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Monday, February 1, 2021

Active Dry Yeast, Instant Yeast, or Bread Machine Yeast?

There's a lot of confusing information out there about the different types of dry yeast stocked in the baking aisle of grocery stores. Walmart carries Active Dry Yeast, Rapid-Rise, Quick-Rise, Bread Machine Yeast, Instant Dry Yeast and a couple of these fancy yeasts, such as Platinum Instant Yeast with dough enhancers and Gold label SAF-Instant Yeast. Last spring, when every store was out of yeast, I was looking to get any reasonably-priced yeast I could find. You could say I was not at all picky by the time June rolled around. I eventually found 1-lb bags of SAF-Instant Yeast in stock and grabbed it while I could.

For the most part (for us home-bakers,) the differences between the most common dry yeasts are minimal. But it is helpful to understand the properties and benefits of each.

Active Dry Yeast (use 2 1/4 teaspoons enough for up to 4 cups of flour)

  • widely available
  • been around for decades -- If a bread recipe was published before 1970, this is likely the type of yeast originally used.
  • The flavor of this yeast is preferred by many bakers for its milder, less-yeasty taste.
  • In King Arthur's tests, Active Dry Yeast takes longer to fully rise, as much as twice as long.
  • Since ADY takes longer to rise, this is a good yeast to choose when you need to focus your attention on something else for more than an hour during the rising process, such you need to run out to pick-up your kids, or run a very quick errand, without missing that crucial window to pop your loaves of bread into the oven.
  • ADY is also the yeast to use for a recipe calling for 2 rise periods for the dough. Mostly, you find this extra rising in the instructions for older bread recipes.
  • According to Red Star, you don't need to rehydrate the yeast in warm water first, although you can if your recipe calls for that step.
  • Years ago, there was a more significant difference between ADY and Instant yeast. King Arthur's Flour says the difference today is minimal.
  • For most applications, ADY and Instant Yeast can be used interchangeably, just don't expect the same timing on rising dough.
  • If using a bread machine, Red Star recommends adjust the amount of yeast according to the the type used: for Active Dry Yeast, use 3/4 teaspoon yeast for every 1 cup of flour; for Instant Yeast, use 1/2 teaspoon yeast for every cup of flour.
  • When using ADY, liquids (not including softening yeast) should be between 110 and 115 degrees F, per Fleischmann's website.

Instant Yeast  (2 1/4 teaspoons for up to 4 cups of flour)

  • came onto the market in the 1970s
  • may say "fast-rising", "highly active", or "fast acting" on the label
  • not recommended for refrigerated or frozen yeast dough use -- per Red Star
  • a smaller granule size of yeast compared to ADY
  • considered an easy-to-work with yeast because it is added directly to the dry ingredients, dissolving into the dough very quickly (no need to proof in water)
  • Instant Yeast loaves rise faster than ADY loaves because the yeast produces more carbon dioxide bubbles than ADY
  • According to King Arthur's website, SAF-Instant Red is their preferred yeast for most bread baking.

The brand SAF has both a Red label and Gold Label Instant Yeast

  • Saf-Instant Red is a basic instant yeast, good for almost all yeast bread -- artisan, pizza, sandwich, rolls, bagels
  • SAF-Instant Gold is a particular yeast designed to work with very sweet doughs -- Challah, Panettone, Hawaiian bread or rolls

Rapid-Rise (Fleischmann's brand), Quick-Rise (Red Star brand), or Bread Machine Yeast (Fleischmann's brand) (use 2  1/4 teaspoons for up to 4 cups of flour)

  • These are instant yeasts that may also contain enzymes to strengthen the gluten, accelerate fermentation and condition the dough.
  • works 50% faster than ADY
  • designed for one quick rise in the dough
  • In King Arthur's test, the Quick-Rise yeast loaf initially rose faster than Instant or ADY, but after one hour of rising, lags behind the Instant Yeast loaf and requires an extra 15 minutes (still much faster than the ADY loaf).
  • often used in bread machines
  • Some bakers say this yeast does not produce as flavorful a loaf of bread as ADY or Instant Yeast, can be yeasty in flavor.
  • Dough can be mixed and kneaded, then formed into a loaf immediately (single rise after loaf formation only).
  • In using Bread Machine Yeast in the bread machine, softening in water is recommended. Use 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 cup water, 110-115 degrees F (from total amount called for in recipe), stir in yeast and allow to stand 5-10 minutes. Add to remaining ingredients. The remaining liquids should be about 80 degrees F for use in bread machine.
  • For the regular cycle on bread machine, use 1/2 teaspoon Bread Machine Yeast for every cup of flour
  • For 1-hour recipes or express setting on bread machine, you'll want to double or triple that amount of yeast for every cup of flour (1 to 1  1/2 teaspoons yeast for every cup of flour).
  • When using Rapid Rise or Bread Machine yeast outside of the bread maker, Fleischmann's recommends a temperature of  120 to 130 degrees F for the liquid ingredients.
  • You can use Rapid Rise, Instant Yeast, or Bread Machine Yeast interchangeably with minimal variation in outcome.

Additional info:

  • 1 packet of yeast contains 2  1/4 teaspoons
  • For doughs with greater than 1/2 cup of sugar for every 4 cups of flour (for instance, if your recipe calls for 3/4 cup sugar and 4 cups of flour), use an additional packet of ADY or Instant Yeast. Sugar retards the yeast activity in dough.
  • Use 1 packet of yeast (2  1/4 teaspoons) for up to 4 cups of flour, 2 packets for up to 8 cups of flour, 3 packets for up to 12 cups of flour
  • When dissolving ADY yeast for hand mixing or using a stand mixer, use water between 110 and 115 degrees F; but when dissolving ADY for a bread machine, use water that is 80 degrees F -- per Red Star's website
  • Once opened, store large quantities of yeast (such as the bags) in an airtight container in the freezer or the refrigerator. Personally, I keep a small jar of yeast in the fridge and the rest of the bag in the freezer. King Arthur's website says that yeast stored in the freezer will keep and work as if it was fresh for a year. The article's author also says that they have had good results with yeast stored in the freezer for 6 years.
  • When following a recipe that calls for Rapid Rise Yeast, you can substitute ADY at 25% more (recipe calls for 1 teaspoon Rapid Rise, sub 1  1/4 teaspoon ADY)
  • When following a recipe that calls for ADY, you can substitute Rapid Rise in equals amounts, no change needed, per Fleischmann's website.
  • If yeast is way beyond the expiration date, check its viability before proceeding with recipe. Soften 2  1/4 teaspoons of yeast in 1/4 cup water (100-110 degrees F. Stir in 1 teaspoon sugar and wait 10 minutes. If mixture is bubbly or foamy, the yeast is viable and can be used in your recipe (deducting 1/4 cup liquid from overall recipe).



  1. Ugh, figuring out yeast. I've been baking bread since my son was little (he's 17 now) and I still find it confusing. I have the same instant yeast you have, Lili, ever since last summer when I was finally able to locate it at Gordon's Foods (restaurant supplier where the public can shop). Like you, I keep most of it in the freezer and a enough in the fridge to get me by for a month or two at a time. Thank you for delving into this, although I still find the difference between quick-rise and instant to be confusing .... although I think I have it figured out now. Thekitchn suggests buying one kind of yeast and sticking with it to figure out its properties and I think that's a good idea, especially if you are new to working with yeast. I have tried cake yeast also but decided it wasn't worth the time and effort involved (a relatively low time commitment is important to me at this stage of life).

    1. Hi Kris,
      I forgot to mention, but the author of one of the articles on King Arthur's Flour website said her favorite yeast is SAF-Instant Red label (the kind both of us have). She thinks it has the most of the qualities that she needs for home-baking. And that's something we need to keep in mind -- we're home-bakers, not selling bread in a bakery where we'd want everything to be perfect. My only suggestion is if you have a recipe that calls specifically for Quick-Rise yeast and what you have is Instant is to check online if you need to make any adjustments to the amount or timing. The KA testing showed that QR yeast rises faster than Instant, then stops and Instant actually crowns higher in the end. The Quick-Rise, Rapid-Rise, and Bread Machine Yeasts may have additives (enzymes or ascorbic acid) that condition the dough in some way, from what I read.

      I'm with you on wanting easy right now. I'd like to try cake yeast, as I've heard it gives a better flavor to the bread. But for the time being, I'll stick with what's easy.

  2. I don't make many yeast breads so the 1 lb bag of yeast I bought several years ago (great cost at Costco) is still mostly full but remains good. I used it just last week and put it back in the freezer where it's stored. I only use active dry yeast and it works just fine in my bread machine with the approx. ratio of 1 t./2 cup of flour. However, bread machines handle yeast differently, so I don't know how it applies elsewhere. One of the big selling points of the machine I have is that there's no fussing with the yeast. I just add it in a little well on the top and it's released into the dough at the proper time. My machine is at least 20 years old, so I don't know what advances they have made in this area.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      That sounds like your have a good system that's working well for you. One of the things I read was that modern ADY yeast is not as slow to combine with the ingredients as it used to be, and you can add to the ingredients without proofing, like we all used to. I don't recall whether or not this included bread machines. But, as you're the one baking your bread for your family, you are the expert in how to make bread that your family likes in your own bread machine. I've had yeast last years in the freezer, too, and still function just fine.

  3. This is quite interesting. I've never thought there is several types of dry yeast... Because I usually use fresh yeast. This one keeps nicely in the freezer at least 1,5 years. After 2 years it needs a bit longer to activate, but still works. I don't bake a lot of bread because my mother provides us with bread, but I do make pizza dough regularily enough.

    1. Hi Ulvmor,
      That's good to know about fresh yeast keeping in the freezer. I didn't realize that. I've wanted to try fresh yeast some time. Not all of the stores in my area carry yeast in that form. I'll have to look around. That's so wonderful that your mother provides your family's bread -- I am imagining that she is a great baker.
      Thanks for the info on fresh yeast, Ulvmor!

    2. As far as I know, all fresh yeast don't survive freezer, so it's better to check fron producer's website if you can freeze it.

  4. Add me to the "confused about yeast" group. I use the SAF instant yeast because that's the one I could most easily get. What I don't understand is the warnings on some yeast packets, for instance, pizza yeast. It says it's for pizza and warn not to use it for bread but why not? I stick with SAF and sometimes I just throw it in and sometimes I add it to water and let it get bubbly. I never see a difference in rise times except if my kitchen is cool or warm. My family never complains and gobble it all up.

    1. Hi Alice,
      the one thing that makes pizza yeast different than bread yeast is pizza yeast has dough conditioners added to relax the dough and make rolling out into crusts easier, without the spring-back that one normally gets. Despite this, I've found that regular yeast works fine as long as I don't make my dough super stiff. You can also refrigerate pizza dough for an hour before rolling out to relax it. I do that with crescent roll dough so I can roll it thin. Maybe if you used pizza yeast on loaves of bread the rise would somehow be different?
      I think a satisfied family is all the feedback you need on your bread!


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