasts, such as Candida albicans, are adaptable pathogens and can cause infections in humans.

Health benefits:

Baking powder: Baking powder does not contribute to health benefits.

Yeast: Yeast is used in nutritional supplements mainly in vegan diets. It is an excellent source of protein and vitamins, especially the B-complex vitamins and Vitamin B12 as well as other minerals and cofactors essential for growth. In addition to that, yeast act as a probiotic. For example, some probiotic supplements use the yeast S. boulardii to sustain the natural flora in the human gastrointestinal tract.

In conclusion, baking powder and yeast are primarily used in baking, as a leavening agent. However, yeast is a natural living ingredient whereas a baking powder is a synthetic chemical ingredient.

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1. Backpulver RZ By Rainer Z … (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
2. “Loaf pans” by May be Предположительно Nleamy  [Public Domain] via Commons