To make sugar cookies without using baking powder, bakers use baking soda instead. Both products are leaveners, and sugar cookies made with this substitution are indistinguishable from those made with baking powder. However, baking powder is not an acceptable substitute for baking soda.
Sugar cookie recipes that call for baking powder work equally well when the baker substitutes an identical amount of baking soda. Cream of tartar is another useful addition. According to celebrity chef and cookbook author Paula Deen, the proper proportions for this substitution are one part baking soda per two parts cream of tartar. This produces light, soft and delicate cookies. Another excellent approach to making sugar cookies without baking powder is to use an equal mixture of baking soda and vinegar. These ingredients foam vigorously when combined, creating microscopic air pockets in the dough. This technique also works in many cake recipes. White and cider vinegars work equally well, and raspberry vinegar adds a delicious hint of fruity flavor.
Bakers who want to bake sugar cookies without baking powder or baking soda often proceed with the recipe and simply leave the baking powder out. This works best for cookies that are normally light and airy but taste equally delicious with a dense, chewy texture. America's Test Kitchen reveals that this strategy is only appropriate for recipes that contain eggs, because they also bind the ingredients and expand during baking.