HomeCleaningWhat is Baking Soda Called in the UK?

What is Baking Soda Called in the UK?

The difference between baking soda, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda can at times appear completely confounding. With two sodas and two baking compounds in the mix, how can one be expected to distinguish between them?

Let’s try to figure out what exactly baking soda is called in the UK, how this product differs from its American counterpart, and what baking powder has to do with it (if anything). 

What is Baking Soda Called in the UK?

Baking soda is called bicarb soda, bicarbonate of soda or just plain bicarb in the UK. Australia and New Zealand use the UK terms as well. 

If you have been looking at cleaning (or even cooking) tips online and are from the UK, you may be slightly confused with the term baking soda. It sounds a lot like baking powder, but it has in fact nothing (or at the least very little) to do with baking. 

Baking soda is the term Americans use for bicarbonate of soda, a versatile and powerful cleaning agent. There is zero difference between these two products in the UK and the US: the only confusion stems from the different name, and the fact that there is baking powder to think of as well. 

Is Baking Soda the Same as Baking Powder?

Baking soda and baking powder are not the same thing. Baking soda (alias bicarb soda) is predominantly used in cleaning, while baking powder is used in actual baking.

Baking powder is actually baking soda (aka bicarb soda) mixed with a dry acidic ingredient that makes bakes rise when you add wet ingredients to them. 

You can use baking soda in baking as well, but you also need some sort of acid (like lemon juice) to get that lightness and rise you are looking for. 

Is Baking Soda the Same as Bicarbonate of Soda?

Yes, baking soda and bicarbonate of soda are the exact same thing. The same product is also known as sodium bicarbonate or bicarb in the UK. 

The “baking” element in baking soda does cause quite a bit of confusion, as it’s very easy to confuse it with baking powder. Depending on where you live in the world, you may be more comfortable using one term or the other. 

Is Baking Soda the Same as Soda Crystals?

Baking soda (also known as bicarbonate of soda) is not the same as soda crystals. Soda crystals are a lot stronger and should never be used in cooking. 

The two products do look the same, so you should be very careful when using either of them. While nothing bad will happen if you use baking soda when you want to use soda crystals (the worst that can happen is that you don’t get the desired cleaning effect), adding soda crystals to a recipe that calls for baking soda can land you in hospital.

Soda crystals are much more alkaline and thus work better on removing stains than baking soda. They are not safe to eat however and should always be kept well away from the bicarb and baking powder. 

Is Baking Powder and Bicarbonate of Soda the Same Thing?

Baking powder and bicarbonate of soda are not the same thing. Baking powder is a mixture of bicarbonate of soda and an acidic agent and it makes bakes rise better.

The confusion arises from the US term for bicarbonate of soda, baking soda, which is so incredibly similar to baking powder that it’s sheer wonder we can get our heads straight and use the terms properly. 

Is Baking Powder the Same in the UK and the US?

Baking powder tends to be just the same in the UK and the US. You may get different results from different brands, but both will make your cakes and pastries rise.

The term itself refers to the exact same thing in both countries. There is none of that baking soda, bicarb soda confusion here, so if you are looking for baking powder at home or across the pond, baking powder is what you will get. 

Can I Use Baking Powder Instead of Baking Soda?

You can use baking powder instead of baking soda in cooking, you will just need about three times as much to get the same effect. When it comes to cleaning, baking powder won’t be as effective as baking soda.

Baking powder is meant to make your cakes rise, so it comes with an added acidic compound. Baking soda does not have the same effect, so if the recipe needs baking soda, you need to add thrice the amount of baking powder to get roughly the same amount. 

The same goes for cleaning: since baking powder is not nearly as strong, it won’t get rid of stains and smells as well as baking soda will. 

Where Can You Buy Baking Soda in the UK?

You can find baking soda (alias bicarb, as we call it) in practically every supermarket and grocery store in the UK. The trick is to look for bicarbonate of soda, as opposed to baking soda, which is an American term. 

You will usually be able to pick it up somewhere in the baking aisle. You can of course order it online too (here’s an Amazon link for you). I personally prefer the Dr. Oetker brand. 

On the other hand, if you want to get yourself some bicarb for cleaning, you can go with the larger packaging (here’s 2kg for you). You can use the exact same product for both cooking and cleaning, it’s completely safe. 

Wrapping It Up 

Bicarbonate of soda and baking soda can cause quite a fair amount of confusion for UK and US cooks and cleaners. Hopefully we have now straightened out the conundrum, but don’t feel bad if you still need to check before you buy one or the other: it is indeed inordinately confusing! 

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