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Cream Of Tartar

Published on
16 December 2023
Chef Silvano
Chef Silvano

The Magic Ingredient in Your Pantry.
Have you ever stumbled upon a recipe that demands egg whites beaten to stiff peaks or the creation of a flawless sugar syrup? If so, you’ve likely encountered cream of tartar. But what is this enigmatic white powder, and how does it perform its culinary wonders?

What is Cream of Tartar

Known scientifically as potassium bitartrate or potassium hydrogen tartrate, it emerges as a byproduct of the winemaking process. When winemakers ferment grapes, tartaric acid naturally present in the fruit crystallises inside wine barrels. Workers then collect the crystalline substance that forms, purify it, and grind it down to produce the cream of tartar.

chef-silvano-braga-journal cream of tartar

Culinary Uses

In the kitchen, cream of tartar shows its versatility. It acts as a stabilizer that can prevent the formation of sugar crystals in syrups and icings, ensuring smooth frostings and shiny meringues. It also stabilises whipped egg whites, enhancing their heat tolerance and volume, which proves essential for dishes like soufflés and angel food cakes.

Where to Find Creme of Tartar

Most grocery stores stock cream of tartar in the spice section. It is typically available in small containers, as recipes usually call for only a small amount.

Popular Brands for Cream of Tartar

You should be able to find it under several brand names, including McCormick, Spice Islands, and Frontier Co-op, known for their quality and easy availability.


A By-Product of Winemaking

The journey this white powder from grape to barrel to pantry is not only a testament to the resourcefulness of winemakers but also a boon for cooks and bakers.


Cream of tartar develops during the fermentation process of winemaking. As the grape juice ferments, tartaric acid naturally present in grapes crystallizes out of the wine. This usually occurs when the temperature of the fermenting wine drops, which can cause the acid to form crystals that deposit on the sides of the wine barrels or tanks. These crystals are then collected and purified to produce the cream of tartar you find in stores.

Uses in Baking and Cooking

It does more than stabilise egg whites and prevent sugar crystallisation; it also serves as an acidifying agent in baking powder when combined with baking soda. This duo releases carbon dioxide bubbles that help doughs and batters rise. Additionally, some cooks add it to boiling vegetables to preserve their vibrant colours.

Benefits and Substitutions

Cream of tartar is gluten-free and vegan, accommodating a variety of dietary preferences. It also boasts a long shelf life, ready for whenever the baking mood strikes.

If you’re out of your white kitchen wonder, you can substitute it depending on the recipe’s needs. White vinegar or lemon juice can replace cream of tartar for stabilizing egg whites. For homemade baking powder, you can combine baking soda with an acid like lemon juice or vinegar.