Spring Tastes
Making Muffin Batter Ahead of Time

What is Baking Ammonia?

I recently came across a cookie recipe that called for "baking ammonia".  What is that?



Baking ammonia, or ammonium bicarbonate, was used before the advent of baking soda and baking powder.  It is a chemical leavening agent originally made from the horns of deer.  The chemical formula is NH4HCO3.  When heated, baking ammonia breaks down into ammonia (NH3), water and carbon dioxide.  The carbon dioxide makes cakes and cookies rise, the same way that carbon dioxide given off by other chemical leaveners does.

Because the word 'hart' is an old term for deer, baking ammonia is also known as hartshorn.

Because baking ammonia gives off ammonia gas, it can affect the flavor of the finished product.  For that reason, it is best used for thin products, such as cookies, where the ammonia gas can escape easily, and drier products.  Moist products such as cakes will hold more of the ammonia gas.

Baking ammonia can be purchased at some drug and specialty food stores.  It usually comes as a lump and needs to be ground to a powder before use.  It should be kept in a well sealed container.

Do not confuse baking ammonia with regular, household ammonia used as a cleaner, which is poisonous.


I have made two batches of "Kvircedli", a Hungarian cookie, similar to Springerle. It calls for Baker's ammonia. Because of the smell and really bad taste, they needed to be 'aged' for about a month--stacked loosely on a large platter and aired. Only then could they be eaten.

Does anyone have similar experience? Nowhere have I seen the need for such aging mentioned.

I use baking ammonia in making pepper nuts and always was able to get it at drug stores. When they no longer carried it I had a science teacher order it using its formula. One quart jar will last me a life time. To store it I keep it in the freezer.

I'm Danish, and we use Baking Ammonia in a lot of our candy. In fact, I'm trying to make hard candy, but cannot locate large quantities of ammonia, which is how I came across this article. I may just have to order all the way from Denmark, which unfortunately will be quite costly, considering the added shipping. Thanks for the article...

Baking ammonia makes the lightest, most delicious cookies ever. I'm Greek, and it's pretty common for "koulouria" cookies. It does smell when you are baking (I sometimes worry that my neighbors thing I'm running a meth lab) but that's the ammonia escaping from the cookies and leaving them light and crisp. Substituting baking soda or baking powder (or a combination) makes the cookies taste much heavier. King Arthur flour carries bakers ammonia, as do many middle eastern/Mediterranean food markets.

Today at the grocery store a customer asked the clerk, who is a Greek-American, "Where is the ammonia?" I piped up, "With the cleaning supplies in Aisle 5." The clerk said, "Which kind do you want . . . for cooking or for cleaning." I said, "What? For cooking??? It's poisonous. I'm sure you have this mixed up with something else." I thought maybe she had the wrong word since she is not a native English speaker. Turns out she was right! Thanks for all of this information . . . now I know!

I was reading a book and one character talked about his favorite "Ammonia Cookies". I was quick to check out recipes with baking ammonia and really appreciated the explanation of what baking ammonia is. I had never heard of such a thing. Thank you!

While going through my great-grandmothers old recipes I found more than one Danish cookie recipe that called for baking ammonia, I was pleased to be able to find your site that explained what it is. Thank you.

How do you store powdered baking ammonia? Can you freeze it?

where can I purchase baking ammonia

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