Most people living in the UK or Australia have heard about yeast extract already – it is popoular to use it as a spread on sandwiches. In other European countries people do not have a clear understanding of yeast extract. We have answered the most frequently asked questions below. 


What is the difference between fresh yeast and yeast extract?

Yeast extract is 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.

In which foods yeast extract is used?

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 commonwealth countries it is common to put a savoury yeast extract spread on their sandwiches. In other countries yeast extract is rarely available for consumers in the supermarkets, but is almost used exclusively by food producers to season their products. 

Is yeast extract suitable for the vegetarian cuisine?

Yes, although the taste is very similar to that of a meat bouillon, yeast extract does not contain ingredients from animal origin and is therefore suitable for vegetarian dishes.

How much yeast extract is used in foods?

As yeast extract has an aromatic taste of its own, it is used only in small quantities – just like other seasoning ingredients. On average, the concentration of yeast extract in dishes is approximately 1%. 

How can yeast extract contribute to lowering the salt content?

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.

Why can’t I buy yeast extract in the supermarket like a spice?

If you live in the UK or one of its commonwealth countries you can buy yeast extract in the form of a spread that is mainly used on sandwiches. However, in most other countries yeast extract is hard to find – only some specialised food stores, organic and health food stores list e.g. yeast extract spreads. No yeast extract shaker can be found in the supermarket as yeast extracts in powder form attract moisture too easily to be convenient for use for consumers. Yeast extract with its savoury taste is therefore almost exclusively used by food producers like a spice to round off their products

Does yeast extract contain gluten?

Yeast extract is gained from different types of yeast and while bakers’ yeast is gluten free, brewers’ yeast may contain small amounts of gluten. However, the yeast extracts made from brewers’ yeast are considered gluten free given the legal limits for gluten-free products (< 20 ppm, parts per million). Research has shown there is no evidence that this level of gluten causes any problems for a person with coeliac disease (Catassi C, Fabiani E, Iacono G et al. A prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to establish a safe gluten threshold for patients with celiac disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85:160-6).
However, people suffering from coeliac disease should keep in mind that yeast extract is just one of many ingredients used in a food product. To be sure that a certain product doesn not contain any gluten, EURASYP recommends contacting the producer directly if the label does not  explicitly indicate that the product is gluten free.

Does yeast extract contain glutamate?

Glutamate refers to an amino acid that occurs naturally in many fresh products. We find it in tomatoes, peas, mushrooms and Parmesan cheese for example. As a matter of fact, all protein-rich foodstuffs contain glutamate. Even our own bodies produce glutamate – it occurs in our saliva and in breast milk. Yeast extract also contains – besides different proteins and other amino acids – glutamate. Yeast extract has an average content of this naturally occurring glutamate of 5%. However, since yeast extract is used like a spice only in small quantities, it accounts for just a small part of the final product: the average content of natural glutamate in a food product is usually approximately 1%.

How is yeast extract labelled in the ingredient list?

Yeast extract is labelled as “yeast extract” in the ingredients list or sometimes included in “natural flavour”. Both names are based on the requirements of the European Food Law.

Why isn’t yeast extract labelled as a flavour enhancer?

Yeast extract is not a flavour enhancer but a natural ingredient that is made from natural yeast. It is characterised by a savoury taste of its own and consists of a complex ingredient system just like cheese, tomatoes, soy sauce and meat.
 Flavour enhancers such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), on the other hand, consist of isolated pure substances and are classed as additives. Flavour enhancers can only boost the taste of existing ingredients. Yeast extract on the other hand is used like a spice and – with its own bouillon-like taste – contributes a special savoury taste to food products.