What Happens If You Skip Cream Of Tartar In A Recipe?

Some baked goods are easy to make with basic pantry staples. As long as you have flour, eggs, sugar, butter, and a leavening agent like baking powder or baking soda, you can make a batch of sugar cookies or a basic pound cake. Other recipes, however, require a few extra ingredients that you may not always have on hand. Macarons, for example, call for almond flour specifically, certain pie fillings require gelatin, and for other baked goods you may need to run to the store to get a lesser-used ingredient such as molasses, coconut oil, or cream of tartar.

Recipes that use the latter typically call for only a very small amount of the ingredient, but it serves a purpose nonetheless. As Food Network explains, cream of tartar does three things: it prevents sugar crystallization and keeps egg whites from deflating while also giving desserts a mildly tangy flavor. Chemical reactions are an essential part of the baking process, but the ones created by cream of tartar are more of a safeguard than a necessity, The Spruce Eats shares.

It isn't always necessary to include cream of tartar in a recipe

If a recipe calls for cream of tartar, it's there to maintain a specific texture. A frosting without crystalized sugar is a lot creamier, and any batter or meringue with stabilized egg whites yields a fluffier end result, The Spruce Eats explains. Without cream of tartar, you'll get the same baked good in the end, but the consistency may not be as flawless. If you're worried about your cake coming out too flat or your lemon meringue pie going runny, adding cream of tartar is an effective way to prevent it.

But while technically you don't need the ingredient, Food Network still recommends swapping it with vinegar or lemon juice as opposed to leaving it out of a recipe that calls for it. These substitutions work because cream of tartar is powdered tartaric acid, per Healthline. This type of acid closely resembles vinegar and lemon juice, so if you don't have any cream of tartar, you can either skip it or simply replace it with an acidic substitute.