When I think of the mystery ingredients I used to see in my mom’s pantry, cream of tartar always comes to mind.
It is one of those ingredients whose use you can’t guess at all. You either know it, or you don’t. There is no room for guesswork.
In the past years, I have come across a few recipes that list cream of tartar as one of the ingredients.
I am sure you have to. Cream of tartar is a great ingredient, but I am always on the lookout for the best cream of tartar substitute. God knows I don’t always have the cream of tartar in my pantry.
It is one of those ingredients that I don’t stock up, probably because I don’t use it as much as I use other pantry essentials.
Sometimes the cravings just kick in and I want to make something that has the cream of tartar in it only to realize that I have none in the house. This is where the substitutes come in.
The cream of tartar substitutes are white vinegar which is the best, lemon juice, buttermilk, baking powder, and yoghurt also make great replacements.
I love the fact that you can substitute cream of tartar with something else and it will still taste as amazing. The results may not be exactly the same but they come pretty close.
What is Cream of tartar?
First things first, what exactly is cream of tartar? Well, cream of tartar is basically tartaric acid in powder form. In most cases, it is formed during the process of making wine. It is one of the by-products.
Normally, some sediments are leftover in the barrels used to make wine. These sediments are cleaned and ground to form the cream of tartar.
You can buy cream of tartar at any grocery store near you. Most stores stock it in the spice aisle.
One of my favourite things about cream of tartar is that it has a very long shelf life.
You can buy, use it once and even forget about it but when you go to check on it, it is still as fresh as it was when you bought it. Cream of tartar retains its freshness for a very long time.
All you have to do is store it in a cool, dry place. Cream of tartar is usually white with a mild acidic smell. If it looks or smells different, it is best if you throw it out. Using it that way may cause food poisoning.
If you doubt the freshness of your cream of tartar despite its normal appearance, just add one teaspoon of the cream of tartar to one cup of warm water and add a pinch of baking powder.
If the mixture results in a nice form, the cream of tartar is still potent and you can use it in any of the recipes that require it.
Cream of tartar uses
Cream of tartar has several uses. However, most people use it to stabilize egg whites for meringues. That perfect meringue pie and those tasty meringue cookies that you love most likely contain cream of tartar.
When you add cream of tartar to the egg whites, the form will form faster and the cream of tartar will also stabilize the structure of the air bubbles that you whip up.
You can also combine cream of tartar with baking soda to form a leavening agent. The combination produces carbon dioxide gas that makes your baked goods puff. A lot of people use the combination to bake bread.
Adding a small amount of cream of tartar to vegetables when you are boiling them helps the vegetables retain their colour.
You can also use cream of tartar to stabilize whipped cream. Simply add a pinch of cream of tartar to your whipped cream. This will make sure that the whipped cream does not deflate when you use it.
Surprisingly, you can also use cream of tartar as a household cleaner. Use it with water to polish metal surfaces and to scrub sinks and toilets. The results are always amazing, probably better than your usual cleaning agents.
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Substitutes for Cream of tartar
Cream of tartar is a great ingredient. It improves the texture and taste of your end product. However, if you don’t have it, you can substitute it with any of the ingredients below.
If for some reason you feel that nothing can perfectly substitute the cream of tartar because of the recipe you are using, just leave it out.
The consequences won’t be extremely serious. In fact, it may be easier to leave it out than substitute it.
There are a few things that can substitute cream of tartar and give you results that cream of tartar would have given you.
There is really no need to panic when you are halfway through your recipe and you realize that you have no cream of tartar in the house.
Here are a few things that can substitute cream of tartar.
- White vinegar
Since white vinegar is acidic, it is an almost perfect substitute for cream of tartar. The only thing that might be an issue is the harsh taste of vinegar, otherwise, white vinegar works just fine.
When substituting cream of tartar with vinegar, use the ratio 1:2. For instance, if a recipe requires that you use 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar, use 2 teaspoons of white vinegars.
This substitute is perfect for stabilizing egg whites for meringues. I don’t recommend using it for baking because it will definitely change the taste of your baked goods, and not in a good way.
- Lemon juice
This is the most common substitute for cream of tartar. Just like cream of tartar lemon juice also has acidic properties.
Like white vinegar, lemon juice is great for stabilizing egg whites for meringues. Its acidic properties enable it to form stiff peaks that do not deflate.
When substituting cream of tartar with a lemon juicer, use the ratio 1:1. This basically means that you use the same amount of lemon juice in place of cream of tartar. If a recipe calls for one teaspoon of cream of tartar, use one teaspoon of lemon juice.
Use this substitute in baking or making frostings.
Buttermilk can also be a substitute for a cream of tartar. It has some acidity which is an essential component of cream of tartar substitutes.
Buttermilk works best in baked goods. It gives them a moist texture. The acidity in buttermilk also acts as a leavening agent. Unlike cream of tartar, buttermilk does not clump.
When substituting cream of tartar with buttermilk, all you have to do is replace a certain amount of liquid in the recipe with buttermilk. For instance, if a recipe requires that you use ½ a teaspoon of cream of tartar, remove 1/8 cup of the liquid in the recipe and replace it with 1/8 cup of buttermilk.
- Baking powder
Baking powder is yet another great substitute for cream of tartar. Unlike white vinegar, it does not alter the taste or texture of your baked goods.
If your recipe requires that you use both baking soda and cream of tartar, you can easily substitute the two ingredients with baking powder. This is because baking powder contains both tartaric acid and sodium bicarbonate.
For every teaspoon of cream of tartar, use one and a half teaspoons of baking powder.
Yoghurt is another decent substitute for cream of tartar. When fresh milk ferments and mixes with good bacteria, the milk thickens and the end result is tasty yoghurt. Yoghurt normally contains some acid because of the process of fermentation.
Like buttermilk, all you have to do is replace a certain amount of liquid in the recipe with your yoghurt. For instance, if a recipe requires that you use ½ a teaspoon of cream of tartar, remove 1/8 cup of the liquid in the recipe and replace it with 1/8 cup of yoghurt.
For the results to be perfect, add a little bit of milk to the yoghurt for it to have a thinner consistency similar to that of buttermilk.
I mostly use yoghurt as a substitute while baking because for some reason, it makes the texture of my baked goods moist and they also taste amazing.
- Skip the cream of tartar entirely
Yes, you can leave out the cream of tartar if you don’t have it or any of the above substitutes in hand. Leaving out the cream of tartar does not have serious implications on the outcome of your results.
Your baked goods may not be as moist. That is the only major difference when you skip the cream of tartar.
However, if you are baking something like bread, I don’t recommend skipping the cream of tartar. Normally, the cream of tartar acts as a leavening agent when combined with baking soda. This is what causes the bread to puff. Without it, the results may be disastrous.
If you were to use cream of tartar to make frosting or icing, omitting it won’t necessarily have terrible consequences. Normally, the cream of tartar ensures that the frosting does not crystallize. Without it, the results will still be good, but not as good as when you use a cream of tartar.