Is Yeast Vegan?

Yeast is generally considered a vegan-friendly food. Since it is neither plant nor animal. In fact, yeast is a part of the fungus family. 

Due to yeast being a single-celled organism that turns food into energy, some strict vegans avoid eating yeast as, biologically, it is alive. 

Is Yeast Vegan?

However, the majority of vegans will eat yeast as it remains fungi. 

With this in mind, in the article, we will be outlining everything you need to know about yeast and its role in veganism. 

Why Most Vegans View Yeast As Vegan

Similar to a mushroom, yeast grows naturally in soil and on plants. As it is a part of the fungus family, yeast is generally considered suitable for vegans to eat. 

Yeast has an active role in the leavening process of bread, as well as fermentation in wine and beer.

Essentially, it converts carbohydrates into carbon dioxide which provides air for baked goods and flavor in alcohol fermentation. 

When heated, the yeast becomes inactive or ‘killed’, losing its fermentation properties, and leaving a savory taste. 

In addition to this, it also provides a great source of proteins, amino acids, folic acid (B9), and bioavailable minerals. These are notoriously difficult to find in a plant-based diet. 

Is Yeast Alive?

Technical, yes, yeast is a living single-celled organism. Similar to how humans eat carbohydrates and exhale carbon dioxide, yeast ‘consumes’ sugar and releases gas. 

Humans use yeast to raise bread (Find out Is Bread Vegan?), as well as ferment alcohol. Therefore, in this way, yeast is a ‘living’ organism. 

Although, unlike living animals, yeast only has one cell with no nervous system. Therefore, it doesn’t suffer in the same way animals can. 

As a result, vegans don’t see harvesting yeast in the same ways as animal cruelty, exploitation, or slavery. 

Although, some strict vegans will avoid yeast in the biological senses. 

Types Of Baker’s Yeast

Baker’s yeast is typically any yeast that is used as a leavening agent for bread. Here is where the bread gets its distinctive flavor. 

When placed in the oven, the heat removes the yeast, stopping the process of fermentation, and making consumption safe in large quantities. 

Active Dry Yeast

If you have ever made homemade bread, then you would have encountered active dry yeast. 

This usually comes in individual packets and contains dehydrated, granulated baker’s yeast that can be found in many grocery stores. 

When stored at room temperature, active dry yeast has a long shelf life and is only activated when in contact with warm water. 

Fresh Yeast

Also known as compressed yeast or cake yeast, fresh yeast can be found in perishable blocks of living, moist yeast. 

When stored properly, in an airtight container in the refrigerator, it can remain fresh for up to two to eight weeks. 

Likewise, it can also be found in most grocery store baking sections. 

Instant Yeast

Instant Yeast

This instant yeast has a smaller grain size than active dry yeast. 

This yeast is dehydrated at lower temperatures which ensure most of the yeast continues to live. 

As a result, it works best when mixed with dry ingredients, avoiding the first rise of the bread. 

Similarly, it can also be found in the baking section of most grocery stores. 

Wild Yeast

This is a blanket term used to describe various strains of yeast, including Candida milleri and Saccharomyces exiguus, wild yeast refined with simply water and flour

Active and alive, if kept fed and refrigerated, wild yeast will continue to metabolize. 

While both sourdough starter and wild yeast are considered wild yeast, they differ in both taste and maintenance. Likewise, the wild taste has more flavor. 

Various wines rely on yeast during the fermentation process from the grapes. 

Types Of Brewer’s Yeast

Similar to baker’s yeast, brewer’s yeast is also a live culture and can be found in both liquid and powder forms.

During the beer brewing process, the yeast is deactivated, making it safe to consume in large quantities. 

Lager Yeast (Bottom-Fermenting)

This cooler temperature yeast is defined by its slower fermentation process. For bottom-fermenting yeast to bloom, it can take weeks. 

This stretches out the brewing time but provides that distinct flavor you find in pilsners and lagers. 

Ale Yeast (Top-Fermenting)

Identifying top-fermented yeast is easy. In the beginning stages of the fermentation process, the yeast creates a thick head (foam) just above the liquid. 

Warmer temperatures can ferment porters, ales, wheat beers, and stouts in a couple of days. 

Types Of Cooking Yeast

While baking yeast provides leavening, cooking yeast provides flavors. 

This type of yeast is generally found growing on molasses, it is then harvested and cleaned which kills the yeast, making it safe to eat in large amounts. 

Yeast Extract

Generally known for its brown paste consistency, yeast extract is largely found in Marmite and Vegemite, popular foods in the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. 

Yeast extract is found within the content of the yeast cell but without the cell’s wall. Yeast extract provides unami, one of the main basic tastes. 

Many vegan foods contain yeast extract to achieve the savory, ‘meat’ flavor without including it. 

Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is a popular cheese substitute in many vegan recipes and it can be found in yellow flakes at many health stores. 

As a vegan diet continues to grow, nutritional yeast will become easier to purchase in large grocery stores, too. 

Torula Yeast

This yeast comes from an entirely different strain – Candida utilis. It can be naturally found on liquidized wood pulp. 

The yeast is harvested, dried, and then ground into a powder. It can often appear as a vegan cheese and meat substitute due to its smoky, rich flavors. 

Final Thoughts

When it comes to determining whether or not yeast is vegan, it often comes down to their specific diet.

Generally speaking, most vegans consider yeast vegan; however, strict vegans consider it as a living organism. Hopefully, this guide has informed you all about yeast and its role in veganism.

Clara Howie
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