Yeast Conversions for Recipes

Equivalents of Different Varieties of Yeast

Fresh and dried yeast, close up
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When baking bread or certain cakes, recipes will call for a certain amount of yeast—but it may not be the type you have in the pantry. Yeast comes in two forms: fresh, as compressed cakes or blocks, and dry, which is in the form of dehydrated granules. The dry yeast is sold in a few different varieties, including instant, bread machine, and rapid rise. There is also yeast starter (which helps grow yeast or restart dormant yeast), sponge (a mixture of flour, water, and yeast often used for sourdough bread), and biga.

Biga is used in Italian baking, mainly for types of bread with lots of holes, like ciabatta. 

Fresh yeast is most often used by professional bakers whereas the dry yeast is for the home cook. But which version of dry yeast is best to have on hand? Since no one keeps six different varieties of yeast in their kitchen, this handy conversion chart will help you substitute the type of yeast you have in the pantry for what is called for in your recipe. Whether the recipe lists the yeast by volume, weight, or by the number of envelopes, this chart has you covered!

Yeast Variety Conversions

1 Packet (Envelope) of Active Dry Yeast Equals:
Weight1/4 oz.
Volume2 1/4 tsp.
Instant Yeast1 envelope or 1/4 oz. or 2 1/4 tsp.
Bread machine Yeast1 envelope or 1/4 oz. or 2 1/4 tsp.
Rapid Rise Yeast1 envelope or 1/4 oz. or 2 1/4 tsp.
Fresh Yeast1 (0.6 oz.) cake or
1/3 of (2 oz.) cake
Yeast Starter, Sponge, Biga1 cup

Tips for Using Yeast

Many people find using yeast intimidating—knowing if it is still active, getting the right water temperature, whether to add sugar or not. But yeast doesn't have to be scary. By following a few tips, you can become comfortable incorporating yeast into your baking.

  • Storing yeast—never worry if your envelope of yeast has gone dormant. By storing the yeast in the freezer, you will have active yeast for many months to come.
  • Water temperature—to activate the yeast, you need to add "lukewarm water." It does not need to be a specific temperature, just feel slightly warm, like room temperature. After adding the water, let it sit for a minute or so, then stir with a fork until smooth. 
  • Adding sugar—adding a pinch of the sweet stuff can be considered somewhat of a wives' tale, as it doesn't help the dough rise. But it will cause bubbles if the yeast is still active, so if you are questioning whether the yeast is expired or not, this is a good test.
  • The right temperature for rising—yeast needs a temperature between 70 F and 80 F to reproduce, so if your kitchen is colder than that, you can place the dough in a previously warmed oven that has been turned off. If your house is too warm, a cold oven may be the right spot. Just be sure not to expose the dough to temperatures below 50 F as that's when yeast goes dormant.
  • Certain ingredients slow rising—if your dough includes eggs, dairy, fat, or salt, the rising time will be slowed. A simple dough of flour and water will rise faster.