Make snickerdoodles without cream of tartar and get delicious cookies, but without the distinct tangy aftertaste that comes from cream of tartar. Use baking powder instead of cream of tartar and baking soda to discover the cookie you can’t stop eating.
Snickerdoodle cookies are my daughter’s favorite cookie. With that tangy cinnamon sugar sweetness, they have a distinct flavor, thanks to cream of tartar.
So what happens if you don’t have cream of tartar? Can you still make snickerdoodles without cream of tartar? You can make snickerdoodles without cream of tartar, but they won’t be quite the same. The tangy flavor that characterizes old-fashioned snickerdoodles will be absent.
The cookie will taste like a chewy sugar cookie rolled in cinnamon and sugar. Still delicious. And many people prefer this cookie recipe to the tangy aftertaste of traditional snickerdoodles.
So if you are out of cream of tartar, I have you covered. Look for the baking powder snickerdoodle recipe (without cream of tartar and baking soda) at the end of the post.
What do Classic Snickerdoodles Taste Like?
When I think of a snickerdoodle cookie, I imagine a cookie rolled in a ball and then coated with cinnamon and sugar.
The baked cookie has a top that has crinkled and cracked. The edges are crispy and the center is soft and chewy.
It tastes like cinnamon and sugar, but it has a distinct tangy, somewhat sour aftertaste.
Snickerdoodle cookies made without cream of tartar will still taste amazing. But they will taste closer to chewy sugar cookies than traditional snickerdoodles.
Were the First Snickerdoodles Made Without Cream of Tartar?
According to Stella Parks, author of Brave Tart, snickerdoodles evolved from a nineteenth century “Snip Doodle” cake. The Snip Doodle was a cinnamon coffee cake made with butter and dusted with sugar.
Over time, the Snip Doodle cake evolved into snickerdoodle cookies. The earliest recipes called for baking powder, not cream of tartar.
In fact, in 1891 Cleveland Baking Powder used the snickerdoodle recipe with baking powder in their national advertising campaigns.
The first baking powder was invented in 1843 to help bread rise without yeast. Over the next decades, food scientists experimented with different substances to find the best chemical formula that would help baked goods rise.
When snickerdoodle cookies evolved, baking powder was not a common household pantry item. Home cooks were accustomed to using baking soda and an acid together to get a leavening reaction.
The combination of cream of tartar and baking soda leavened cookies just as well as baking powder.
Since cream of tartar and baking soda were more common than baking powder, they were used in the early version of the cookie recipe.
What was in Early Baking Powder?
The product sheet for Cleveland Baking Powder boasted that the baking powder was “perfectly wholesome” with its only ingredients being cream of tartar, soda, and a little flour for strength.
Cream of Tartar Substitutes
Baking powder is a great substitute for baking soda and cream of tartar in baking. It is what you will use in this recipe.
Lemon juice can also replace cream of tartar for some things, such as stabilizing egg whites. However, because it is liquid, it doesn’t always work consistently in baking.
What is the Chemistry of Cream of Tartar and Baking Soda?
Baking soda is alkaline and cream of tartar is acidic. The acid released when cream of tartar dissolves in a batter reacts with baking soda to produce carbon dioxide. This combination becomes the leavening agent in the cookie.
When cream of tartar and baking soda are used, three things happen.
- The cookie rises as it cooks and then falls as it cools.
- Cracks appear in the cookie.
- A tangy aftertaste mingles with the cinnamon sugar taste.
Cream of tartar also weakens gluten. As the gluten weakens, the cookie can become more tender. It can also make the crumb fine, tight, and whiter.
Fortunately, baking powder can fulfill the function of the combination of cream of tartar and baking soda.
Pro Tips (for all snickerdoodle recipes)
I recommend these special tips and techniques for any snickerdoodle recipe on this blog. You may think this is a unique way to make cookies. It is. And you will be able to taste the difference in this cookie versus all the other snickerdoodles you’ve eaten.
To read more about these techniques, go to my post on the best classic snickerdoodle cookies.
Sift the flour before you measure it.
When you sift the flour back and forth between two bowls, it makes a huge difference in the softness and fluffiness of the cookie.
I usually sift the flour 4 to 6 times, but you can get away with 3 or 4 times. Use a strainer and two big bowls. It is easy and only takes about 3 minutes. It is well worth this short amount of time.
Weigh the ingredients. Don’t measure by volume.
You will get consistent results if you weigh ingredients — especially the flour. Digital kitchen scales are inexpensive, yet so effective.
No one scoops and measures flour with the same results. But everyone can weigh 396 grams of flour with the same results.
Use the right ratio of cinnamon to white sugar.
Use a 1:3 cinnamon sugar ratio. This is 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to every 3 teaspoons (1 tablespoon) of sugar. This is the ideal ratio to taste the cinnamon, but not be overwhelmed by it.
Stir the cinnamon-sugar mixture together in a small bowl.
Calibrate your oven. Make sure you are baking at the right temperature.
Use an oven thermometer and find out how accurate your oven temperature is. When you calibrate your oven, you will get more consistent baking times.
Line your baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
The #1 reason to use a liner is so the cookies can cool for a few minutes on the baking mat without sticking to it.
If you use a regular baking sheet, you must transfer the cookies to a wire rack before 3 minutes have passed. Otherwise, the cookies will stick to the pan and you will have to scrape them off.
Don’t overbake the cookies.
Bake the cookies just until the edges are set, but the very center of the cookie isn’t quite done yet. The cookie won’t be doughy, but will have a nice golden brown color. The residual heat from the pan will finish baking the cookie centers when you take them out of the oven.
If you cook the cookies too long, they will get hard and dry very quickly. Keep your cookies soft by not over-baking.
Rest the cookies before eating them. (Yes, you need willpower.)
This step is optional. However, I discovered that cookies taste amazing after they have rested a few hours in an airtight container. Or even better, they have been frozen for a day or so, and then brought back to room temperature.
They are soft, chewy, fluffy — everything you want in delicious snickerdoodles.
All of these tips will help make your cookie recipe stand out. However, you will notice a difference in your cookies even if you try only a couple of the tips.
Instructions for the Best Snickerdoodle Cookies
These directions will yield soft, thick, chewy snickerdoodle cookies. Some of the steps will be unique. But if you want the perfect cookie, the one everyone talks about, then follow the steps.
- Take the butter out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature. The ideal butter temperature is between 62 to 65°F (16 to 20°C).
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (225°C).
- Grab two big bowls and a mesh colander (or flour sifter). Sift the flour into a large bowl. Then sift it into the second bowl. Repeat the sifting once more. The flour will be light and airy.
Mixing the Batter
- Measure the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt) into a bowl. Stir a couple of times. Set it aside.
- Cream the sugar and butter in a separate large mixing bowl with an electric hand mixer for 1½ to 3 minutes, or until the texture progresses from sandy to creamy.
- Add the vanilla and the cold eggs into the butter mixture. (Remember, the eggs should come straight from the fridge.) Blend on low speed until the eggs are mixed into the cookie batter.
- Pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients. Mix on low speed until the flour is thoroughly mixed in. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to get all of the flour.
Scooping, Coating, and Baking
- Use a heavy-duty baking tray, like a Nordic Ware baking sheet. Line the cookie sheet with either parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- In a small, shallow bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon together with a spoon until blended.
- Use a 2-tablespoon muffin scoop to scoop out the dough. (This size scoop will give you a large, thick cookie.)
- Roll dough ball in the cinnamon-sugar mixture a couple of times until the ball is completely coated. Place it on the lined baking sheet.
- Repeat rolling out all the cookie dough balls. Space them about 2 inches apart. A half-sheet baking pan will hold 6 cookies.
- Bake in the hot oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are set, but the middles don’t look entirely done yet. They should not be doughy but slightly underbaked. The baking time will vary based on dough thickness and your oven temperature.
- Remove the baking sheet from the oven and place it on a cooling rack for 5 minutes. This gives the cookies a chance to finish baking with the residual heat from the pan and solidify.
- After 5 minutes, transfer the cookies from the cookie sheet to the cooling rack.
Cooling and Resting
The cooling and resting phase is one of the most important but often skipped parts of making cookies. It takes patience, but you will love the taste of the cookies if you do it.
- Cool the cookies on the wire rack until they are completely cool. This could take 30 to 60 minutes, depending on your kitchen temperature.
- When the cookies are cool, place them in an airtight container for 1 to 2 hours. (Or freeze them overnight. See instructions below.)
- After the cookies have rested in the closed container, serve them. You will love the soft and chewy texture and unbelievable taste.
Freezing the Cookies
My favorite time to eat the cookies is after they have been frozen overnight and then thawed. Try it if you are patient enough.
- After the cookies are completely cool, stack them in columns of 3 or 4.
- Double wrap them in plastic wrap.
- Place the cookies in an airtight freezer container.
- Freeze at least overnight, but several days is fine too.
- Remove from the freezer several hours before serving them. Allow the cookies to come to room temperature. If you have a lot of cookies, thaw them overnight. If you want to eat just one, thaw it for an hour.
What to Serve with Snickerdoodles (or any chewy cookie)
- Hot chocolate. Hot chocolate is the way to go if you are eating these holiday cookies in the winter. Try hot chocolate made with chocolate chips for a quick, tasty drink.
- A cold glass of milk. Classics are always the best. Or try almond milk or chocolate almond milk. In our house, some people think dunking a cookie is the best part.
Can you Make Snickerdoodles Without Cream of Tartar?
You bet! And they will taste great. Enjoy the recipe below.
- 396 grams (3 cups + 1 tablespoon) of flour, Gold Medal all-purpose
- 4 grams (1 teaspoon) of baking powder
- 3 grams (½ teaspoon) of table salt
- 227 grams (1 cup) of unsalted butter, cool room temperature, about 65°F (20°C)
- 330 grams (1⅔ cups) of white, granulated sugar
- 2 eggs, cold, straight from the refrigerator
- 5 grams (1 teaspoon) of vanilla extract
- 38 grams (3 tablespoons) of white, granulated sugar
- 8 grams (3 teaspoons) of ground cinnamon
- PREHEAT the oven to 400°F (225°C).
- SIFT several (4-5) cups of flour back and forth between 2 large bowls 3 to 4 times.
- WEIGH 396 grams of the sifted flour on a digital kitchen scale and place it in a bowl. If you don't have a scale, use 3 cups + 1 tablespoon of flour. (Measure carefully.)
- WHISK the baking powder and salt into the flour.
- In a separate bowl, CREAM 330 grams (1⅔ cup) sugar and the butter together with an electric mixer on high for 1½ to 3 minutes, or until the texture progresses from sandy to creamy. Please note: The butter should be between 62 to 65°F (16 to 20°C). Colder butter could prevent the cookie from spreading enough as it cooks. Warmer butter will cause the cookie to spread too much when baking and may create a more crispy cookie. If the butter gets too warm, refrigerate it for a few minutes before creaming it.
- BLEND the vanilla and eggs into the creamed sugar and mix on medium speed for 15 to 20 seconds. Please note: Take the eggs straight from the refrigerator before blending. They should be cold.
- MIX the flour mixture into the wet ingredients. Use an electric mixer on low speed and mix until the flour is incorporated. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to get all the flour.
- In a small, shallow bowl STIR the cinnamon with 38 grams (3 tablespoons) of sugar until well blended.
- SCOOP the cookie dough with a 2 tablespoon muffin scoop.
- ROLL the cookie dough ball in the cinnamon-sugar mixture until it is completely coated.
- PLACE the cookie dough ball on a heavy duty aluminum cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (or a silicone mat).
- REPEAT rolling the cookie dough balls and place them all on the baking sheet 2 to 3 inches apart.
- BAKE for 8 to 10 minutes. Rotate the cookie sheet in the oven at the 6-minute mark so the cookies bake evenly. Then bake an additional 1 to 3 minutes, or until the edges are set, but middle does not look completely done. Use your judgement here. The cookie should not be doughy. Bake until the cookies look almost done.
- REMOVE the baking sheet from the oven and cool the pan on a cooling rack for 5 minutes.
- TRANSFER the cookies from the baking sheet to the cooling rack and allow them to cool completely, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- REST the cookies. Place the cooled cookies in an airtight container for a minimum of 1 hour, but 2 to 3 hours is better. (A better option is to freeze them overnight. See instructions below.)
- SERVE with hot chocolate or a glass of cold milk.
- COOL the cookies completely.
- STACK the cookies 3 or 4 cookies high.
- DOUBLE WRAP the stacked cookies with plastic wrap, ensuring that the cookies are completely covered.
- PLACE the wrapped cookies in an airtight container.
- FREEZE the cookies for at least 24 hours. But a few days is fine.
- REMOVE the cookies from the freezer several hours before eating them.
- BRING the cookies to room temperature.
- UNWRAP the cookies and place them on a serving plate.
- EAT AND ENJOY!
- Weighing ingredients instead of measuring by volume will give you the best results in this recipe and all baking recipes. I like the Oxo kitchen scale, but any accurate scale will work.
- Make sure your oven temperature is accurate by testing it with an oven thermometer.
- Using cold eggs, straight from the fridge keeps the batter cool and prevents the dough from spreading too much while baking. The end result is thick cookies.
- If you use a smaller cookie scoop, reduce the bake time by about 2 minutes. Keep a close eye on them while they bake.
- Resting the cookies after baking them is optional. However, they taste amazing and have an incredible soft, chewy texture when you rest them before eating them.
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Serving Size1 cookie
Amount Per Serving Calories 128Total Fat 10gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 2gCholesterol 24mgSodium 48mgCarbohydrates 3gFiber 0gSugar 1gProtein 1g
- Try our famous pumpkin snickerdoodles, a twist on the classic cookie. The pumpkin puree and brown sugar make a slightly darker cookie. Roll them in sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger.