Yeast: The Basics Article -
Add a Comment

Yeast: The Basics

What's the difference between active dry, instant, and fresh yeast?

Types of Yeast

Active Dry Yeast is the most commonly available form for home bakers. It's available in ¼-oz packets or jars. The yeast is dormant, needs to be "proofed" and rehydrated before using.

  • To proof yeast, sprinkle the yeast over warm water (105-115 degrees F) and a pinch of sugar, and let it stand for 10 minutes until creamy and bubbly.
  • Dry yeast should be stored in a cool dry place; but do not use it after the expiration date on the package. Store open containers in the refrigerator.

Instant Yeast is a dry yeast developed in the past thirty years. It comes in smaller granules than active dry yeast, absorbs liquid rapidly, and doesn't need to be hydrated or proofed before being mixed into flour.

  • Bread Machine Yeast and Rapid Rise Yeast is instant yeast that may include ascorbic acid, a dough conditioner.
  • Again, store the yeast in a cool dry place, or in the refrigerator once the package has been opened. Do not use yeast after the expiration date.

Fresh Yeast, also known as compressed or cake yeast, is active yeast. It's sold in tiny cakes in the refrigerated section of many supermarkets.

  • Fresh yeast does not keep well; it will last about two weeks if refrigerated. The yeast should be pale gray-brown, fragrant, soft and crumbly--not hard, dark brown, or crusty. Any mold growing on the surface is an indication that the yeast should be discarded.
  • Fresh yeast should be proofed in tepid water (80-90 degrees F) without contact with salt or sugar. This yeast type is a good choice for breads requiring a long cool rise, or for breads made using the sponge method.

    Wild Yeast and Starters

    Before yeast was available in grocery stores, bakers kept colonies of yeast for making bread. These colonies were known as starters, and were sometimes passed on from generation to generation. You can make your own starter using commercial yeast, by using potato water (from boiled potatoes) to attract and feed wild yeasts present in the air around us, or by using the yeast found on the skins of organic grapes or organic raisins. Keep the starter in a one-quart crock, jar, or airtight container.

    Learn about Sourdough Starters and how to use them.

    Want to Save This Article to Your Recipe Box?

    It's easy! First, copy the article's web address (Url). Then click My Recipe Box at the top right corner of this page. Click Weblink at the top of your Recipe List and paste the Url in the space provided. (Note: If you get a "Sorry...broken link" message, ignore it! Enter a Weblink Title, click Preview, then Save Weblink. Done!)

      Sep. 23, 2009 1:10 pm
      I am new to the bread machine, I just got one from Cuisinart. I am using the Active Dry Yeast, but little confused since the package says I should mix the yeast with warm water, soak and mix other ingredients, where as the bread machine recipes says, I should put the yeast as the last ingredient, away from any liquid. What works??
      Oct. 12, 2009 7:53 pm
      Mix liquids together, add butter, add yeast to liquids, let the yeast and liquids mix for a minute or two then add all the rest of your dry ingredients.
      Dec. 15, 2009 5:32 pm
      can I use brown sugar instead of white sugar this is my first time trying to bake with yeast.
      mary lou 
      Jan. 7, 2010 2:59 pm
      i've been baking artisan bread in 5 minutes a day for about a year now and always used Fleischman's dry yeast. today my husband bought another brand of instant yeast, I didn't know what to do. I am going to use it as you suggest just like the regular yeast andsee what happens....
      Bianca's Recipes 
      Jan. 16, 2010 6:03 am
      Lena, brown sugar is much sweeter and healthier than white sugar. Since I live in the Caribbean I get plenty of brown sugar.When a recipe says white sugar and I only have brown I only use half or three- fourths of brown sugar for the amount of white.
      Jan. 19, 2010 6:58 am
      i love home made bread i just started to make my bread i dont have a bread machine i use my hands to knead the bread i would like some recipes on self knead bread plez
      Jan. 19, 2010 7:09 am
      i live in french saint martin but am from dominica
      pamela depaoli 
      Jan. 22, 2010 2:31 pm
      what is proofing yeast mean?? please help
      Jan. 28, 2010 7:24 pm
      Pamela - proofing is the step described above where you mix the dry yeast with warm water and a little sugar, stir and wait for a few minutes until it is bubbly. Basically - you are "proving" that the yeast is still alive - the bubbles and foam are the "proof".
      Mar. 8, 2010 11:27 am
      Has anyone tried to grow their own yeast?
      Apr. 5, 2010 11:23 am
      i just made my first starter by combining flour and water in a covered bowl over the course of a couple days. its been bubbling and ive been feeding it, but have not added any packaged yeast. i would like to make a sourdough without having to buy any prepackaged yeast which is what i thought the point of making the starter was about-yet almost all the recipes i find require adding dry yeast in addition. is it possible to make a fluffy delicious sourdough loaf using only my starter?
      Jun. 8, 2010 10:53 pm
      One thing I have learned is to stick to it. As long as you get some bubbles, there is life. After 4 days, my starter wasn't looking good, but by 8 days, it was doubling regularly after each feeding. Take the time to create a really reliable and productive starer, and you will benefit from it with delicious bread!
      Jun. 16, 2010 11:42 am
      Aliloali, Yes, you can make sourdough with out having to use additional yeast. Here is the ingredient list 2 Cups of sponge (proofed starter) 3 Cups of unbleached flour 2 tablespoons of olive oil or softened margarine 4 teaspoons of sugar 2 teaspoons of salt Take your starter out of the fridge. Pour it into a large glass or plastic bowl. Meanwhile, wash the jar and dry it. You may also wish to pour boiling water over it, since you don't want other things growing in there with your pet! Add a cup of warm water and a cup of flour to the bowl. Stir well, and set it in a warm place for several hours. This is called "proofing," another word for fermenting. Sourdough bakers have their own language; use it to impress your friends ;) Watch for Froth and and Sniff. When your sponge is bubbly and has a white froth, and it smells a little sour, it is ready. The longer you let the sponge sit, the more sour flavor you will get. I ususally start mine right before I go to bed a
      Jul. 8, 2010 7:16 pm
      Kneading dough by hand: I do ceramics and found that the techniques for wedging clay work well for wedging dough. Same idea: get contents to mix evenly and consistently. Clay wedging techniques allow you to wedge quickly and smoothly. Even large weights so if you can master that you can master the biggest lumps of dough. There are a number of videos and websites out there with instructions. The machines just tools to help, not a necessity.
      Sep. 18, 2010 8:38 am
      I have a natural sourdough starter that I started from organic grapes in March of 2000. I use it almost every day in my restaurants and the culinary school in which I teach. If you bake often,it must be fed every day no matter what.I have traveled with my starter and it just gets better and better with each region of the country that I go to. Before I took it to my Mountain house in Arkansas, it didn't have the complexity it has now with huge blisters and crispy crust. I learned all about sourdough baking by reading Nancy Silverton's "Breads of the La Brea Bakery" (I think that's the name) but she is the authority on all things sourdough. Be sure to save some in the freezer in case of accident. Or you can dry some on a sheetpan and crumble it up into a zip-bag. I have found this style of baking very rewarding!
      Sep. 18, 2010 8:45 am
      Also, you don't need (or want any commercial yeast in your starter. Commercial yeast is too powerful and will overcome the natural yeast you've worked so hard to generate. The whole process of making a good starter takes about 10 days. It will be funky and smelly at first, and you wont be able to imagine that something good can come of it, but as I said, around day 8-10 it will be fragrant and ready to make great bread. Just read the first chapter of "The Breads of the La Brea Bakery"
      Oct. 11, 2010 11:52 pm
      INSTANT yeast is the only way to go for us novices: bulk bag far less $ over the year(s) as no need to combine with exact temp H2O. Most grocery stores even WalMart carry it. Can store airtight room temp or freeze. Lots of tips/tutorials on King Arthur Flour site incl. no-fail rise technique. Learned from them then use basics for recipes on Allrecipes which I LOVE! I'm no longer afraid of yeast and after sweet rolls, white bread, am going to attempt seeded rye/wheat breads. (just one opinion, not trying to change those of you who have mastered or want to try anything else.)
      Nov. 9, 2010 2:59 pm
      I was told not to mix yeast in a metal bowl- is this true?
      Nov. 13, 2010 7:18 am
      where do I find active dry yeast.
      Nov. 28, 2010 6:12 pm
      I saw active dry yeast at whole foods today it's in the fridge.
      Nov. 30, 2010 6:59 pm
      If anyone knows exactly how much yeast is in one packet (of a 3-strip), I'd love to teaspoons. Please email me at Thanks so much!
      Dec. 18, 2010 10:13 am
      Can I make cinnamon rolls without yeast?
      Jan. 6, 2011 12:59 am
      Look up recipe for "Sticky Apple Biscuits".It's the closest I found to non-yeast cinnamon rolls.Apples and applesauce are optional(also honey if you don't have any)but extra nuts for filling are a must.Good Luck!
      Jan. 13, 2011 7:30 pm
      I have been baking bread and english muffins with a wild starter that I started last May. I keep it in the fridge and once a week feed it by pouring 1 cup into a quart jar and adding 1 cup flour and 1 cup water. The remaining starter I use to make bread without using commercial yeast. I follow regular yeast recipes but add a step. I add 1 cup liquid(from the recipe) and two cups flour to starter and let it rise double. After the rise I add the rest of the ingredients minus 2 cups liquid (1 from the starter the other added previously) and minus 3 cups flour (starter and 1st step). This has worked well for me and my bread has risen wonderfully. Another tip is that if you want sourdough make sure the bread rises slowly. I slow mine down by placing in the refrigerator and going to work. When I get home I take it out and let it come to room temperature. Bread can take 2 days to make this way but it does have the essential sourdough taste. I'm still learning and hope my experienc
      Feb. 8, 2011 1:36 pm
      when a recipe calls for kneeding the dough by hand, can iinstead do this on my kitchen-aid mixer? how do i know when its ready?
      Mar. 23, 2011 2:29 pm
      Thank you LABlasky, cheferuni and Sara, just the information I was looking for today to get me inspired once again! :) I've been experimenting with a sour dough starter and so far it hasn't risen bread recipes well enough to make fluffy bread. I am dedicated to continuing until I figure out a combination of proofing, refrigerating and raising the dough to get a bread we like, that also fits into our fluctuating daily grind.
      Apr. 10, 2011 2:03 pm
      Can cinnamon yeast rolls be made ahead except for the final rising? I wood like to put them in the refrigerator overnight and let them rise just before baking.
      Apr. 25, 2011 9:26 am
      I've been using Fleishman's instant dry yeast in one lb packages for years now (I get mine from a baker's supply place). I keep what I don't use in the freezer and it will keep for up to a year (but mine never lasts that long ;) ) I haven't seen any recipes in here for making whole wheat bread. If you want I can post a recipe or two. I use freshly ground wheat and gluten flour.
      Jun. 13, 2011 10:32 pm
      please post a few recipes i love food always like new breads
      Jul. 7, 2011 11:39 pm
      What is the benefit of using instant yeast?
      phil St. Pierre 
      Aug. 6, 2011 8:29 am
      how long between batter in the pan to putting in the oven?in the batter stage how long should i wait t bake?
      Aug. 20, 2011 7:31 am
      Does anybody know how to get a real yeasty taste to homemade yeast rolls?
      Feb. 24, 2012 8:26 am
      Reply for Sandra I too purchased a kitchen Aid mixer (took back two different bread machines I wasn't happy with the results) and YES you can knead the bread mixture with your Kitchen Aid mixer See page 31 of your instruction book If you have misplaced your book , Add all ingredients except about 2 cups of the flour, put the dough hook on and mix at Speed # 2 slowly addding the remaining flour a 1/2 c at a time. Mix about 1 1/2 min. or until dough leaves the side of your bowl. Continue mixing for another 2 min. or till dough is smooth and silky and elastic. Dough will still be slightly sticky to the touch. Place in a greased bowl to rise turning to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place. Hope this helps.
      Mar. 22, 2012 6:42 pm
      I am going to make the starter for Amish Friendship Bread. It calls for active dry yeast, can I use quick rise yeast???
      Apr. 1, 2012 8:55 am
      I don't have enough active yeast to make my favorite recipe, but i do have bread machine yeast and would like to use it. but I don't know how to figure out how to convert the amount by 25%, I am looking for a chart to go to so I don't have to rely on math. Is there a place where the amount is figured out for me.
      Apr. 18, 2012 11:33 am
      Thanks for giving the conversion and equivalent rates. That was helpful to me.
      May 1, 2012 6:34 am
      Wonderful! I love to bake breads & Rolls but seems me an yeast have a love/hate relationship! After reading this I feel a lot better at trying my hand again at it soon!
      Jun. 20, 2012 9:33 am
      Hello people, I always use active yeast, and will until a recipe chages my mind on what I should be using. Linda G.
      Jul. 7, 2013 5:55 am
      Pls. help me in regards to successful "bread rise"..lately im having trouble with it..recently i came to know that yeast should be refrigirated after opening a package..what should i do so that my bread will rise? my yeast ~instant dry yeast im using not ok?
      Jul. 13, 2013 10:34 am
      My mom, R.I.P use to make home made yeast rolls never actually measuring (pinches,handfuls,scoops)Finally got her to write it out..Unfortunately recipe got lost, does anyone have one i can use? She mixed it in a big white pan w/red trim. whole house smelled amazing.
      Subscribe Today!

      In Season

      Tart, Flavorful Rhubarb
      Tart, Flavorful Rhubarb

      Rhubarb adds its tangy flavor to everything from salsa to lemonade. Don't forget the pie.

      Perfect Summer Smoothies
      Perfect Summer Smoothies

      Warm weather calls for a cold, fruity smoothie. Choose from over 400 refreshing recipes.

      Subscribe Today! Only $7.99
      Subscribe Today! Only $7.99

      Delicious recipes, party ideas, and cooking tips! Get a year of Allrecipes magazine for $7.99!

      Related Videos

      How to Proof Yeast

      Learn simple tricks for proofing yeast to make breads & pastries light and airy.

      Quick Yeast Rolls

      These tasty rolls come together quickly--and disappear just as fast!

      How to Knead Dough

      Watch how to knead dough by hand with these simple step-by-step instructions.

      Most Popular Blogs

      Read our blog

      Recently Viewed Recipes

      You haven't looked at any recipes lately. Get clicking!
      Quick Links: Recipe Box | Shopping List | More »
      Argentina  |  Australia & New Zealand  |  Brazil  |  Canada  |  China  |  France  |  Germany  |  India  |  Italy  |  Japan  |  Korea  |  Mexico

      Netherlands  |  Poland  |  Quebec  |  Russia  |  SE Asia  |  United Kingdom & Ireland  |  United States