Does baking powder have yeast?

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “does baking powder have yeast” with an in-depth analysis of whether or not baking powder contains yeast. Moreover, we are going to discuss the difference between baking powder, yeast, and baking soda.

Bakery products are mainly prepared by refined wheat flour. 25% of the total production of wheat is used in the manufacturing of bakery products, which are rich in fats, starch, and energy but lacking in fiber and protein (1). 

So without much ado, let’s dive in and figure out more about it.

Does baking powder have yeast?

No, baking powder does not have yeast present in it. Both the baking powder and yeast are leavening agents and are widely used for baking purposes. But both of them are two different entities and have their unique properties. 

Moreover, both of them have different approaches for leaving the dough in which they are used. If on one hand, baking powder makes the texture of the dough fluffy, it is the result of a chemical reaction while on the other hand, the leavening action of the yeast is the result of a biological reaction.

Leavening agents cause expansion of doughs and batters by the release of gasses within food mixtures, producing baked products with porous structure. Leavening agents are used in food products to help create structure and texture through gas expansion because of a chemical reaction or as the nucleation seed for gas formation. Leavening can be achieved by various methods including yeast fermentation, by mechanical incorporation of air through mixing and creaming, formation of water vapor during baking and creation of carbon dioxide and/or ammonia by chemical leavens (2).

What is the difference between baking powder, yeast, and baking soda?

Baking powder

Now when it comes to baking powder, it is specifically used for baking purposes and is a complete leavening agent. It differs from baking soda due to the extra ingredients that are added in its formulation like starch and cream of tartar. Thus, it has both the acidic (cream of tartar) and basic (baking soda) components present in its formulation and does not require the addition of any extra acidic substance for activation.

Thus what happens is that as soon as the baking powder comes in contact with a liquid the acidic and the basic component of the baking powder reacts with each other and liberates out carbon dioxide that gives a fluffy and light texture to the cookies or muffins in which baking powder was used.

When combined with water, the sodium bicarbonate and acid salts react to produce gaseous carbon dioxide. The acid-base reaction can be generically represented as shown: 

NaHCO3 + H+ → Na+ + CO2 + H2O 

A typical formulation by weight contains about 30% sodium bicarbonate, 5-12% monocalcium phosphate and 21-26% sodium aluminum sulfate (2).

Last but not least the corn starch present in the formulation of the baking powder is neutral and its work is to hinder the acidic and the basic components present in the baking soda to react with each other. 

If no acidic item is used in the recipe, it is better to use baking powder in this scenario as it already contains both the acidic and basic components and does not require any additional acidic item for its activation.


Yeast is used as a leavening agent for a long time. Both fresh and dry variants of the yeast are used in a variety of doughs, bread, and even in the production of beer. Yeast is a biological leavening agent and feeds on the sugar present in the solution. Then it liberates out carbon dioxide that is responsible for making the fluffy buns. That is the very reason that it is advised to firstly add the yeast in a bowl of warm water containing sugar so that the yeast can activate.

The commercially available yeast is present in its dormant state so that it does not react while it is in its packaging. To activate the yeast, it has to be first added in warm water with sugar, honey, or fructose syrup added in it.

The most common strain of yeast used in bread making is Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Yeast releases enzymes to metabolize fermentable sugars yielding ethanol and CO2. Most of the alcohol is volatilized in baking andCO2 provides leavening. It gives a distinct aroma and flavor to the product (2).

Afterward, when the now activated yeast is added to the dough what happens is that the yeast produces carbon dioxide and alcohol as a result of the fermentation. The carbon dioxide rises to the surface of the dough and makes it fluffier and softer. 

Moreover, yeast is also responsible for that particular flavor and aroma that the bread develops after fermentation. Thus, yeast not only differs in the nature of its reaction but yeast also takes more time for its leavening action and imparts a characteristic flavor and odor to the bread.

You can read about the substitutes for yeast here.

Baking soda

Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate and is a white crystalline powder that has a wide array of uses ranging from baking and cooking (as a leavening agent) to cleaning and it is also used as an odor absorber and stain remover.

While specifically talking about its use in baking and cooking, when it mixes with any acidic substance, being an alkali, it reacts with the acid and liberates carbon dioxide. This gas is responsible for that risen and fluffy texture of the bread, cookies, etc. that you add baking soda to. Moreover, this is the very reason that many recipes call for adding lemon juice or buttermilk in them.

When used alone, baking soda reacts quickly with heat and CO2 may escape from raw batter before it is able to leaven. It even reacts with the shortening and a residual flavor is felt besides causing unpleasant taste, brown color and alkaline odor. Therefore, baking soda must be combined with a suitable quantity of acid so that neutral residue is formed (2).

So the recipe which includes some acidic items like buttermilk, tartaric acid, or lemon juice, it is better to use baking soda there as baking soda needs an acidic substance to react with and form carbon dioxide.

Other FAQs about Baking Powder which you may be interested in.

How can I replace baking powder?

How to test baking powder?

How to counteract too much baking powder in a recipe?


In this brief guide, we answered the question “does baking powder have yeast” with an in-depth analysis of whether or not baking powder contains yeast. Moreover, we discussed the difference between baking powder, yeast, and baking soda.


  1. Biljwan, M., et al. Recent Development in Dough Based Bakery Products: A Mini Review.  Pharma Innov J, 2019, 8, 654-658.
  2. Neeharika, B., et al. Leavening Agents for Food Industry. Int. J. Curr. Microbiol. App. Sci, 2020. 9, 1812-1817.

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!