Best Substitutes for Yeast

Baker's yeast

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More people are baking now than ever. You may be using your oven more these days to make your own bread, muffins, and sweet treats. And, you are not alone.

However, because so many people are baking at home, essential supplies like yeast are in high demand, potentially making it hard to find at times. If you are just about to get started on your weekly loaf of homemade whole-grain bread and you are all out of yeast, what can you do?

While yeast is an essential baking ingredient—especially for items like bread, rolls, and pizza dough—you have options. Here are some of the best substitutes for yeast.

Uses of Yeast

There are more than 1,500 species of yeast, which is a single-celled organism that breaks down complex molecules into simple molecules it then uses for energy. As a member of the fungus family, about 250 species of yeast have the ability to convert sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol. 

However, the strains of yeast used in cooking come from one species: Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In the grocery store, it is called baker’s yeast or brewer’s yeast. When used for baking bread, rolls, or pizza dough, the yeast converts the sugar in the flour to carbon dioxide gas, causing the dough to rise. This creates the quintessential light, airy texture you expect in a loaf of bread. 

The yeast also makes alcohol from the sugar. However, the amount of alcohol is minimal and gets burned off during the baking process. Yeast works in a similar fashion when making beer, wine, and hard cider. When mixed with the cereal grain for beer or fruit for wine or hard cider, the yeast converts the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Whether used to make bread or beer, yeast influences the flavor, color, and texture of your food or drink. Yeast comes in many forms, but in the baking aisle of your grocery store, you are most likely to find dry active yeast or instant yeast. You have to rehydrate dry active yeast in warm water before using, while instant yeast requires no pre-soaking and can be added directly to dry ingredients.

Yeast Nutrition Facts

Though only a single-celled organism, yeast is a source of many essential nutrients including protein, fiber, and folate. The nutrition information for 1 tablespoon (12 grams) of active dry baker’s yeast is from the USDA. An entire recipe will typically call for 1 tablespoon (or less) of yeast, so the nutrients you would be getting in a slice of bread or a muffin will be much less.

  • Calories: 39
  • Fat: 0.9g
  • Sodium: 6.12mg
  • Carbohydrates: 4.94g
  • Fiber: 3.23g
  • Sugar: 0
  • Protein: 4.85g
  • Folate: 281mcg

Folate is one of the B vitamins, which your body needs to synthesize DNA. Though most people meet their daily folate needs, women of childbearing age need to make sure they get an adequate supply of this specific B vitamin to reduce the risk of birth defects. This usually means taking a supplement and eating foods rich in folate.

Why Use a Yeast Substitute

With so many people doing their own baking, the demand for yeast is up. This might make it harder for you to find the yeast you need at your local grocery. As a result, you may be searching for a good substitute for yeast if you cannot get your hands on this baking ingredient.

Or, you may need to avoid yeast and foods containing yeast because of an allergy. Though not a common food allergy, some people have an immune-related reaction when they consume foods that contain yeast. Like any other food allergy, avoiding the allergen is the primary treatment. 

You may also be searching for a substitute if you suspect you have yeast overgrowth. If you suspect that you have Candida overgrowth or if you suspect that you have a yeast infection, contact a healthcare provider. They can determine what treatment would be best for your symptoms.

It can be tempting to cut out certain foods (including added yeast). But finding out what the root cause of symptoms is before making any changes is very important.

Best Substitutes for Yeast

Yeast is a leavening agent that helps dough rise and make bread soft, light, and airy. If you are unable to find the leavening agent at your grocery store or you need to avoid yeast, there are other ingredients you can use instead. 

However, because yeast is a living organism, which creates products of fermentation, it is hard to create the exact taste and texture with these substitutes. And, unfortunately, you cannot make beer without yeast. If you are using yeast for baking, here are some possible alternatives.

Baking Soda and Acid

Baking soda is a leavening agent. When combined with an acid, baking soda creates carbon dioxide gas like yeast. Combining baking soda with an acidic ingredient like lemon juice makes a good option for a yeast substitute in a pinch.

Use 1 teaspoon of baking soda with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice for every 2 teaspoons of yeast. It is important to note that baking soda can contribute a slightly bitter flavor to certain recipes. You also will need to get your recipe to the oven fairly quickly after adding the acidic component so you don't lose those airy bubbles.

Nutritionally, baking soda and lemon juice are not significant sources of any essential nutrients, according to the USDA, with the exception of sodium. Baking soda is high in sodium with 1,260 milligrams per teaspoon.

Baking Powder

Baking powder is a leavening agent that contains baking soda and an acid, usually a cream of tartar. This leavening agent also works as a substitute for yeast, helping to create volume and texture in your baked goods.

Use 2 teaspoons of baking powder for every 2 teaspoons of yeast in your recipe. Like baking soda, baking powder is not a significant source of any essential nutrients but is a source of sodium.

Sourdough Starter

If bread baking is your thing and not having yeast means no homemade bread, then you may want to consider a sourdough starter. In fact, sourdough starter can be used as the yeast in anything that requires yeast—from muffins to cake. It just takes a littler more time when you use sourdough starter versus something like an instant yeast.

A mix of flour and water—along with a complex combination of bacteria and yeast— a sourdough starter is a fermented dough filled with natural yeast and bacteria that are found naturally in the air. The easiest way to get sourdough starter is to find a friend who has some or ask a local bakery if you can buy (or have) some of theirs.

To make a sourdough starter, there are several methods. Some suggest mixing equal parts of all-purpose flour and water and put them in a covered container and letting them sit uncovered in a warm area.

Store your flour and water mix at room temperature. Feed your mix daily with the same amount of flour and water for a total of 5 days. Around day 6, your sourdough starter should be bubbly and ready to use.

When substituting sourdough starter for dry yeast, the amounts will vary because the starter will also add liquid and flour to the recipe. Most recipes will have a sourdough alternative recipe online. The amount of fermentation time also varies depending on the recipe.

Continue to feed your sourdough starter to keep it going so you can continue to bake your own bread. Though a good substitute for yeast, a sourdough starter creates a more sour-tasting bread and also requires care to keep it alive.

A Word From Verywell

When it comes to substituting yeast in a recipe, it can get a little tricky. But if you cannot find yeast, or if you simply cannot eat it because of an intolerance or allergy, there are options you can use in a pinch. It may require some experimentation to replicate the texture you want, but in the end most of these substitutes will work just fine in a pinch.

12 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Jill Corleone, RD
Jill is a registered dietitian who's been learning and writing about nutrition for more than 20 years.