Last Updated on July 13, 2021
Today we’re going to be taking a look at the different types of yeast available and answering the question: is yeast extract gluten-free? Yeast and yeast extract are not the same thing and we’ll be taking a look at their differences, and which ones are gluten-free in this article.
What Is Yeast? And Is Yeast Gluten-Free?
Yeast is a type of fungus. Fresh and dried yeast are naturally gluten-free. Fresh yeast is what you’d usually find in your local bakeries. It’s important to remember that if a bakery isn’t solely gluten-free, there may be cross-contamination, so it’s always best to ask. As mentioned, dried yeast is naturally gluten-free and is usually found in stores. However, we all know how manufacturers love their additives! This means that some may contain wheat flour or wheat starch. We’ll be taking a look at suitable yeasts later.
What Is Yeast Extract?
Yeast and yeast extract are not the same – so always bear that in mind. They may have the same strong, salty flavor but yeast extract is often a thick, dark liquid. The extract is commercially made and will often contain gluten. If a product is not labeled gluten-free and one of the ingredients is yeast extract – it’s best to avoid it!
There are several ways it can be made. One of these is spent brewer’s yeast. Another is sugar beets. Brewer’s yeast is not gluten-free. Sugar beets are. As products are not obligated to stating which yeast extract has been used on their labels – it’s impossible for us to tell.
The National Celiac Foundation had this to say about yeast extract and whether it’s safe for us:
“We do not know at this time how often spent yeast is the source of yeast extract in products sold in the US. Until we know more, it is the recommendation of Gluten-Free Watchdog that individuals with celiac disease avoid products NOT labeled gluten-free containing the ingredient “yeast extract” [or autolyzed yeast extract] unless the source is confirmed to be gluten-free by the manufacturer.”
It’s also important to remember that different countries have separate FDA guidelines. I would always recommend checking your own country’s guidelines, as they may already have to legally disclose any gluten – no matter how small it may be.
Types Of Yeast
There are several types of yeast. Some of which are safe for us to consume. Let’s take a look at them.
This type of yeast is the one you’ll likely have heard of. Adding it to food that you’re baking makes it rise – and that’s because the yeast itself is multiplying! It’s quite aptly named Baker’s Yeast, as that’s what we frequently use it for. You can buy yeast from your local grocery stores and it’s very easily accessible. Whilst there’s not a huge range of Baker’s Yeast available, some safe brands you may see in your local store are:
- Bob’s Red Mill – Active Dry Yeast. This product is gluten-free but is also made in a facility that handles gluten-free oats. If you have a sensitivity to gluten-free oats (like me), it may be best to avoid them. Bob’s Red Mill’s website states that:
“This gluten free product was handled exclusively in our dedicated gluten free facility and tested for gluten free integrity in our quality control laboratory using an ELISA Gluten Assay test.”
- Red Star – Active Dry Yeast. This product is gluten-free, as is their Quick Rise Yeast. However, the Platinum Yeast is not safe for us and you should avoid it.
- Fleischmann’s – Active Dry Yeast. Many of their other yeasts such as pizza, bread machine and fresh are all safe for us – go Fleischmann’s!
Read more about: Is Unleavened Bread Gluten Free?
Is brewer’s yeast gluten-free? Brewer’s Yeast is an ingredient that is found in beer. And is the reason traditional beer is not gluten-free and unsuitable for us. Adding barley to Brewer’s Yeast to make beer is what makes it unsafe. After this process, it will contain traces of gluten and therefore, unsuitable for our lifestyle.
Saying that there are now plenty of gluten-free beer options on the market. And there’s also gluten-free brewer’s yeast that you can purchase.
- Nature’s Answer – Gluten-Free Brewer’s Yeast. It’s gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO, and full of protein.
- Anthony’s Goods – Brewer’s Yeast. This company tests by batch to ensure it’s gluten-free.
There are plenty of others but these were the most accessible options, which makes life easier for everyone.
Many of the brands above also have Nutritional Yeasts available. Bob’s Red Mill is always a good option. This type of yeast is grown is often grown on sugar beer and can taste very different from typical yeast. You use nutritional yeast in the same way you would cheese – just sprinkle over foods, and feel the benefits. Nutritional yeast is very good for your health.
Does Gluten-Free Bread Have Yeast?
The answer is yes! But it contains Baker’s Yeast which we now know is gluten-free. Check the label of the loaf in your cupboard – it will certainly contain yeast. How else would they make it so well-risen and fluffy, like gluten-containing bread?
A Look At Yeast Extract
To conclude, there are many yeasts out there that are suitable for us; in their natural form or otherwise. If there’s a product that contains yeast extract that you’re desperate to try but are unsure of its safety – get in touch with the brand. There’s often a way to contact a brand on their packaging and it will give you peace of mind to find out where the source of the yeast extract is from.
If that isn’t something you’re prepared to do, always shop for products that are labeled gluten-free. This is a lot easier to do than it once was, so it’s a definitely possibility.
Are there any brands I’ve missed that are worth mentioning? Please let me know in the comments below.
Hi, my name’s Zoë. I’m 28 years old and live in London, UK. I work full time as a freelance writer and critic for West End theatre. Writing has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. I spend most of my free time at the theatre, or at conventions. I’m married to the love of my life, and live in a small apartment with my fur baby, Lillie. I run two of my own blogs: No Safer Place and Stage to Page: both of which have won awards. I also have a YouTube channel where I talk about all things stagey.