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    What Is Ammonium Bicarbonate Used for in Food?

    What Is Ammonium Bicarbonate Used for in Food?

    In baking, where each ingredient is pivotal in creating culinary delights, ammonium bicarbonate stands out for its unique properties and applications. This article delves into ammonium bicarbonate’s definition and the use of it in food.

    what is ammonium bicarbonate used for in food

    What Is Ammonium Bicarbonate?

    Ammonium bicarbonate (NH4HCO3), historically known as hartshorn, is a specialized leavening agent in baking. Its unique chemical properties make it ideal for creating light, airy textures in various baked goods. Unlike baking soda and baking powder, ammonium bicarbonate completely decomposes when heated, making it a preferred choice for specific culinary applications.

    Advantages and Benefits of Ammonium Bicarbonate

    Produced through the reaction of ammonia with carbon dioxide and water, ammonium bicarbonate is a white, crystalline powder that is a powerful leavening agent. It decomposes at temperatures above 60°C (140°F), releasing carbon dioxide, water, and ammonia, which contribute to the leavening process without leaving any alkaline residue. This characteristic ensures that the final baked product has no off-flavors that can sometimes be associated with baking soda or powder.

    What Is Ammonium Bicarbonate Used for in Food?

    Ammonium bicarbonate is mainly used in the food industry as a leavening agent for baked goods. It is highly effective in low-moisture products like cookies, crackers, and cream-puff doughs. When heated, ammonium bicarbonate releases carbon dioxide gas, which creates a light and airy texture in baked products.

    Comparison with Baking Soda Powder

    Because it does not leave an alkaline taste that can be associated with other leavening agents, such as baking soda or baking powder. It is especially suitable for flat and porous baked goods, where the ammonia produced during decomposition can quickly evaporate, preventing potential off-flavors. This characteristic makes it popular in Scandinavian, Polish, and German baking recipes, particularly for traditional cookies and pastries.

    Is Ammonium Bicarbonate Safe in Food?

    Ammonium bicarbonate is generally considered safe for use in food. It is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is accepted as a safe food additive in many countries under the E number E503. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) also indicates that ammonium bicarbonate in food is of lower concern, based on a weight of evidence evaluation of known safety or hazards.

    However, it is recommended that consumers seek professional advice before using large amounts of ammonium bicarbonate for prolonged periods, especially in foods for newborns or pregnant women. Although there is no evidence that ammonium bicarbonate may have adverse effects on these vulnerable groups, it is advisable to seek professional advice.

    ammonium bicarbonate-leaf bread

    Other Applications of Ammonium Bicarbonate Besides Food

    Ammonium bicarbonate plays a significant role in various industries and applications due to its unique properties and functionalities. Besides food, ammonium bicarbonate can be used in several key areas like research, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, and environmental safety:

    Research and Industrial Applications: Ammonium bicarbonate is a valuable reagent in research laboratories and industrial processes. It is used in the analysis of proteins by mass spectrometry and is helpful in the preparation of ammonium salts. Its volatility is advantageous for adding alkalinity to buffer solutions during liquid chromatography.

    Pharmaceuticals and Medicinal Products: Ammonium bicarbonate is utilized in cough syrups and other medicinal products due to its buffering capabilities. It is also suitable for pharmaceutical applications such as lyophilization (freeze-drying), as it aids in the recovery of compounds of interest during the process.

    Production of Porous Materials: It is utilized to produce porous plastics and ceramics, as well as dyes and pigments. Additionally, it can be used as a foaming agent for rubber and for scale removal in boilers.

    Agriculture and Fertilizers: Ammonium bicarbonate has long been used as a nitrogen fertilizer in agriculture. It provides plants with a readily available source of nitrogen for growth. However, modern agricultural practices have replaced its use with more stable compounds like urea.


    Ammonium bicarbonate remains a critical ingredient for bakers seeking to achieve the perfect crispness in their creations without compromising taste or quality. Its specific application to certain types of baked goods underscores the importance of understanding the properties and benefits of different leavening agents to achieve desired results in baking.

    If you are interested in ammonium bicarbonate or other food additives, feel free to contact us at any time. As a leading food additives supplier, we always await to help you make healthy and delicious food.

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