Here’s everything you need to know about the shelf life, storage, and expiration of fresh yeast. Learn how long fresh yeast lasts, how to store it, and when to throw it out.
Do you have a packet of fresh yeast that is a few days past the printed date, and you’re not sure if you can still use it? If so, you’re probably wondering how long fresh yeast lasts or how to tell if it’s still good.
Or maybe you bought fresh yeast (or cake yeast) for the first time, and you want to make sure if you need to refrigerate it or not.
ring a bell?
If so, you are in the right place. Let’s get right in.
How long does fresh yeast last?
|Preferred consumption + 3 – 5 days
Fresh yeast remains active for 2-3 weeks after packaging, as indicated by the date on the label. You might get a couple more days if you keep the fresh yeast tightly wrapped, but that’s about it. If you need more time, you can freeze fresh yeast.
Fresh yeast is a living organism that remains active only for a while. After a couple of days from the printed date, fresh yeast starts to lose its potency; in the same way that baking powder loses potency.
(The main difference is that fresh yeast takes only a few days, while powdered yeast takes months.)
Also, if you open the package and don’t wrap the leftover yeast well, it will dry out, further shortening the storage time.
So freezing is worth considering if you’re not an avid baker or don’t plan on using the entire package in a week or two. The process is pretty straightforward, and fresh frozen yeast lasts for a few months.
(I discuss this in more detail in my guide to freezing fresh yeast.)
You can also bake in batches and freeze what you have baked. Many baked goods only keep for a couple of days (for example, homemade cinnamon rolls keep for 4-5 days), but they freeze perfectly.
With that said, let’s talk about the signs of spoilage in fresh yeast.
When to Throw Out Fresh Yeast
Throw away any fresh yeast that is
- has dried up
- start to develop mold
- smell bad or moldy
- expired for more than 2 weeks
|If you tend to throw out fresh yeast, consider switching to dry yeast. Dry yeast lasts for months and you can keep it in the pantry.
If your fresh yeast looks and smells good and is no more than a couple of days out of date, you may be able to use it.
At this point, you have two options
- use your fresh yeast in your recipe
- taste it and use it in a recipe
If you’re pretty sure it’s okay, do it. But if you are not, it is better to try it before using other ingredients.
Let’s talk about how that works.
How do you know if fresh yeast is still good?
To ferment fresh yeast, start with 1/2 cup of warm water or milk (90° to 100°F, or 32° to 38°C) and dissolve 1 teaspoon of sugar in it. Next, add the baker’s yeast, mix until dissolved and leave on the counter for 10 minutes. If there is a lot of foam after 10 minutes, your fresh yeast is still good.
If there is no or very little foam, discard the yeast, because it is no longer active.
This is the basic scheme for fermenting fresh yeast, and many recipes incorporate it early in the process.
If one of the steps in your recipe involves making a mixture of hot liquid, sugar, and yeast and letting it sit on the counter, that’s fermenting. The proportions can be different, you can add a little flour or use a different sweetener, but the idea remains the same.
Keep in mind that the temperature of the water is very important. If the water is hotter than 120°F (48°C), the yeast will begin to die. You don’t want that, obviously.
If you don’t have a food thermometer handy, use water that is comfortably hot, but nothing hotter than that.
Finally, if fermentation is not part of the recipe and you follow the scheme described above, remember to reduce the amount of liquid added by half a cup and add one less teaspoon of sugar, since you have already added it.
By fermenting the yeast, you ensure that the dough you are going to make will convert from this (just mixed dough for my rolls):
to this (same dough after proofing for 90 minutes):
How to keep fresh yeast
Store fresh yeast in the fridge well wrapped. Stored this way, it will keep for a few days after the printed date. After opening it, put it back in the fridge after sealing it with its original packaging. Or better yet, put it in a freezer bag.
If you need to keep fresh yeast beyond the date printed on the label, you should freeze it. In that case, check out my article on freezing fresh yeast.