Yeast: Healthy Alternatives

Yeast: Healthy Alternatives


Yeast is an essential ingredient in many sweet and savory preparations. For baking purposes , it is usually sold as instant or active dry yeast, a tan-colored powder made from a yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae .

Dry yeast is activated in the presence of water and sugar when it begins to metabolise sugar. This process activates the production of carbon dioxide bubbles which remain trapped in a thick paste. Then, they expand at room temperature or when exposed to heat, causing the dough to rise.

The fermentation process is due to particular microorganisms (i.e. small fungi) called yeasts : bread and the majority of bakery products , but also cheeses , wine and many other products that are part of the daily diet are obtained thanks to leavening or fermentation .

It is possible to replicate this leavening process without yeast.

Bicarbonate and acid component

Among the alternatives to yeast, we find sodium bicarbonate to be used combined with an acidic substance. The baking soda and acid work together to trigger the same reactions as baking powder. However, using baking soda or acid separately won’t cause baked goods to rise—you need to combine them for the reaction to occur. Using baking soda and acid does not require a rise time and the rise effects will not be the same as baking powder.

Examples of acids to use in conjunction with baking soda to replicate the leavening action of yeast:

  • lemon juice
  • milk and vinegar mixed in a one to one ratio
  • Cream of tartar

What quantities? To replace baking soda with baking soda and acid in a recipe, use half the required amount of baking soda with baking soda and the other half with acid. For example, if a recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of baking powder, use 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of acid.


Mother Yeast

Mother yeast contains natural yeast. It is prepared with flour and water and used for sourdough dough. Sourdough can be stored and regenerated for years, continuously fermenting to provide a strong flavor and smooth texture to artisan breads or baked goods.

Fermenting with sourdough works the same way as fermenting with instant yeast, forming carbon dioxide bubbles in the dough to make it rise. Using sourdough instead of baking powder, however, takes about twice the rising time.

What quantities? Use 300 grams of sourdough to replace 2 teaspoons of yeast.


How to make sourdough at home

The preparation of the mother yeast requires a minimum of 5 days. Then you need to keep it fresh to use. You need:

  • at least 600 grams of all-purpose flour
  • at least 600 ml of water

Five steps for five days

  • Day 1: Prepare the starter with 120 grams of flour and 120 ml of water in a large glass container and cover with cling film or a clean kitchen towel. Leave at room temperature.
  • Day 2: add 120 grams of flour and 120 ml of water to the starter and mix well. Cover lightly and leave at room temperature. By the end of day two, you should see bubbles forming, which means the yeast is growing and fermenting.
  • Day 3:  Repeat the steps on day 2. The mixture should smell yeasty and have a good amount of bubbles.
  • Day 4: Repeat the steps on day 2. The bubbles are increasing, the smell is stronger and tart, and the paste is growing in volume.
  • Day 5: Repeat the steps in day 2. The sourdough should smell yeasty and have lots of bubbles. It is now ready to use.

To keep the sourdough beyond the fifth day, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Use or discard half each week and feed it with another 1/2 cup (120 grams) of flour and 1/2 cup (120 mL) of water to refresh it.

Natural alternatives to baking powder

There are several alternatives to yeast for sweet and savory doughs. Those who are not  vegan , for example, can use egg white whipped until stiff with a pinch of salt . Or again, combine baking soda with yogurt as a leaven in the preparation of sweet baked doughs, which will be particularly soft.


Foamy beer

Using a very frothy beer for example in savory batters, but also in pizza or focaccia , can be a valid alternative to industrial yeast. In this case, not even baking soda would be needed. The beer must be added gradually : 100ml is the ideal dose for 200g of flour, 80ml of water and 2 tablespoons of oil. Finally, add the salt to the dough, leave it to rest for a few hours and then proceed with cooking. Choose an unpasteurized and very cloudy beer.

Cream of tartar

Baking powder can easily be replaced with cream of tartar. It is an acidic salt with leavening properties that is usually also found in the supermarket. It is a valid alternative to yeast, it is sold in powder form and can be used alone or together with baking soda. It is added to the dry ingredients, without the need to dissolve it.



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