Baking Powder vs Yeast: Difference and Comparison

Baking soda, baking powder, and yeast are very common ingredients available in our kitchen. While they were invented in various periods, currently baking powder and yeast are the two most popular ingredients used in baked goods.

But, one can differentiate baking powder from yeast on several factors. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Baking powder serves as a chemical leavening agent, while yeast is a living organism that ferments sugars to release carbon dioxide.
  2. Baking powder reacts when moistened, whereas yeast requires time for fermentation and rising before baking.
  3. Baking powder works best for quick bread and cakes, while yeast suits bread and doughs that require a longer rise time for flavor development.
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Baking Powder vs Yeast

The difference between baking powder and yeast is that baking powder is a dry chemical agent that is obtained synthetically whereas yeast is a living organism. Though the conditions are stimulated for the fast growth of yeast for commercial purposes, it is still a naturally occurring substance. 

Baking soda is a chemical compound that is made from the combination of baking soda, cream of tartar, and sometimes cornstarch. They are added both in dough or a batter and it helps in increasing the volume instantaneously. 

Yeast is a small, single-celled organism that grows rapidly in a sugar-rich medium. They also have a nutritional benefit over baking powder and increase the volume of the dough through fermentation.

Yeast is available in the market in a dormant state and needs to be activated to use it. 

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonBaking PowderYeast
OriginAlfred Bird, an English chemist, first created a similar product to baking powder in the 1840s. Yeast belongs to the taxonomic group fungi and was first observed in the 1680s by a Dutch naturalist. 
DefinitionBaking powder is a dry, chemical, and leavening agent that increases the volume of baked goods. Yeast is a naturally occurring organism that acts as a leavening agent. 
Type of ingredientBaking powder is a synthetically produced ingredient. Yeast is a natural ingredient that is now cultured for commercial purposes. 
SourceBaking soda is produced from sodium bicarbonate and cream of tartar. Yeast is commercially produced by fermentation in a sugar-rich medium. 
TasteBaking powder doesn’t have any effect on the taste of baked goods. Yeast changes both the taste and consistency of a dish. 
ReactionBaking powder releases carbon dioxide through an acid-base reaction. Yeast reacts with sugar present in the dough and releases carbon dioxide through fermentation. 
EffectThe effect of baking powder is visible immediately. Yeast needs hours to make the dough rise. 
BenefitsNot known for any significant health benefits. Contain certain types of vitamins and minerals. 

What is Baking Powder?

Baking powder is a chemical leavening agent available in the market in the form of dry powder. They are used to increase the volume of dough thus making it softer and ready for baking.

It was first invented around the 19th century and has a self-life of nine to twelve months. The main ingredients required to produce baking powder are carbonate or bicarbonate, a weak acid, and a filler. 

When the baking powder is mixed with water, it releases carbon dioxide gas into the dough through an acid-base reaction. This leads to the formation of bubbles in the dough/batter allowing it to expand and rise.

Baking soda is also a leavening agent and is used to make baking powder. The base ingredients are the same (acid, base, and a buffering agent) but the exact compounds use vary from brand to brand. 

It is also possible to make homemade baking powder but in this case, the gas is released only once, i.e., mixing of the ingredients. So, the dough should be put immediately into the oven and there is no need for making it sit.

Homemade baking powder is appropriate for making quick bread or pancakes. Baking powders should be stored in dark and dry places. 

baking powder

What is Yeast?

Yeast is a single-celled organism that is extensively used in the baking industry. The scientific name of yeast is Saccharomyces cerevisiae and there are more than 500 species of yeast.

Yeast thrives in a sugar medium and grows through a process of fermentation. They also need warmth and moisture to reproduce. It releases carbon dioxide through the process of fermentation, hence used in manufacturing bread and alcohol. 

Yeast is a microscopic organism so there are like twenty billion yeast cells approximately in a one-gram sample.

While yeast is added to the dough, it ferments the sugar present in it and thus releases carbon dioxide making it more voluminous and puffier. In beer manufacturing plants, the yeast eats the sugar present in beer and thus produces alcohol. 

There are two types of yeast most common in the market. The first one is Brewer’s yeast that is a wet yeast used in beer making. The second type is Baker’s yeast that is used as a leavening agent in dough and batter.

Now, Baker’s yeast also has two types, fresh yeast, and active dry yeast. Fresh yeast is used mostly by professional bakers and they contain 70% moisture whereas dry yeast is either available in the active form or needs to be mixed in lukewarm water to activate it. 

yeast

Main Differences Between Baking Powder and Yeast

  1.  Baking powder is a dry, chemical, and leavening agent that increases the volume of baked goods whereas yeast is used for the same purpose but is obtained naturally. 
  2. Baking powder is a synthetically produced ingredient whereas yeast is a living organism belonging to the taxonomic group, fungi. 
  3. Baking soda is produced from sodium bicarbonate and cream of tartar whereas yeast is commercially produced by fermentation in a sugar-rich medium.
  4. Baking powder doesn’t change the taste of baked goods but yeast affects the taste of finished goods. 
  5. Baking powder releases carbon dioxide through an acid-base reaction whereas yeast does the same through fermentation.
  6. Baking powder makes the dough rise immediately unlike yeast that takes hours.
  7. Baking powder doesn’t have any known health benefits but yeast contains several types of vitamins and minerals. 
Difference Between Baking Powder and Yeast
References
  1. https://www.koreascience.or.kr/article/JAKO200817848807160.page
  2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1179/amb.1993.40.2.65

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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