Is Cream of Tartar Vegan?

Cream of tartar sounds like it would contain dairy, but what actually is it? Here's the definitive guide to whether cream of tartar is vegan, what it does in baking and cooking and best uses including vegan recipes with cream of tartar!
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Vegan woman holding out a Cream of Tartar spice jar from Frontier Coop.
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Of all the ingredients lurking in the pantry, cream of tartar is easily the most misunderstood. It rarely shows up in recipes anymore and when it does, it’s not abundantly clear exactly what it does. Considering how ubiquitous it is, there remain so many unanswered questions. For that matter, what is it in the first place? For those with ethical or dietary concerns, is cream of tartar vegan, too?

What Is Cream Of Tartar?

Despite the misleading name, there’s no dairy involved, and it isn’t even creamy in texture. Cream of tartar is a dry white powder made from grape must, which is a byproduct created when fermenting wines. The scientific name is potassium bitartrate, though you’re unlikely to find that printed on any ingredient labels.

It’s a powerful acid that first rose to fame as an accessible and affordable cleaning agent that’s much safer that household bleach. Only in the mid-1800s did chemists discover that it could be combined with baking soda to create a brand new chemical leavener, which we now know as baking powder.

What Does Cream Of Tartar Do?

Although modern baking powder uses a different formulation now, cream of tartar has won its keep in the kitchen for myriad reasons. It reduces browning, which is helpful for maintaining bright white batters, prevents sugar crystallization for perfect candy-making, and helps stabilize proteins to ensure crisp peaks on your meringue cookies.

Vegan meringue cookies on parchment paper with a bowl of chickpeas in the background.

Is Cream Of Tartar Vegan?

Yes, cream of tartar is 100% vegan! On top of that, it’s sustainable and reduces food waste since it’s upcycled from wine manufacturing and is otherwise considered a waste product.

Cream of tartar is made simply from grapes and bacteria, like all the best fermented foods around. It’s also free of all common allergens and safe to consume on a paleo, keto, sugar-free, salt-free, or oil-free diet.

What Are The Best Uses For Cream Of Tartar?

Once you start experimenting with cream of tartar, you’ll see just how versatile it truly is. Even if you only use it occasionally, you’ll be glad you always have it handy, especially since it has no expiration date.

  • Homemade baking powder: If you ran out of baking powder in the middle of a recipe, don’t panic! You can make your own substitute by mixing 2 parts cream of tartar with 1 part baking soda.
  • Kitchen cleaner: Banish hard water buildup on faucets, polish silverware, rescue stained clothes, and so much more. Almost all surfaces and materials could benefit from a quick cleaning with cream of tartar.
  • Vegan meringues: Mix a pinch of cream of tartar into the sugar for even distribution before slowly sprinkling it into your whipped aquafaba. Vegan meringues are every bit as crisp and delightful as the original version.
  • Royal Icing: Similar to vegan meringue, a pinch of cream of tartar is helps to stabilize the aquafaba (liquid from canned chickpeas) in this delicious, marshmallow-y flavored vegan royal icing.
  • Snickerdoodle cookies: Tender, soft, and chewy, snickerdoodles get their signature texture from this not-so-secret ingredient.
  • Playdough: Need to distract the kids but don’t want to buy another toy? Make DIY playdough in minutes for a thrifty and non-toxic fun.
  • Blanch vegetables: Add a spoonful of cream of tartar to the water when boiling green vegetables and they’ll come out brighter and crisper after cooling down.
How to Use Aquafaba Picture Vegan Whipped Cream

This article for cream of tartar was written with support from Hannah Kaminsky and edited by Rachel Lessenden. Photos sourced from Canva.com.

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