photo of two snickerdoodle cookies on a metal sheet pan

Can You Make Snickerdoodles Without Cream Of Tartar?

TL/DR: yes, you can make snickerdoodles without cream of tartar. In fact, I have one of the most popular recipes on my blog is this Snickerdoodle Recipe Without Cream of Tartar, which does exactly that.

But you might not want to after reading this post. Why? Cream of tartar is the ingredient that gives Really Good Snickerdoodles their flavor, texture, and even appearance. Watch the video below for a quick summary of how cream of tartar makes a difference:

@hummingbirdhigh snickerdoodle WITH cream of tartar versus snickerdoodle WITHOUT #baking #bakingtiktok ♬ Happy Pizza – Tom Howe

And let’s dive in.

What Is Cream Of Tartar?

Cream of tartar is an acidic by-product of fermenting grapes into wine. Bakers primarily use it to stabilize meringues and whipped creams, and to make traditional cookie recipes like snickerdoodles.

Although not many recipes call for cream of tartar, it’s worth keeping around because it lasts forever. And when you need it, you really need it.

So store cream of tartar in a cool, dry place. Always give it a quick look and a sniff before using it. It should be white in color with no major clumps, and it will smell mildly acidic.

Why Is Cream Of Tartar Used In Snickerdoodles?

According to Stella Parks, the former pastry editor of Serious Eats and James Beard award-winning cookbook author, the earliest recipes for snickerdoodles actually called for baking powder!

Snickerdoodle recipes were used in national advertisements for Cleveland Baking Powder as early as 1891. But baking powder wasn’t readily available back then.

As a result, enterprising home cooks substituted the baking powder with a mix of cream of tartar and baking soda. And that’s why many traditional recipes use cream of tartar!

Do Snickerdoodles Need Cream Of Tartar?

Not necessarily.

Although I am of the opinion that yes, snickerdoodles are better with cream of tartar—that’s why I included the ingredient in My Best Snickerdoodle Recipe! WHY? I like the tangy flavor that the cream of tartar gives this pretty classic recipe. AND In addition to flavor, using cream of tartar gives the cookies their signature appearance with pronounced cracks and crags on the surface:

close up photo of snickerdoodle with cream of tartar showing distinctive cracks on cookie texture

It makes their texture unique, too. The cookies are chewy and tacky throughout every bite. This is because the cream of tartar causes the cookies to puff immediately in the oven, then collapse as they cool.

That being said, I mentioned earlier that Cleveland Baking Powder, a prominent baking powder brand in the early 1900s, used a snickerdoodle recipe in its advertising as early as 1891. Their recipe did not use any cream of tartar—instead, it exclusively used baking powder. So you could argue that a snickerdoodle recipe without cream of tartar is the more authentic, original recipe!

What Do Snickerdoodles Without Cream Of Tartar Taste Like?

Even without the cream of tartar, snickerdoodles have a unique flavor and taste. They should taste like buttery sugar cookies with lots of cinnamon and sugar from the snickerdoodle topping.

In addition to having an effect on flavor, skipping the cream of tartar would also result in different textured cookies. Their surfaces are “wrinkled” instead of cracked:

close up photo of snickerdoodle without cream of tartar

Their texture is also more similar to that of a traditional sugar cookie (or even a chocolate chip cookie without any chips)! What does that mean? They are chewy and doughy in the middle, while crispy on the edges. Without the cream of tartar, the cookies did not puff and fall dramatically.

So are you ready to try the different snickerdoodle varieties and see what you prefer? Check out the links below for my favorite snickerdoodle recipes on Hummingbird High!

Traditional Snickerdoodle Recipes

Unique Snickerdoodle Recipes