Cream of tartar is a mystery ingredient to many people, and despite its name, is not actually creamy at all. Cream of tartar is a dry, powdery substance and is a byproduct from fermenting grapes that are being turned into wine.
Cream of Tartar Uses
There are many uses of cream of tartar, but it’s most commonly used in baking. When beating egg whites for a meringue, adding just a little bit of this substance speeds up the creation of foam and helps stabilize the little air bubbles that create this foam. Cream of Tartar helps create the stiff peaks that are desired in meringue pies and the airy bubbles that make a great angel food cake.
Cream of tartar is also widely used in snickerdoodle cookies to give them the distinctive tangy flavor and the chewiness sought after in a great snickerdoodle or Vanilla Buttercream Cookie. Cream of tartar prevents the sugar in cookies from crystallizing which would create a crunchier cookie.
Cream of tartar is also used with baking soda to become a leavening agent, which makes baked goods puff up while in the oven due to the production of carbon dioxide gas. Cream of tartar can be added to boiling vegetables so they keep their bright color.
Substitutes for Cream of Tartar
Cream of tartar has many different uses, which means there are many different substitutes to use in different situations. Using 2 teaspoons of lemon juice or vinegar creates the acidic impact of 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar in a traditional baking recipe, like in our Coconut Cream Cake recipe. The most widely used substitutes are:
- Lemon juice
- White vinegar
- Baking powder
You can also simply leave out the cream of tartar from a recipe, which may result in baked goods that are not as fluffy, but will still work out and taste good.
Common Cream of Tartar Recipes & Substitution Questions
What Can I Use Instead of Cream of Tartar in Snickerdoodles?
Cream of tartar gives snickerdoodles their signature chewiness and tangy taste. To create a similar effect without the cream of tartar, substitute both the cream of tartar and the baking soda with 2 teaspoons of baking powder.
Cream of Tartar Substitute in Meringue
Lemon juice works as a great substitute in meringue to stabilize the egg whites and provide the high stiff peaks you look for in a meringue.
Cream of Tartar Substitute Calculator
The general rule of thumb is for every ½ teaspoon of cream of tartar in a recipe, use 1 teaspoon lemon juice or white vinegar. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon cream of tartar, you’d use 2 teaspoons of lemon juice or white vinegar.