How To Easily Substitute Lemon Juice With Cream Of Tartar

Lemon juice is pretty easy to find, and most people probably have some handy at home, whether it's in the form of whole lemons waiting to be juiced, or bottles of lemon juice waiting to be used in everything from cocktails to cookies to candies. However, if you're ever in the situation where you're in the middle of cooking or baking and realize you don't have enough lemon juice, you don't necessarily need to scrap whatever you're making. Rather, you may have something in your pantry that will work as a substitute (especially if you bake a fair amount): cream of tartar.

To use, simply replace a teaspoon of lemon juice with ½ teaspoon of cream of tartar. Depending on what you are making, you may need to add in some additional liquid, such as water, to make up for the lack of liquid in the cream of tartar.

Why does cream of tartar work and when to use it

Despite the name, cream of tartar is actually an acidic powder, so when you are using it to replace lemon juice, you are replacing one acid with another acid of similar pH levels — cream of tartar has a pH of 3.5, while lemon juice usually has a pH of between 2 and 3. A byproduct of the winemaking process, cream of tartar, or potassium bitartrate as it's known scientifically, is essentially the powder form of tartaric acid, and it has three main uses: Acting as a leaving agent in baked goods, preventing sugar crystals from forming, and stabilizing egg whites.

These three main uses of cream of tartar are also when it's most ideal to replace lemon juice with cream of tartar, namely, when baking something, such as cookies where an acid is needed to activate the baking soda; when you're making candy, caramels, fudge, or frosting, and you don't want sugar crystals to form; and when you need to stabilize egg whites, such as in a meringue or a fluffy souffle.

Cream of tartar is quite shelf stable, and pretty much never expires as long as it's kept away from moisture. So you may want to keep a container or two handy, just in case, for the next time you run out of lemon juice.