Can You Freeze Fresh Yeast?

Fresh yeast doesn’t last long. If you’re not using it daily, most of each package you buy goes to waste. What if you could freeze fresh yeast?

If you’re a home baker who prefers fresh yeast (or baker’s yeast) over the dry variety, you know how it goes.

You buy a package of yeast, bake some cookies or bread, and put the rest in the fridge. If you’re lucky, you use another small chunk in a different baking project within a couple of days. Then the rest stays in the refrigerator, turns brown, and spoils within a week or so.

Incredibly wasteful, isn’t it?

That’s why I decided to test freezing leftover fresh yeast. This way, if it works out, I no longer need to line up a bunch of yeast-based recipes to use the whole block or throw out the leftovers. And both you and I know those “leftovers” are usually more than half of the package.

Line of baked bread rolls
Three bread rolls form yeast-based dough

Can You Freeze Fresh Yeast?

Before pulling the trigger, I did some research.

I found that there are roughly as many people who say freezing fresh yeast is okay as there people saying it’s either impossible or that the results aren’t consistent. That didn’t help much.

That’s why I decided to put that to a test. If I can’t get consistent results, meaning the baked goods don’t always rise the way they should, freezing the fungus is pointless.

Basically, I want to make sure that when I gather the ingredients, the whole thing won’t fail in its tracks due to the yeast not doing its part.

I described the test I run in the Freezing Fresh Yeast Experiment section at the end of the article. Read for more details and some pictures of what I baked.

Long story short, I confirmed that freezing fresh yeast works just fine, and is a good option if you want to store it for the long term.

Wrapped fresh yeast segments
Wrapped fresh yeast segments ready for freezing

How To Freeze Fresh Yeast

This whole procedure is super simple and takes only a couple of minutes.

Before you start, think about how you’re going to use the yeast after thawing, so you know how large your portions should be.

If you use fresh yeast in only a single recipe, it’s easy. But if you have a bunch to choose from, things get complicated. You can decide in advance exactly what you’re going to use those portions for. Or do as I do, and go for same-size chunks that are large enough for most of the baked goods I make.

Once you know your portions, you’re ready to go. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Unwrap the block and cut it into portions.
    Fresh yeast cut into portions
    Fresh yeast cut into portions
  2. Wrap each chunk in aluminum foil or cling wrap. Make sure they’re wrapped tightly, so the yeast doesn’t dry out. If you didn’t go with same-weight parts as I did, label each one, so you know which is which when it comes time for thawing.
  3. Put all wrapped slices in a freezer bag or airtight container. If you’re using a bag, squeeze out the air before sealing it.
    Packing fresh yeast chunks
    Putting wrapped yeast chunks into a container
  4. Freeze. Stick the bag or container into the freezer.

That’s it. You can leave it there for at least a month (I’m still testing how long). See my experiment at the bottom of the article for more details.

Frozen yeast slice
Frozen yeast slice

How To Defrost Fresh Yeast

To get consistent results, you should always defrost the fresh yeast the same way. I found success with the following method:

  1. Defrost the portion in the fridge for about 12 hours. That’s enough time for the segment to fully defrost. If your blocks are much bigger than mine (which are about 20 grams each), you might need more time. If they’re smaller, they’ll defrost faster. I usually stick the package in the fridge the night before I need it.
  2. (optional) Warm the piece up at room temperature for 30 minutes. To help bring the yeast to room temperature, you can give it an additional half an hour before using it. It’s okay if you skip this step if you need to start working on your baking project right away.
  3. Use. Now the yeast is ready to use in whatever recipe you need it for.

If you forgot to start thawing the chunk yesterday and need it right now, you could try crumbling it onto a plate and leaving at room temperature for 30 minutes. Many people advocate this method, but I haven’t tested it yet. Do it at your own risk.

Baked bread rolls with sesame seeds on top
Bread rolls with sesame seeds on top

Using Frozen and Thawed Fresh Yeast

If this is your first time using baker’s yeast after freezing and defrosting it, you might be worried that things won’t work out. That all of the ingredients you prepared will go to waste, and the whole endeavor will become a disaster. I get it.

Fortunately, there’s a process to test yeast’s effectiveness without going all in. It’s called proofing, and I wrote about it in detail in the article about yeast’s shelf life and storage. All you need is some warm water or milk, sugar, yeast, and 10 minutes to see if yeast is still active.

If you’re unsure the thawed yeast will still be effective, proof it. This way, you know for certain if yours will do its job as a leavening agent. Or to put it another way, that your freshly mixed dough will go from this:

Fresh yeast dough before rising
Dough before rising

to this:

Fresh yeast dough after rising
Dough after rising

Freezing Fresh Yeast Experiment

Here’s a detailed log of what I did as part of the freezing yeast experiment.

May 16, 2020

That’s the day I froze the fresh yeast and started the experiment. Many of the photos in the article are from that day. You can see the way I froze the blocks in the video added to this article.

May 20, 2020 (4 days after freezing)

Today was the first time I tried using frozen and thawed yeast. I did it only four days after freezing the blocks to test as quickly as I could if the process works.

Yesterday, I transferred one block into the fridge, so it was ready in the morning for another batch of bread rolls (or hamburger buns, some of which I freeze).

The defrosted yeast worked perfectly fine. See for yourself:

Dough from frozen yeast
Dough from frozen yeast (4 days after freezing)

This time around I opted for four bigger buns instead of six smaller ones you can see in pictures earlier. Here they are:

Hamburger buns from frozen and defrosted yeast
Hamburger buns from frozen and defrosted yeast

May 24, 2020 (8 days after freezing)

Today I used another cube of frozen yeast, and baked another 4 hamburger buns. I even added an article on freezing hamburger buns, as my wife and I only need two at a time.

Once again, I put the cube in the fridge in the evening, a started working on the buns in the morning. And again, the yeast worked perfectly fine. Here’s how the rising of the dough looked like:

Another dough from frozen yeast
Another dough from frozen yeast

And here are the burgers we made:

Hamburger and fries
Hamburger and fries, buns made with frozen and thawed yeast

So far everything works as expected, see you in another update.

June 13, 2020 (about 1 month after initial freezing)

Today I used another cube of frozen yeast, and baked five slightly bigger hamburger buns. The whole procedure was exactly the same as last time, except I added a small amount of fresh yeast I had in the fridge to make up for the extra flour. Once again, things worked as expected.

Yeast dough growth
Fresh yeast frozen for one month, works perfectly well

And here are the buns:

Five hamburger buns
Five hamburger buns from this batch

July 18th, 2020 (about two months after initial freezing)

Another batch and another success. Everything done exactly as before, so I won’t bore you with the details. Here’s the photo of the batch:

Fresh yeast frozen for two months still works just fine.
Another successful batch, fresh yeast frozen for two months

Next batch

My plan is to use another frozen segment in about three months of the initial freezing. That means around August 16th. Check back for updates if you’re interested.