It has been an ongoing debate on whether aluminum is harmful or not, and baking powder is one ingredient that sometimes contains aluminum. The good news is that some brands of baking powder are aluminum-free. But, are all brands of baking powder aluminum-free?
Here’s what I know from 2+ decades working for Whole Foods:
Not all baking powder brands are aluminum-free. The top brands of baking powder that are aluminum-free are Rumford, McKenzie’s, Whole Foods 365, and Trader Joe’s.
But, is aluminum really harmful? How do you know the brands that contain it? How many brands are there that are aluminum-free?
Let’s get started with our exploration starting with the most vital question:
Baking powder is a combo of baking soda + an acid already mixed in — something like cream of tartar or sodium aluminum sulfate. These reactions look like this and generally won’t happen until wet and/or heated, meaning your cake donuts will puff up in the fryer. #WednesdayWisdom pic.twitter.com/yavfUG9lvp
— Reactions (@ACSReactions) May 30, 2018
Is there aluminum in baking powder?
Aluminum is present in many, but not all, baking powder brands. It’s listed as sodium aluminum phosphate or sodium aluminum sulfate.
It’s one of the key ingredients used in making baking powders, and it’s always listed as one of the ingredients on the label.
Of course, some brands are aluminum-free.
I’ll tell you how to find them in a bit. For now, it’s vital to understand what constitutes baking powder and what it does. Baking powder is essentially baking soda mixed with an acid.
Baking powder a time-tested, effective replacement for yeast.
It’s a chemical leavening agent that makes the baked product rise and fills it with air. In other words, it increases the volume of the baked product and also lightens its texture. It’s a mixture made of carbonate or bicarbonate and a weak acid.
Cornstarch is used as a buffer to prevent the acid from reacting with the base before the appropriate time.
Aluminum is used in some brands as it is heat-activated. That means when you put a baked item in the oven, the baking powder with aluminum immediately starts to do its job.
Baking powders without aluminum are liquid activated instead of heat-activated.
Because of that, they tend to work faster as they begin to work before you put the product in the oven. So it’s essential that you prepare your product quickly when using aluminum-free baking powder. The longer you wait, the more bubbles will get released prior to baking.
It’s the gas that creates air bubbles that triggers the rise in the batter or dough.
Say you’re planning to go to the grocery store tomorrow, how would you know if the brand you’re buying is aluminum-free?
That’s what we’ll explore next, but before we do, you’ll probably agree that some grocery stores can be a tad overwhelming.
That’s why I explored the different sections of a grocery store in a recent article of mine. So that you can easily navigate them, just click the link to read it on my site.
Pantry cleaning continues.
I just found “aluminum-free” baking powder from 2013. Is that normal for that era or a premium upgrade?
Did we pay extra to not bake metal into our food? pic.twitter.com/T3ZVfD129N
— Joe Hills (@joehills) November 17, 2019
How do you know if your baking powder is aluminum-free?
Brands of baking powder that don’t contain aluminum will state it on the label. Often it will be both missing from the ingredient list but also stated clearly on the front of the label.
Simply check the label before you buy.
Its ingredients are written on the label. If there’s aluminum in the baking powder, it will be present as acidic salt and would be written either as sodium aluminum sulfate or sodium aluminum phosphate.
And, if there’s none, it won’t be listed. Or, it’ll say “aluminum-free.”
There’s also a question that’s related to what we’re exploring here. Let’s look at it?
Why is it vital to even bother with checking whether your baking powder is aluminum-free?
First, the products you bake will have a metallic aftertaste if there’s aluminum in it. In some cases, it may also give them a purplish hue.
Some experts believe that aluminum should be excluded from our food.
They say that it’s harmful. A paper by William J. Gies, Ph.D. titled: Some Objections To The Use of Alum Baking Powder explores the issue, and specifically concludes “aluminum should be excluded from food.“
Another recent study by ScienceDirect noted that aluminum is “a suspected risk factor in Alzheimer′s disease” and that “aluminum directly influences the process of” (Alzheimer′s disease).
But some other experts say that consumed in minimal quantities aluminum has no adverse effects on us.
What do I think?
I am not providing health or medical advice. Please, consult your doctor. But I personally avoid aluminum in both baking powder and deodorant which also often contains it.
— Cat McMahon (@GFHomemade) June 21, 2017
What can I use if I don’t have aluminum-free baking powder?
Create homemade aluminum-free baking powder by combining 1 part baking soda, 2 parts cream of tartar, and 1 part cornstarch. Baking powder is simply baking soda plus an acid.
So, if you’ve got those ingredients, you could make your aluminum-free baking powder.
Let’s look at how to make it in greater detail.
What are the things you need and in what quantity? You’ll need one part baking soda and two parts cream of tartar. That’s it? Yeah, that’s all you need.
To improve its shelf-life, make sure to add arrowroot powder or cornstarch to the mix. Essentially, either product will keep your homemade baking powder dry. If it’s dry, it’ll naturally last longer.
So, let’s revise our “formula.”
You’ll need one part baking soda and two parts cream of tartar + one part arrowroot powder/ cornstarch. If you’re a DIY type, you’ll see this as a piece of cake. Plus, it’s fun to boot.
But, if you’re not, I’ll tell you the best brands of aluminum-free baking powder to buy in the next section.
By the way, what’s even the difference between the two: supermarket and grocery store.
Most folks draw a blank when I ask them. Or, are they the same? No, they’re not. In fact, I took the time to share the commonalities and differences in a recent article of mine.
Just click the link to read it on my site.
Did so many people bake during quarantine that we now have a shortage of aluminum-free baking powder?? I had to order it off Amazon. What a ripoff! pic.twitter.com/xFWjvH8d58
— Rowan Christmas Tree 🎄❄️ (@RowanTree37) June 12, 2020
What are the best-known brands of aluminum-free baking powder?
The best-known brands of aluminum-free baking powder include McKenzie’s, Rumford, Whole Foods 365, and Trader Joe’s.
Rumford is one of the oldest and trusted brands of double-acting baking powder.
It was started in 1859 by a Harvard University Professor, who decided to name it in honor of the person who endowed the professorial chair he occupied at the time: Count Rumford. The brand’s beloved, it’s rated 4.5 stars out of 5 on Amazon. It’s double-acting, gluten-free, non-GMO, and vegan.
Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods market’s 365 brands have their own brand of aluminum-free, double-acting baking powder, too. They are also highly rated and inexpensive.
McKenzie is aluminum-free, gluten-free, and is produced by an Australian company for five generations (it’s currently unavailable on Amazon, and they can’t say exactly when it would be available).
It’s very easy to confuse baking soda with baking powder.
After all, they’re both white, powdery, baking products. And, as I have shared in some paragraphs above, what distinguishes them is an acidic agent. When the acidic agent is added to baking soda, you get baking powder.
But, in all honesty, baking soda does not ever contain aluminum. It’s 100% sodium bicarbonate.
Really Needed A Treat, So I Decided To Make A Carrot Cake! Freshly Hand Grated Carrots And Ginger, Nutmeg And Cinnamon! Flour, Fructose And Oil, None Aluminum Baking Powder And Soda! This Was So Light And Delicious! Made A Drizzling Tofu Icing! All Vegan! pic.twitter.com/z1p5HRZ5kj
— Chef Carlyn Saunders (@karayarbrough) April 16, 2020
Does Clabber Girl baking powder have aluminum in it?
Clabber Girl baking powder does contain aluminum, although in a press release in 2015 they claimed to be in the process of removing it. However, it is still currently listed as an ingredient.
As I mentioned, five years ago, in a press release, the company promised it would remove two ingredients from its product: aluminum and phosphate.
They said the product would be reformulated because of concerns by users who were growing sensitive to the presence of flavors, additives, colors, and sweeteners in it.
The manufacturer of Clabber Girl is not as old as the manufacturers of Rumford, but they’ve been around for over a hundred years!
They say that the proposed formulation would be an aluminum-free product and more efficient, in that you’ll only need about half of what you’ll typically require.
But it’s curious why, 5 years later, they still haven’t done it.
In the preceding paragraphs, we explored baking powder and how aluminum fits in.
We looked at some brands that contain it, and others that don’t. But I even shared a basic recipe to make your own if you don’t have any on hand.
And I shared a few medical studies that talk about some of the negative effects of aluminum. That way you can decide for yourself what’s best for you and your family.