Is Yeast Vegan?

Is this living organism an animal byproduct?

Hands covering yeast dough with a cloth (leaving it to rise)
Angie Norwood Browne/StockFood/Riser/Getty Images

Because yeast is alive when used in breads and baked goods, it may make you wonder if it is accepted as part of a vegan diet. Because it is not an animal byproduct, thankfully, it is.

What is Yeast?

Yeast, like mushrooms, is a eukaryotic microorganism classified in the Fungi kingdom. It is a single-cell organism that when activated essentially "burps," releasing carbon dioxide, making the dough expand.

 In layman's terms, this means that yeast is not derived from animal products or classified as an animal and is thus vegan-friendly.

Vegan-Friendly Yeast Breads

Although the yeast is safe for a vegan diet, there are plenty of ingredients in yeast breads that are not vegan—like butter, milk, and eggs—that make these baked goods not vegan-friendly. Before delving into a recipe it is important you read the entire list of ingredients. Better yet, here are a few vegan yeast-based recipes that may become your personal favorites:

Tips Using Yeast

Although yeast is somewhat simple to use, there are some helpful tips you can follow to assure success when baking with yeast. 

  • Get some yeast insurance: If you are unsure if the yeast is still active, there is a little trick you can do ahead of adding to the recipe. Using about 1/2 cup of the liquid called for in the recipe (that should be room temperature or lukewarm), pour it into a bowl and sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of sugar over. Stir and let it stand for a minute or two—if the yeast is active, the liquid will bubble and the yeast will have dissolved. 
  • Setting the best conditions: Once yeast is activated, it needs to be in an environment that is between 70 F and 80 F in order do its job properly. Keep rising dough in a warm spot—if your kitchen is cool, place the bowl of dough in a warm (but turned off) oven, or even on top of the refrigerator. If your kitchen is too warm, just be prepared the dough may rise quicker than expected. 
  • Storing unused yeast: Since it is the warm temperatures that make the yeast active, it is the very cold temperatures that basically pause their activity. By storing unused yeast in the freezer in an airtight container, you can extend the life of the yeast beyond the expiration date.