Yeast is one of the most commonly found ingredients in kitchen pantries around the world. Here’s everything you need to know about this affordable ingredient, which is essential in baking. Including the answer to the question: is yeast vegan?

A bowl of yeast foaming in water

Yeast is commonly used in nearly every cuisine. You can find it in most people’s pantries, and on the shelves of nearly every restaurant. Yet despite being integral in so many things that we eat, a lot of people don’t know what yeast is, what it does, or if it’s vegan.

Here’s everything you need to know about yeast.

What Is Yeast?

Yeast is a single-celled organism that is technically a fungus. That’s right, a fungus!  While many people think of the grains in yeast packet as being one yeast each, it actually takes tens of billions of yeast cells just to weigh a single gram. 

In other words, yeast is really small … but it’s also really important. 

What Does Yeast Do?

Yeast is responsible for fermenting sugar, which releases carbon dioxide. Yeast is very common in baking, because dough traps in carbon dioxide, and doesn’t allow it to escape. As the gas expands but doesn’t escape, it forces the dough to also expand, which is how dough rises. 

While yeast is most famously used for helping breads and other doughs rise, it has other purposes, too. Yeast is used to ferment sugar into alcohol in the production of alcoholic beverages. 

What Are the Different Types of Yeast?

When people talk about yeast, they’re usually referring to baker’s yeast. That’s the type of yeast you use in bread and other baked goods. Baker’s yeast comes in three forms: fresh, dry active, and instant. Instant yeast and dry active yeast are both dry forms of yeast, while fresh yeast is a wet cake. 

There’s also brewer’s yeast, which is used for making beer and other alcoholic beverages. It is sometimes dry, but usually comes in liquid form.

Finally, nutritional yeast is a common ingredient in kitchens. Nutritional yeast is deactivated, so it won’t cause any fermentation. Instead, it only provides taste and nutritional value. Nutritional yeast is common in vegan cooking because of its cheesy flavor.  

Is Yeast Vegan?

Yes! Yeast is simply a type of fungus, so it’s as vegan as any plant or mushroom is. Which is to say, it’s entirely vegan! 

How to Tell if Yeast Is Still Good

Yeast has a decent shelf life, but like so many foods, it can eventually start to die. Thankfully it’s very easy to test to see if your yeast is still alive. All you have to do is mix yeast with some warm water and sugar, and wait a few minutes. If the yeast bubbles, expands, and gives off an aroma, then it’s still good to use.

For more detailed instructions on testing to see if yeast is still good, check out my guide.

A spoon pouring yeast into water

How to Store Yeast

Now that you know yeast is vegan you’ll want to keep some in your kitchen for spur-of-the-moment baking. If your packet of yeast has not been opened, then you can store it inside a cabinet until it reaches its expiration date. Once the yeast has been opened, you’ll want to store it in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. Yeast should last at least 4 months in the fridge and at least 6 months in the freezer, but it’s always wise to test if the yeast is still good. 

Some Delicious Yeast Recipes

Yeast is a featured ingredient in almost every bread recipe. It’s also a prominent ingredient in many other forms of baked goods. Here are 3 of my favorite recipes that utilize the magical rising powers of yeast.

Vegan Donuts

The yeast in these donuts gives the treats an airy, pillowy texture. This recipe is luxurious, and the donuts will absolutely melt in your mouth.

Vegan Japanese Milk Bread

The only way to describe this bread is that it’s like eating a cloud. A delicious, slightly-sweet cloud. The yeast gives this recipe amazing lightness and fluffiness.

No-Knead Bread

Making bread doesn’t get any easier than this recipe! Just mix together a few simple ingredients, let the yeast do its thing, and you’re ready to bake some delicious bread.