The Goof-Proof Way to Proof Yeast

Bread beginner? We'll help you conquer the first step of basic breads and rolls and show you how to proof yeast.

Packet of yeast, measuring cups and a small spoon beside a glass bowl with a whisk in itTaste of Home
Taste of Home

Let me make a confession: For years I was afraid to make bread. Although I’m a passionate baker, this was my shameful secret. I’d page through my favorite cookbooks and magazines, always skipping the bread section, thinking one day. One day when yeast didn’t seem so temperamental and scary to me. After all, yeast isn’t just another dry ingredient—it’s a living ingredient! Those little microorganisms are responsible for creating all the bubbles to help bread achieve that perfect rise.

Finally, though, I set out to conquer my fears. I wanted fresh bread and I wanted to make it myself! I bought a few packages of active dry yeast, found a good basic bread recipe (like this one) and crossed my fingers. It turns out I was afraid of nothing! With the right temperature water and a bit of sugar, my yeast bubbled up in no time.

Soon I was baking breads, rolls and poteca—one of my family’s favorite Polish treats.

Take it from me, proofing yeast and baking bread don’t have to be daunting. Our Test Kitchen staff has the tips and tricks you need for proofing active dry yeast so you get perfect bread every time.

How to Proof Yeast

You’ll need:

1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon sugar

Person pouring an open packet of yeast into sugar and water inside a glass bowlTaste of Home
Taste of Home

Step 1: Stir it Up

In a large bowl, give the yeast, water and sugar a little stir. The water should be warm enough—ideally between 105º and 115º—to really get the yeast going.

You may notice that some recipes don’t call for sugar in the proofing process, but adding a small amount at this stage provides the yeast with the energy it needs to create carbon dioxide (all those gassy bubbles that give bread its lift). And don’t worry—a teaspoon of sugar won’t impact the overall taste of the bread.

Test Kitchen tip: Feel free to substitute a bit of honey or agave syrup for the sugar—even a tablespoon of flour will do. These ingredients all serve as food for the yeast.

Yeast proofing in the glass bowl as time passesTaste of Home
Taste of Home

Step 2: Wait it Out

Be patient, and let the mixture stand for 5-10 minutes (this was always my big mistake—not letting it sit). This allows the yeast enough time to gobble up all that sugar and produce plenty of carbon dioxide. Once it’s nice and bubbly, it’s ready to be incorporated into your mixture.

If you notice that the yeast hasn’t bubbled much after 10 minutes, the yeast might be old. You can still use old yeast in a recipe, but it will take longer to rise. In general, though, be mindful of expiration dates, and be sure to store yeast in a cool, dry place—even in the fridge or freezer.

That’s all it takes to get yeast going! Now that you’ve got this simple process down, it’s time to master some of our favorite recipes. We suggest these tasty Parker House rolls or a loaf of whole wheat French bread.

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an associate editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.
Christine Rukavena
Christine loves to read, curate, sample and develop new recipes as a book editor at Taste of Home. A CIA alumna with honors, she creates cookbooks and food-related content. A favorite part of the job is taste-testing dishes. Previous positions include pastry chef at a AAA Five Diamond property. Christine moonlights at a boutique wine shop, where she edits marketing pieces and samples wine far higher than her pay grade.