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What Is Cream of Tartar? Uses, Swaps, & More

What is cream of tartar- this mysterious, white powder in our spice cabinets? Most of us have it, yet we do not know what it is. 

And we use it only when our recipe books tell us to. 

What Is Cream of Tartar? Uses, Swaps, & More featuring Cream of Tartar on a Spoon Laying On Burlap Cloth

Let me introduce you to cream of tartar– a byproduct of making wine. And the secret weapon of bakers everywhere. 

You can use cream of tartar for stabilizing egg whites. Or to prevent sugar crystals from forming in your favorite homemade treats. 

So, if you’re wondering, “What is cream of tartar,” you’re in the right place. Let’s get into it! 

Cream of Tartar in a Round Measuring Spoon on the Counter with Cream of Tartar Spilling onto the Counter

What Is Cream of Tartar?

Cream of tartar is a white powder commonly used in baking and cooking. You will often find it in meringue or royal icing recipes. 

Its unique properties make it an essential ingredient for bakers everywhere. 

Despite its name, cream of tartar has no relation to cream at all. Instead, it is a byproduct of wine production. 

The powder comes from tartaric acid, a substance found in grape skins. Producers extract it during the wine-making process.

Cream of tartar has a slightly acidic taste. However, it is not used for its flavor. 

People value cream of tartar for its ability to stabilize egg whites. It also prevents sugar crystals from forming in syrups and candy. 

And it acts as a leavening agent in baking powder.

You can also use cream of tartar in cleaning, besides its culinary uses. It is a popular ingredient for DIY, natural cleaning products. 

This stuff can remove stains, rust, and mineral buildup. So, it is a handy ingredient to have on hand around the house.

Dough Made with Cream of Tartar Being Coated in Flour with Rolling Pin, Eggs, and Bowl of Flower in the Background

How To Use Cream Of Tartar 

Cream of tartar is a versatile ingredient that you can use in several ways. 

Here are a few common uses:

  • Stabilizing Egg Whites: Add a pinch of cream of tartar to egg whites before whipping. This helps stabilize the foam and prevent over-beating.
  • Preventing Sugar Crystals: When making candy or syrup, add cream of tartar to prevent sugar crystals from forming.
  • Leavening Agent: Use cream of tartar as a substitute for baking powder. But you have to mix it with baking soda.
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda + 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar = 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • Cleaning Agent: Mix cream of tartar with water to make a cleaning paste. You can use it to clean stains on surfaces like countertops, sinks, and cookware.
  • Play Dough: Make your own play dough by combining flour, salt, water, oil, and cream of tartar. 

Remember to use it in moderation. Too much cream of tartar can affect the taste and texture of your recipe.

Where To Buy Cream of Tartar

Cream of tartar is a popular kitchen ingredient. So, you can find it in most grocery stores and supermarkets. 

Check the baking aisle alongside other baking powders and ingredients. 

You can also find cream of tartar at specialty stores selling baking supplies. Cake decorating shops or online retailers are a good bet. 

Also, many health food stores and natural food markets carry it. 

It’s also widely available online. So, you can find it and order from the comfort of your home.

Cream of Tartar in a Bowl on a Burlap Cloth

How To Store Cream Of Tartar 

Cream of tartar is like a spice- and you should store it as such. Store it in an airtight container in a dark, dry spot, away from heat. 

Keep it sealed after each use. And if you buy it in bulk, transfer it to a screw-top jar. 

Avoid storing it close to the stove, as heat and humidity can ruin it. A dark pantry or spice drawer is a prime spot. 

With proper storage, cream of tartar will last forever- that’s right, forever.

It is a helpful ingredient that will make your baked goods and confections perfect. Every time.

What Is Cream of Tartar’s Shelf-Life?

Cream of tartar has an indefinite shelf-life with proper storage.

You should keep it in an airtight container. Keep cream of tartar away from heat and moisture. 

It is safe to use as long as the powder remains dry. Do not use your cream of tartar if it has a strange odor or discoloration.  

Do you have a decades-old jar of cream of tartar in your spice cabinet? No worries! Don’t throw it out just yet. 

Check it out first- a visual and smell inspection. Does it look and smell fine? Then, you can use it in your next baking project.

Vinegar in a Jar on a Wooden Cutting Board, Lemons to the Side, and Baking Powder in a Bowl and in a Scoop on the Cutting Board.

Cream of Tartar Substitutes

Are you out of cream of tartar and need a substitute for your recipe? Don’t fret! There are a few alternatives you can use.

Two common substitutes are white vinegar and lemon juice. 

  • You can use them each in a 1:1 ratio. 

However, these options will add a slightly tangy flavor to your recipe.

Another option is baking powder. Baking powder is a mixture of cream of tartar and baking soda. 

  • Use 1.5 teaspoons of baking powder for every 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar. 
  • For example, your recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of cream of tartarYou will use 3 teaspoons of baking powder

However, be aware that baking powder already contains baking soda. 

So, you must adjust the other leavening ingredients in your recipe accordingly.

These are only 2 of several substitutes. You can learn more about them here: 6 Best Cream of Tartar Substitutes.

What Is Cream of Tartar?

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author avatar
Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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