Cream of tartar (not to be confused with tartar sauce) is the culinary name for potassium bitartrate (potassium hydrogen tartrate, KC4H5O6). Cream of tartar is an odorless, white, acidic powder that is a valuable Paleo-friendly leavening agent which plays an important role in making baked goods rise.
People have been using cream of tartar for at least 7,000 years, and the modern manufacturing process was developed in 1769 by a Swedish chemist. Cream of tartar is made by treating tartaric acid with potassium hydroxide, which yields the potassium acid salt that is commonly known as cream of tartar. Tartaric acid forms naturally during the fermentation of grapes and is a byproduct of winemaking.
Nutritional Value of Cream of Tartar
Serving size: 1 teaspoon (3g)
- Calories: 8
- Total Fat: 0 g
- Saturated Fat: 0 g
- Trans Fat: 0 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Sodium: 2 mg
- Potassium: 495 mg
- Total Carbohydrate: 2 g
- Dietary Fiber: 0 g
- Sugars: 0 g
- Protein: 0 g
- Vitamin A: 0 %
- Vitamin C: 0 %
- Calcium: 0 %
- Iron: 1 %
Benefits of Cream of Tartar
Cream of tartar has several culinary and non-culinary uses. It is commonly added while whipping egg whites and whipped cream to create volume and stability. As mentioned, it is an important leavening agent that is found in many brands of baking powder. Its also useful as an anti-caking agent as well as a thickening agent. It helps to keep sugar from crystallizing and is used by bakers to create smooth icings and syrups. Similar to baking soda, cream of tartar can be used for cleaning purposes, particularly when mixed with an acidic liquid (such as vinegar or lemon juice). It is used as an effective stain-remover, metal cleaner, to make DIY play dough, and for many other household uses.
Where to Buy and How to Store Cream of Tartar
Cream of tartar can be found in the baking section or spice area of most major grocery stores. Store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from any humidity and it can last upwards to a year. If your product has an expiration date, pitch once expired. We think this is a pretty good brand here.
Keep cream of tartar out of the reach of children and pets, as there are potential health hazards which can result from ingesting or inhaling large quantities. It’s also a good idea to keep cream of tartar away from the eyes and skin, as its acidic properties may cause mild to moderate skin and eye irritation.
Is Cream of Tartar Paleo?
The short answer is, yes! Similar to baking soda and baking powder, cream of tartar is used in baking as an important leavening agent, where it facilitates doughs to rise and imparts a light and airy quality to finished baked goods. Because of its acidity, cream of tartar can be combined with alkaline baking soda to make Paleo-friendly baking powder (since commercial baking powders are generally not Paleo). Cream of tartar is naturally dairy-, gluten- and grain-free, and contains only one ingredient: tartaric acid.
There have been reports of hyperkalemia (high blood potassium levels), particularly in folks with kidneys disease, resulting from the high potassium content of cream of tartar. This makes it sound scary, but these reports are few and far between. When used in reasonable amounts (such as the amount called for in baking and cooking), cream of tartar is generally regarded as safe (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).