FAQs about yeast extract

Frequently asked questions about yeast extract

Most people living in the UK or Australia will have heard about yeast extract already – it is popular to use it as a spread on sandwiches and toast. In other European countries people do not have a clear understanding of yeast extract – what yeast extract is, its health benefits and how it is used in cooking. We have answered the most frequently asked questions below.

Yeasts are truly a natural all-rounder and essential for the production of common foods. They occur in nature as wild yeasts everywhere and are bred as culture yeasts with specific properties. Fresh yeast has been used for thousands of years to make bread and beer and is also essential for making wine. Yeast extract is also made from fresh yeast. Enzymes break down the proteins that are present in the yeast cell into smaller components and disintegrate the cell wall so that the content dissolves out of the cell. The remaining cell walls are removed by centrifugation. In simple terms, yeast extract is made up of proteins, amino acids, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals from the yeast cell without the surrounding cell wall.

Yeast extract is a natural ingredient composed of a variety of amino acids, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals and is rich in high-quality proteins. Its base fresh yeast provides a rich blend of natural components. Although yeast extract is not made up of any animal ingredients, the taste is similar to that of a meat bouillon. This is because many of the same taste giving amino acids are present in both yeast extract and meat bouillons.

Yeast extract is used in many products available in the supermarket. It is used for instance to refine sauces, bouillons, soups, meat dishes, ready meals and savoury snacks. In the UK and Australia, it is common to put a savoury yeast extract spread on toast and sandwiches. In other countries yeast extract is available for consumers in supermarkets and organic food shops.
Yes, yeast extract is an ingredient naturally derived from fresh yeast. No natural additives, like salt, or synthetic additives are added to the yeast extract during the manufacturing process.

Yeast extract has been used as an ingredient in food products for approximately the past 75 years. However, the basic ingredient for yeast extract, fresh yeast, has been used for thousands of years to make bread and beer. Combining ingredients and influencing taste is what cooking is all about. Yeast extract not only adds taste, but also brings out and balances flavours in products, just like herbs and spices do. That’s why today, yeast extract is a very popular ingredient in food production and food manufacturing.

Yes. Even though it provides a meaty taste to food, yeast extract does not contain ingredients from animal origin and is therefore suitable for vegetarian and vegan dishes. Read more …

Most yeast extract is naturally gluten free as it is made from baker’s yeast. However, yeast made from brewer’s yeast may contain gluten. An example of this is Marmite, the most popular brand of spreadable yeast extract, which is made from brewer’s yeast and contains slightly more than the 20 ppm gluten standard, making it unsuitable for coeliacs.
Currently in the EU, manufacturers do not need to stipulate whether or not their yeast extract is made from baker’s or brewer’s yeast, so the safest way to check if your yeast extract product is suitable is check for the sign ‘coeliac safe’.
Yes, yeast extract contains macronutrients such as carbohydrates and proteins, and micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. It is a high-quality source of plant protein and is particularly rich in B vitamins, which are good for cell health and to boost energy levels. The protein content of yeast extract is comparable to eggs or milk, but with no animal components. As a completely natural ingredient, it is a good way to add flavour to dishes without the need to add any additional salt.

Yeast extract contains around 65% of protein. Its origin, natural yeast, is composed of a rich mix of proteins and amino acids that are also found in yeast extract.

Thanks to its rich mix of protein compounds, yeast extract has an aromatic taste of its own. This brings a delicious, savoury note to foods, even those with a low salt content. It has an effect similar to that of a spice and thus helps to lower the salt content without loss of flavour. Nutritional experts advise a similar approach when they recommend using aromatic herbs in order to facilitate with less salt in the kitchen.
No, it is a completely natural ingredient made from yeast. It is not an additive or a flavour enhancer and should not be labelled as such.
No, yeast extract is recognised as safe and harmless and has been used as an ingredient in food production and recipe development for decades.
There is no difference. The term “autolyzed” simply describes the process whereby enzymes present in the yeast split the yeast proteins and other macromolecules into smaller molecules. You cannot make yeast extract without autolysis. It does not mean that the yeast extract is artificial or had any additives added to it.
No, nutritional yeast is a whole-cell yeast grown specifically as a food product. During the nutritional yeast manufacturing process, the yeast cells are killed off, making them inactive.
Nutritional yeast is sold as powder or flakes and adds a savoury, cheesy flavouring to recipes. Both nutritional yeast and yeast extract have an umami taste.

Many fresh products naturally contain glutamic acid, including tomatoes, peas and mushrooms. Our body also produces glutamate, regardless of the food we consume. Indeed, it is naturally present in saliva and breast milk. It is also one of the many natural components of yeast extract.

In comparison with other foods we consume daily – including tomatoes, mushrooms and cheese – the glutamic acid level of yeast extract is therefore very low. For instance, one tomato contains on average approximately twice the amount of glutamic acid present in 200ml of yeast extract flavoured bouillon.

Find out more about natural glutamic acid.

No, yeast extract is a natural ingredient which also contains the amino acid glutamic acid, which is also present in many other foods, such as tomatoes and cheese. It contributes to a savoury taste. Yeast extract is added to food to impart flavour and meets the definition of ‘flavouring preparation’. This is not to be confused with monosodium glutamate (MSG) which is purified 100% sodium salt of glutamate and under EU regulations must be declared as an additive. Different to yeast extract, MSG has very little taste and is only used to make existing flavours stronger.

Yeast extract, used with a primary function of flavouring in foods, can be labelled as “yeast extract” or “natural flavouring” in the list of ingredients. If yeast extract is added to food for nutritional purposes, then “yeast extract” is a generally accepted customary name that can be included in the list of ingredients. Read more on food labelling.

As yeast extract has an aromatic taste of its own, it is used only in small quantities – just like other seasoning ingredients. The concentration of yeast extract in dishes is typically around 1%.
Yes! Independent health authorities have analysed all available evidence and declared it safe. Furthermore, the level of glutamate contained in yeast extract does not present any problems, as it only represents a small amount of the total extract. In comparison, 25 grams of parmesan (one tablespoon) contains roughly five times more glutamate than a cup of bouillon made entirely from yeast extract.