Can You Use Nutritional Yeast To Make Bread?

Active dry yeast and nutritional yeast may come from the same family, but they're not interchangeable.

Our habits surrounding time at home have changed significantly over the past couple of years. Whether spending quality time with the family or picking up some soothing solo activities, chances are you've embraced something new. Maybe a new craft such as learning how to knit, embroider, or cross-stitch. Some have devoted extra attention to their gardens; the simple, highly physical acts of weeding, tilling, and harvesting can be very therapeutic.

But one activity in particular has skyrocketed in popularity with so much of our time being spent at home. This is baking bread from scratch. Homemade bread requires time and dedication, but it comes together with just a few simple ingredients that you likely have stocked in your pantry.

Baking for Mental Health

We've known for a long time that baking has proven psychological benefits, but when you're working with limited resources, baking bread from scratch is also very practical. With more people than ever cooking and baking from their pantries, bread is a simple project recipe that reaps great rewards.

In the same vein, many home cooks that face dwindling pantry supplies are getting creative with substitutions. Generally speaking, we're all for culinary creativity; recipes should act as guideposts, but you can and should put your own spin on a dish. Substitute frozen peas for fresh? Sure. Canned beans for dried? Have at it. When it comes to bread, though, the rules are a bit more rigid.

Person scooping nutritional yeast from bulk section
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Know Your Ingredients

Since bread requires very few ingredients to begin with, most of the listed items are essential to baking a good loaf. Our No-Knead Buttermilk Bread only calls for 5 ingredients; while it may be fairly simple to find a work-around for an ingredient like buttermilk—which you can make at home by combining liquid dairy with an acid—other ingredients like yeast are irreplaceable.

Yeast is what gives bread its essential rise; most bread recipes call for active dry yeast, which is made by reducing fresh yeast to a granular state. When combined with warm water and a little sugar, active dry yeast ferments and converts its "food" (sugar and starch) into carbon dioxide, causing the dough to rise.

Active dry yeast may be dormant, requiring warm water and a little bit of sugar to activate and kick off fermentation, but it is still in fact alive. Similarly, instant yeast is a form of dry yeast that requires no activation or proofing—simply mix it into your water or dry ingredients and you can count on it to deliver the same rise. If you don't have active dry yeast on hand, instant yeast can be used as a substitute.

What Is Nutritional Yeast?

But what about nutritional yeast? Although nutritional yeast comes from the same family as active dry yeast, nutritional yeast's live cells are killed during the manufacturing process. Since the yeast cells are not alive, they will not undergo fermentation and cannot serve as a leavening agent in your bread. When baking bread, you cannot use nutritional yeast as a substitute for active dry yeast, but you can use nutritional yeast flakes—which are a good source of protein, fiber, amino acids, and vitamins—to add flavor to your loaf. You can use nutritional yeast as a tasty seasoning or to add a nutrient boost to your favorite foods.

Yeast Alternatives

If you want to bake bread but have no active dry yeast available, you still have options. Many of our breakfast breads don't require any yeast. Our Southern Skillet Cornbread uses self-rising cornmeal mix as its leavening agent; similarly, self-rising flour creates fluffy, flaky layers in Our Favorite Buttermilk Biscuits. Don't have self-rising flour? Our Food Editor dishes on how to make your own.

You can also try your hand at a recipe for unleavened bread, like tortillas or other flatbreads. Homemade corn tortillas are sure to upgrade your family taco night. Now is the time to get cooking!

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