Let Us Now Praise Instant Yeast

SAF Instant Yeast one pound packageIf you’ve made or read through any of my recipes, maybe you’ve noticed that when they call for commercial yeast, it’s the unfortunately-named “instant” kind. Unfortunately-named because doesn’t “instant,” when it comes to food, connote inferior and inauthentic? Can instant hot chocolate, instant onion soup, or instant rice ever measure up to the real stuff?

But instant yeast isn’t like that. It’s the very same organism, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, as fresh compressed (cake) and active dry, the other two forms of commercial yeast commonly available to home bakers. And plenty of professional artisan bakers use instant yeast too.

Like active dry, instant yeast (also called rapid rise, quick rise, or bread machine yeast) is made by essentially drying fresh yeast so that some of the cells die and form a protective layer around the still-living cells. The dried form has a much longer shelf life, about two years at room temperature for an unopened package, compared to about two weeks in the refrigerator for fresh.

That layer of dead cells is thinner in instant yeast than in active dry. That means that it can be added to the dough directly, without the rehydration that active dry requires. This makes it good for bread machines, but it’s also wonderful for all other breads.

But doesn’t instant (“rapid rise,” remember?) yeast cause the bread to rise faster, and doesn’t that mean the bread will have less flavor? Well, yes and no. If you were to make two doughs, one with active dry and the other with the same amount of instant, the one with the instant would rise faster. This makes sense, because, measure for measure, the instant has fewer dead cells, and therefore more living cells, than the active dry. And (to grossly oversimplify things), a shorter rise time does produce less flavor.

So guess what? You don’t use the same amount, you use less. If you substitute instant yeast for active dry at a ratio of 80% (by weight), you’ll get a dough that behaves and tastes virtually identical, without the hassle of soaking the yeast to rehydrate it. What’s not to love about that?

If you substitute instant in a formula calling for fresh compressed, use 40% by weight (or 33% for a pan bread that will rise at a warmer-than-room temperature).

I’ve listed conversion factors for the different types of yeast, by weight and volume, below.

I buy instant yeast in 1-pound bricks, which are available online and in some supermarkets and wholesale clubs. At $3 – $5 per pound, this is much more cost effective than the small jars or packets, even if you have to pay shipping, and even if you won’t use all of it before its meaningful life has expired. Keep it at room temperature unopened for up to two years, and in the refrigerator for six months once opened.

In a pinch, though, those small packages and jars found in every supermarket are the same thing, so use them if you need to.

I have used both the SAF and Fermipan brands of instant yeast, and found no difference between the two. I haven’t used Red Star but it’s made by the same company (Lesaffre) as SAF, so I would expect it’s just as good. And I have no experience with Fleischmann’s, but I have no reason to expect it to perform significantly differently from the other brands.

Find more information on the different forms of yeast at SFBI’s website and newsletter, and at King Arthur Flour.

Yeast Conversions

  • 1 tsp instant = 3.1 g
  • 1 g instant = 1.25 g active dry = 2.5 g fresh
  • 1 tsp instant = 1.3 tsp active dry = 0.4 cake fresh
  • ——–
  • 1 tsp active dry = 2.9 g
  • 1 g active dry = 0.8 g instant = 2 g fresh
  • 1 tsp active dry = 0.75 tsp instant = 0.3 cake fresh
  • ——–
  • 1 g fresh = 0.5 g active dry = 0.4 g instant
  • 1 cake fresh = 3 tsp active dry = 2.25 tsp instant

Online Sources for Bulk Instant Yeast

CommentsLeave a comment

  1. says

    This is the only way to go! I keep my main bag of yeast in the freezer, and my ‘working’ jar in the refrigerator, transferring when necessary.

  2. TiV says

    Thank you for the good info! I was just wondering about this yeast issue. Here in Finland we have fresh yeast and dry yeast (powder) which requires approx 42degrees Celcius in order to wake up, and it has to be mixed first with a little bit of flour. I was just thinking how to understand/manage with recipies with instant yeast. Great blog you have!! Best regards, TiV

  3. says

    I use Fleischmann’s since it’s the main brand available in my part of Canada. The jar is the largest size I will purchase (does it even come in bigger sizes? I don’t know) since I’ve been making so many naturally leavened breads lately and the jar lasts me quite long enough. I am happy with how it works – it is very reliable in my experience :)

  4. Trish says

    Thanks for the conversion chart Susan! I’ve saved it in my bread folder. I’ve often run to Google at the last minute to try and figure out have to substitute but now I have your great chart.

    Trish

  5. says

    Hi Susan, Good post. I have always preferred using the instant dry yeast over the fresh stuff. It keeps almost forever when refrigerated and generally makes bread production a little bit easier. My own rough conversion has always been to use 1/3 of the weight of fresh yeast with pretty reliable results. Take care and looking forward to your next post.

  6. Diana says

    Great Blog, thanks for taking the time to share. I live south of San Francisco and will have to look into taking one of those classes at SFBI. Have you found a local source for SAF Instant or are you buying it online? I’ll look around the area from Palo Alto to San Jose, but off hand I can’t recall seeing it at any of the stores. Thanks.

  7. Diana says

    NM the question about a local source for that yeast. I found it today for under $3.00 a pound at Smart and Final. :)

  8. says

    Tanna, you’re welcome!

    Judy, I do the same thing.

    TiV, I thought instant yeast was available everywhere, but I guess that’s not true. Glad to help.

    k., good to know about Fleischmann’s.

    Trish, I’m glad you found it useful.

    David, I agree it keeps almost forever. The party line is 6 months in the refrigerator but I have kept mine longer than that.

    Diana, I was going to suggest Smart & Final, that’s where I get mine.

    Katy, the bricks are so much more cost-effective, and also you can measure exactly the amount you need so there’s no waste like you might get with the packets.

  9. says

    I’ve always used Fleischmann’s active dry and use it measure for measure in recipes that call for instant yeast. So many recipes call for too much yeast as it is, so I’ve never thought it was a problem. Even for Maggie Glezer’s recipes that call for tiny amounts of instant yeast, I’ve used active dry measure for measure and the resulting bread has been great.

    And I’ve got to say that rehydrating isn’t really that much of a hassle. (Way less of a hassle than building up a wild yeast culture) There’s also the thrill of seeing the rehydrated yeast begin to bubble as other ingredients are being mixed.

    But please don’t get me wrong. Your post, as always, is most informative. Many thanks for the explanation.

    Do you have any ideas about conversions for commercial yeast to wild yeast (and vice versa)?

    -Elizabeth

  10. says

    Elizabeth, of course you should continue to do as you’re doing if it’s working well for you. Using wild yeast starter in place of yeast (or vice versa) in a recipe really yields a different bread, so I don’t really think of it as a conversion and don’t recommend being attached to any expectations about the results you will get. That said, I’ll plan to write more about this in a future post.

  11. says

    I love instant yeast as well. It’s easy to use and reliable. I buy it at Williams Sonoma for about $7, which seems pricey, but it’s much cheaper than the packets. I keep mine in the freezer.

  12. says

    I’ve been using the SAF red label for a long time and I love it. I keep a sealed container of it in the fridge (holds about 1/3 a package) and keep the rest in the freezer. But make sure to check your expiration dates. There’s nothing worse than trying to figure out why a recipe didn’t turn out when the problem was old yeast.

  13. says

    First time on the site — you’ve so inspiring! I have sold Red Star yeast for years, from a bulk source (I buy 5#, repack smaller quantities). Now I’ll have to bring in the instant. Even though it’s been around for a while, I had just the prejudice you describe — that instant wasn’t good enough.

  14. says

    Tracy, I didn’t know it was available from W-S. Good to know, as there are several stores near me.

    Chris, yes, good reminder about exp. dates.

    Susan, I think more and more people are “coming around!” Welcome to Wild Yeast.

  15. says

    What do you know about the other ingredients in Instant Yeast. That is where my concern is. It contains Citric Acid which acts as a dough condition (from what I’ve read), but it also contains another chemical (I don’t have my package in front of), but this chemical supposedly helps the yeast absorb moisture and work and is found also in other stuff like frostings, candy and lots of processed foods. Googling did not bring up a lot of concrete information. I know with food sometimes you have to “pick your poison” so to speak but since we are eliminating as many chemicals and processed foods as possible, I have been wondering about this in my yeast and have started using regular Red Star yeast. If you have heard anything else or have other resources to refer me to, I would love to know. Thanks for the awesome blog!

  16. says

    Theresa, I think you’re referring to sorbitan monostearate, which is added in small amounts to instant yeast. I admit I don’t know very much about it. Its purpose seems to be to assist in the dissolving of the yeast once it’s in the dough.

    I wouldn’t ding something simply because its used in processed foods and other things one might not want to eat. After all, dihydrogen monoxide (aka plain old water) is an ingredient in all of these things, too. I’m not saying this necessarily argues for the safety or desirability of a particular ingredient, just that I personally wouldn’t discount it for purely that reason.

    For what it’s worth, the Center for Science in the Public Interest lists sorbitan monostearate as apparently safe (unlike, interestingly, the natural sweetener stevia, which they designate in the most unsafe category).

    At the moment, my level of discomfort with sorbitan monostearate is not high enough to cause me to avoid it, but of course it’s not my place to make that decision for others. If you’re committed to avoid it altogether, though, be aware that many bakeries, especially small ones that produce the finest breads, do use instant yeast, and for whatever reason, labeling law does not seem to require that the yeast additives be included in the labeling of the final bread. Eating only bread you bake yourself with active dry yeast seems like a sensible option for you, given your concern.

    If you come across any new information from credible sources, I’d love to hear about it. Thanks!

  17. Sabrina says

    Sam’s Club carries Fleischmann’s Instant Yeast packaged in 2 16 ounce bags for $4.16 making it 2.08 a pound. I just bought a set of bags and their expiration dates are just at two years out.
    Thank you for the conversion chart I prefer instant yeast personally being a single mother of two disabled children, but in many recipes was rather unsure as to what amount to use in substitution. I made the mistake of teaspoon for teaspoon only once… It made a horrifying mess and overflowed everywhere. My children loved the giant rolls I ended up making with the dough but clean up was a nightmare.

  18. pollyo says

    hi, i just want to ask you if you read michel suas book, he has a yeast called osmotolerant instant yeast, i have ordered saf gold, instant from king arthur , i was wondering if you ever used it, it is for high suger (sweet doughs) and for sour acidity doughs.

  19. says

    pollyo, I have used SAF gold in panettone and brioche (high-sugar, high-fat, low-water doughs). I don’t use it in sourdough although I read on the KAF website that it’s good for that.

  20. Linda says

    I just received some SAF instant yeast and clearly missed the part where it said it came in a solid brick. I was expecting powder or granules — instant, ya know? I’ve never baked bread, wanted to get started, but I don’t even know how to use this big ole chunk. I haven’t opened package, but from feel of it, will have to hack off pieces. Some recipes call for packets, some for tablespoons, and I wind up with this thing where I’ll have to try to figure out how to convert hacked off bits of yeast into teaspoon measures. I may rethink this whole breadbaking idea.

  21. says

    Linda, it is vacuum-sealed so it feels like a like a brick before it is opened, but rest assured it is granulated. No hacking necessary!

  22. Linda says

    Well, whaddye know. Good thing no hacking needed because I’m dangerous with knife, notably to myself. If there’s granules in there, after all, I may make my first loaf of bread tomorrow. With luck. Thank you!

  23. ScienceBoy:) says

    Im a 6th grade student and im doing my 6th grade science report on “What kind of food does yeast like best?” my hypososis is that the food it will like best is “Sugar” ive got my Procedure and my materials but im missing my Info on what yeast is any help?

    -Ahmed 6th grade :)

  24. says

    Ahmed, cool idea for a project! I’ve been trying to email you with some information, but your email address doesn’t seem to be working. Click the “Contact Me” link at the top right of this page and let’s try again!

  25. Mimi Kendall says

    I have found your info here very helpful thank you. The only recipe I have for instant yeast requires no proofing of the dough (bread). I was looking online to find conversions for my other recipes that call for other yeasts. The only thing I haven’t found here on your site is talk about the proofing. Do I need to proof my dough that normally calls for it, if I’m converting to instant yeast?

  26. says

    Great blog! Thank you for the conversion charts. Very helpful! I also wanted to let everyone know that I have had a package of SAF Instant yeast in my refrigerator in a Tupperware container for about 18 months and it still works great! I do not store it at room temperature.

  27. Squiggles says

    Will the saf-instant in the red pack work for cinnamon rolls? I no it says to use the gold pack for sweet rolls but cinnamon rolls don’t have alot of sugar in the dough itself. I just found a small pack of this yesterday at a store by us and I was in awe..I can hardly wait to use it and want to make the cinnamon rolls for Christmas! Thanks in advance!

  28. says

    Squiggles, if you have a recipe that calls for osmotolerant yeast (SAF gold) but that is not available, you can use regular instant yeast (SAF red), increasing the amount by about 30%.

  29. Squiggles says

    Thank you for responding so quickly! I have no idea how much 30 percent would be though! My recipe calls for regular active dry yeast. Thank!

  30. Lisa says

    I was in Paris recently, enjoyed a wonderful homemade cake (Moelleux a L’Orange) and asked for the recipe. It was given to me in French & calls for “1 sachel levure (1 c a ‘cafe’)”. Trying to figure out how much & what kind of yeast that is. Please help! Thanks!

  31. Nancy Schmeing says

    1 sachel levure (1 c a ‘cafe’)”.

    It says 1 pack (like a teabag) of yeast, and to make sure you know how much it is, it says it’s one “coffee” spoon of it – a teaspoon. “Les plus petites cuillers sont les teaspoons (cuillers à café) ” (from Google books, one by Michael McCarthy)

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  37. jacques says

    Hallo,
    I am still very much a beginner at bread making and haven’t even dared move on to sourdough starters and so on. However, there is a recipe for a ‘pain de campagne’ that I’d like to try that calls for a sourdough starter. Can I replace the sourdough in the pre-ferment with instant yeast and by how much? The recipe calls for a preferment made up of 150g flour/100g water/30g sourdough starter.

  38. Amy says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! I live in the Middle East and Saf-Levure is the only type of yeast I can find, which isn’t, of course, a bad thing except I never knew how much or little to use. Thanks to you I now do! :)

  39. potato intolerance says

    Many yeasts are started with potato sugar. I know that Red Star does not. Do you know if Saf-Instant is the same and has no potato sugar in it? I am avoiding potatoes and have a lot of Saf-Instant in my food storage. You mentioned that the same company makes them both, I am hopeful then, that there is no potato sugar in Saf.
    Thanks.

  40. says

    Susan, thanks so much for this info! I didn’t know there was difference between “instant” and “active dry” (thought it was just terminology). I assume the off-the-shelf yeast I get here in Switzerland is instant, because it says on the packet that it doesn’t need to be premixed with water before adding to the flour – I always wondered why my bread over proofs so often and that must be it!

  41. mamatarrh says

    I was given a jar of KA yeast and was told it was kept in freezer but the person didnt know if it was active or instant? How can I test for that and if its good or not?

  42. paula says

    Help,

    I have bought some saf-levure yeast (instant)
    For bread machines do I dissolve the yeast in tepid water before hand or sprinkle the dried yeast directly in the bed mixture (as I normally do).

    Thank you Paul Byles

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