Active Dry Yeast vs. Instant Yeast: What's the Difference?

And can you substitute one for the other?

A bowl of yeast

Abby Mercer/AllRecipes

The wonderful world of yeast is vast and can be confusing. But it's really not overly complicated — you just need to know a few basic facts about the yeast you're using before you commence bread-baking.

Yeast leavens bread and creates a light texture. And two of the most common yeasts, active dry and instant, produce extremely similar results. However, they are different ingredients and need to be used in different ways. Here's what you need to know.

What Is Active Dry Yeast?

You're probably most familiar with active dry yeast. It's sold in most grocery stores (in 1/4-ounce packets and larger jars) and is called for in many homemade bread recipes.

Active dry yeast consists of coarse, oblong granules. It can be stored at room temperature for a year or frozen for more than 10 years. Though it's more shelf-stable than other yeasts, it is also more susceptible to thermal shock (this can occur in response to a rapid temperature change).

How Does It Work and How Do You Use It?

Active dry yeast is a living organism that is dormant until activated; it needs to be rehydrated and proofed before using. Most packets of active dry yeast will tell you that it must dissolve it in lukewarm water before adding it to the rest of your ingredients.

Once you add the dissolved/activated yeast to the rest of your ingredients, it will cause the dough to rise.

What Is Instant Yeast?

Instant yeast, also called quick rise or fast rising yeast, looks like its active dry counterpart — but the granules are smaller.

Because of its fine texture and other additives, instant yeast activates much more quickly. It's best for quick baking projects, because it allows you to make bread with just one rise.

How Does It Work and How Do You Use It?

Instant yeast has more live cells than active dry yeast. This is what allows it to be so fast-acting. Unlike active dry yeast, instant yeast does not need to be rehydrated or proofed before it's added to the other ingredients.

Can You Substitute One for the Other?

Yes! You can absolutely substitute instant yeast for active dry yeast or vice versa. However, since each yeast reacts differently and produces slight differences in the final products, you should do so thoughtfully.

If you're substituting active dry for instant yeast, you should be prepared for a slower rise time (by about 15 minutes).

If you're substituting instant yeast for active dry, reduce your required rise time by about 15 minutes.

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