Active Dry Yeast vs Instant Yeast

Active Dry Yeast vs. Instant Yeast Baking Basic By: Cece Kirkwood This post may contain affiliate links.
A photo of ingredients | Photo By Tucker Good on Unsplash

When I started baking more often, I remember walking down the baking aisle and seeing two types of yeast. Active Dry Yeast and Instant Yeast. I remember calling my mom and asking her, “did it matter which one I bought?”. Her simple answer was yes, look at the recipe and buy that one, but also buy the other because it’s good to have both on hand. 

So I followed her advice, bought both and went on with my baking days. But now I want to know… what IS the difference between the two? 

Before we can dive into the difference, let’s take it back to the basic building blocks…

What is yeast? 

Yeast is a beautiful, wonderful ingredient to baking. It is in part what gives bread that delicious smell you breathe in deeply when passing by a bakery. It is a fungus…

Yes… a fungus! And it is ALIVE! 

Fungi can be found everywhere; from plants to baking ingredients to places on your body (both good and bad). Yeast is a mostly good type of fungi and a very important piece to the baking puzzle. When added to baking ingredients – it creates a magic-like reaction to help dough grow! 

It does this by breaking down carbohydrates, like sugar, by eating them up and getting to work. When the yeast devours its favorite food, it creates carbon dioxide. If you remember from our conversation on Baking Soda and Baking Powder, that is the exact gas we need to grow our baked goods. 

THIS is the beginning of our fermentation process…more on that later. 

What is the difference between instant yeast and active dry yeast?

By asking this question here, I can promise you, yes, there is a difference. While they are both leaveners and both help raise up your baked goods, the way they interact with the ingredients in the bowl are different. 

Active Dry Yeast

Active Dry Yeast is the more commonly found yeast. It is probably the easiest to find at your grocery store.

Active dry yeast remains dormant until it is activated when it is dissolved into water with a carbohydrate, usually sugar. It requires time to proof and cannot be introduced directly into the dry ingredients without this proofing time. 

Once the yeast has had time to marinate and feed on the carbohydrates, and you see bubbles beginning to form (hint: that’s the carbon dioxide forming) it is ready to make magic happen. 

Instant Yeast 

Also known as Rapid or Quick Rise Yeast. Instant yeast does not need time to proof. It is ready to dance and create rainbows right away and can be added directly into the dry ingredients without the need for proofing time. 

Can you substitute instant yeast for active dry yeast? 

As we’ve just learned, active dry and instant yeast are different, which means that each one will affect ingredients differently. 

Ultimately, yes, you can substitute one for the other but you need to keep in mind that…

  • When using Active Dry Yeast, you must dissolve and proof the yeast in water and sugar before adding in the dry ingredients. Wait for the bubbles to form! 
  • When using Instant Yeast your dough will rise a bit faster than with Active Dry. Not by much, but enough to keep an eye on. 

Which is better – instant or active dry yeast?

The benefit of Active Dry Yeast is that you are able to check and make sure the yeast is still alive before you get into baking. Because it needs proofing time in the water and sugar, you can ensure it is active by whether or not it creates bubbles (i.e. carbon dioxide). Bubbles = active Active Dry Yeast. 

Instant Yeast on the other hand, because it does not need proofing time and won’t react the same way when added to water and sugar, there is no easy way to tell if it is still active. 

That being said, neither yeast is better than the other. It really depends on the recipe and if you want to save on time. 

What’s the best way to store yeast? 

If you purchase yeast in small individual packets, keep it stored in a cool, dry place and it will remain fresh for up to two years. 

If you purchase a larger quantity of yeast, like me, make sure to place it in the freezer or fridge to keep it nice and tidy and ready for use. It is important it is stored in an airtight container and once opened, it will stay fresh for 4-6 months. 

A close of photo of yeast | Active Dry Yeast vs Instant Yeast

Do you have any more questions?

I’m here to answer any question you might have! Drop me a line on instagram and let’s chat!

Baking By Cece is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

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