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Active Dry vs Instant: Which is the Best Yeast for Pizza?

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Active Dry vs. Instant Yeast

Active dry vs. Instant Yeast, which one is the best yeast for homemade pizza dough?

When you decide to make the tastiest pizza, you’ll notice a few different types of yeast for you to choose from active dry, instant, and fresh yeast.

Fresh Yeast Fresh yeast is perhaps the liveliest of the yeast types (alongside natural yeast or sourdough starter) but is also a bit harder to find. Some stores only stock this yeast seasonally, while other stores don’t stock it at all. On top of that, fresh yeast also has a shorter shelf life.

However, there are almost always instant yeast and active dry yeast packets among wide other varieties in your grocery store, but what is the difference?

Is one better than the other, or is each of them made for different foods?

Let’s find out.

Key Takeaways

Best Yeast for Pizza

There are a few key differences between active dry yeast and instant yeast:

Activation time: Active dry yeast typically needs to be hydrated in warm water before it can be added to a dough, while instant yeast can be added directly to the dry ingredients.

Rise time: Instant yeast has a faster rise time than active dry yeast, so doughs made with instant yeast can be ready to bake in a shorter amount of time.

As for the best yeast for pizza, we prefer active dry yeast, but it really depends on the recipe and your personal preference. Some pizza doughs call for a longer fermentation time, which can be achieved with active dry yeast. On the other hand, some pizza recipes call for a faster rise time, in that case instant yeast is the best option.

Both yeasts can produce delicious pizza crusts, so it’s important to follow the recipe and pay attention to the dough’s rise time and overall texture.

How Yeast Works

Yeast is a fungus, and the way it works is rather intriguing. The yeast produces carbon dioxide by feeding on fermentable carbohydrates in the dough’s ingredients.

Carbon dioxide forms air pockets in the dough, and heat kills the yeast during baking.

This traps air pockets in the dough, resulting in a light and fluffy pizza crust. When a pizza dough recipe calls for sugar, it’s because the sugar aids in the yeast’s feeding process.

Active Dry Yeast vs. Instant Yeast

Why Do You Need to Add Yeast to Pizza Dough?

The answer indeed is simple. We use yeast mainly to make the dough rise, and the better the dough rises, the better the flavor and texture of it will be once it’s finally finished.

Rising is the process where the yeast works its magic. It is technically called the fermentation process.

During this time, the yeast will eat the starches in the flour and in just a few minutes, will release carbon dioxide and alcohol, inflating the dough like a balloon.

This process is essential for giving the pizza crust its delicious flavor and texture. Without yeast, you end up with a flat cardboard type of pizza.

Nevertheless, when it comes to your pizza, the yeast you use must be the right one because how that pizza crust turns out will make a difference between a good pizza and the best pizza.

Can you make pizza dough with both active dry and instant yeast?

You can certainly use either active dry yeast or instant yeast to make great pizza dough. 

However, the yeast you use for pizza will determine how you mix your ingredients and the time you need your dough to rest.

We will go in-depth into each of the pros and cons of using the two.

Still, if a pizza recipe calls for a specific type of yeast, it’s better to go along with that type. The recipe directions will probably already consider the different factors that yeast will affect. 

If this isn’t the case, you’ll have to decide which yeast to choose, so here is a recap of both.

Pro Tip

Depending on where you live, during the warmer or more humid months of the year, the amount of water to mix the dough may need to be reduced.

Active Dry Yeast

Active dry yeast is the most common yeast for pizza dough recipes, and some people consider it the best yeast for pizza overall, although that opinion depends on other factors.

With active dry yeast, the yeasts are not killed but instead are dehydrated to become dormant. If you add the yeast to water with temperatures of 95° to 105° Fahrenheit, the yeast becomes active again.

Active Dry Yeast
Active Dry Yeast

Active Dry Yeast Overview

This type of yeast comes in small round granules and must be dissolved in warm water before adding it to the pizza recipe because it is a living organism and is dormant until it is activated.

Another reason to dry out the yeast is to give it a more stable shelf life. Active dry yeast typically lasts up to one year and can last up to 5 years when you keep it in the freezer.

One of the reasons it’s such a popular type of yeast for pizza dough is that it is inexpensive, easy to use, and you can find it in most supermarkets.

Instant Yeast Overview

Also called quick-rise or fast-rising yeast, there is nothing dormant in instant yeast, and therefore, you can add it to your pizza recipe without adding warm water first. Just sprinkle instant yeast straight into the flour.

Because of these things, you only have to let your baked goods rise once, making them perfect for quick baking projects.

Instant dry yeast has more live cells than active dry yeast, which is why it is so fast-acting. Instant yeast can be a lifesaver for people who love to bake things without spending hours in the kitchen.

instant yeast
Instant Yeast

Active Dry vs. Instant Yeast

Instant yeast looks remarkably similar to active dry yeast, except its smaller granules contain other additives.

You might be getting a little nervous that you might accidentally use the “wrong” type of yeast the next time you set out to make a great pizza crust, but not to worry.

In most cases, it doesn’t matter which type of yeast you use because, as a general rule, they are interchangeable when used in small amounts.  See below for further details.

That said, it doesn’t mean your results will appear the same. The two types of yeast usually produce different final results, although the changes are generally minimal.

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Active Dry Yeast vs Instant Yeast – Conversion Tips

If the recipe calls for one type of yeast and you use the other type instead, pay attention to the following tips:

  • If your recipe calls for instant yeast and you use active dry yeast, allow a rise time of around 15 minutes slower.
  • If your recipe calls for active dry yeast and you use instant yeast instead, you can reduce the rise time by roughly 15 minutes.

Other than that, the two types of yeast do a great job making a great loaf of bread or pizza crust, but each has advantages and disadvantages.

Pizza Pun

What did Judge Yeast say?

All rise.

How do you substitute active dry yeast for instant yeast?

The conversion rate from Active Dry to Instant is not technically interchangeable. Generally, you shouldn’t use the same amount of active dry yeast as instant yeast. 

Here is why it is like comparing lemons, like lemon and lime; they are both from the same citrus family but quite different. One is sweeter than the other; the color, texture, and acidity differ. 

The same principle applies to Active dry yeast and Instant yeast; they are from the same family or, in this case, from the same species, dry yeast, but they are different. 

So, what component makes these different yeasts unique? Mostly water content. 

Instant yeast consists of 98% solids and 2% water, while Active Dry yeast consists of 93% solids and 7% water. Water will evaporate during the cooking process, so you end up with a 5% difference in solids between the two yeasts. 

The main difference is that instant yeast has certain additives that make it more reactive. This means it doesn’t have to be mixed with water to activate. You can usually sprinkle instant yeast straight onto your dough mixture. Because it doesn’t need to be activated first, instant yeast is also less susceptible to being affected by extra salt.

Difference in Content

Active Dry Yeast vs Instant Yeast

Active Dry Yeast vs Instant Yeast Differences

Other differences exist when comparing active dry yeast vs. instant yeast, such as the coating and the processing methods. But water content is the most significant difference making Instant Yeast more concentrated and potent than Active dry yeast. 

This is why it is also faster acting.

  • So, if a recipe calls for common Active Dry Yeast but you have Instant, use 5% less of the required yeast.
  • On the other hand, if the recipe calls for Instant and you have Active dry just use 5% more of what the recipe calls for.

Here is the caveat, when it comes to making homemade pizza, there will not be much difference in volume or weight on which type of yeast you are using when only small amounts of yeast are required.

For example, our Neapolitan Dough Base recipe recommends 10 grams of active dry yeast or 2% of bread flour (500g). If you were to use instant yeast, you would need 9.5 grams of yeast (5% less). The difference between the two is not significant. Is it going to make a difference in your homemade pizza? 

Probably not.

If you want to save the trouble of doing the numbers, you can substitute 1 : 1 only when handling small amounts of yeast.

However, when making large amounts of pizza dough, pay close attention to your numbers, depending on the recipe.

What Happens If You Don’t Dissolve Active Dry Yeast?

Not much happens. Active dry yeast now comes in smaller granules that help the yeast grow even when added directly to dry ingredients. The key is to let the dough ferment for a longer period.

If you are accustomed to dissolving dry yeast in cold water first or need to make sure it is alive, keep doing that; it will save you time and flour if the yeast is not alive.

However, if you want to take the risk, you can. Just skip the activation process and add the yeast to the bread flour.

What happens if you proof instant yeast?

Instant yeast is meant to be mixed with dry ingredients, in this case, wheat flour.

However, if you want to hydrate it, you can.

Place the yeast in an amount of water five times its weight at 95°F.

For example, if you use 5 grams of yeast to hydrate it, you should use 25 grams or milliliters of water. Note the temperature is lower than for active yeast.

That is because instant yeast is susceptible to water temperature.

Keeping track of the temperature is essential; a variation of as few as 5°F can result in some loss of the fermentation process.

Once the instant yeast is hydrated in the 95°F water, it can be combined with the rest of the water that will go into your dough mixture.

Is Active Dry the Best Pizza Yeast?

The latter provides one significant advantage if you’re curious about the difference between instant and active yeast.

Activating Yeast

When you dissolve this yeast in warm water, it will bubble. These bubbles are the best way to tell if your yeast is still alive. If there is no bubbling, your yeast is dead, and you should not use it in your recipe.

Activating Yeast
Adding instant yeast to flour

Adding Instant Yeast

Since there is no dissolving instant yeast in warm water before adding it to your recipe, there is no way to tell if the yeast is dead or alive.

If you make a batch of pizza dough with instant yeast and the yeast is dead, you won’t know it until you try to bake the pizza crust, at which point it will be too late, and you would have to throw it all away.

This flour-saving tip is why experienced pizza makers usually recommend that only active dry yeast be used when making pizza dough.

The Best Yeast for Pizza Dough

Active Dry vs Instant Yeast

When choosing between dry active yeast vs. instant yeast for homemade pizza dough, the winner is Active Dry Yeast.  

Active Dry Yeast is perfect for pizza makers, particularly Neapolitan pizza. Its moderate regular gassing power provides the fermentation tolerance required for slow and cold fermentation. Its reduced power makes it easy to shape the pizza, thus avoiding the shrinking effect.

All these different yeasts make great pizza dough, but the best one for you depends on your exact needs.

For homemade pizza, we would recommend avoiding Quick-Rise or Rapid-Rise Yeast altogether. These are meant primarily for bread machines. It defeats the whole purpose of keeping the proofing process as slow as possible.

Let us know what you think; we would love to know.  Do you get better results with instant yeast?; if so, send us your recipe, and we will post it and try it out.  Submit your recipe here.

Here’s What the PROs at Homemade Pizza Pro Use and Recommend

Tips for Using Yeast for Pizza

Yeast is a fundamental microorganism employed in the food industry for years. Even though it is so widely used, it may take a few tries to get the feel of it.

We’ve gathered some recommendations to make your yeast experience as painless as possible:

  • Yeast thrives in temperatures between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It begins to perish at higher temperatures and becomes dormant at lower temperatures.
  • If your yeast starts to make air bubbles, it’s alive and well. You’ll have to start over if it isn’t bubbling.
  • Even instant yeast takes time to proof once it has been introduced to the dough.
  • Proof your dough in a clear, airtight container.
  • When adding salt to the dough mixture, be careful not to kill the yeast.
  • Extra sugar in the dough can assist in feeding the yeast, although it isn’t always essential.

For more yeast tips, check our article 10 Yeast Tips for Pizza.

Where to Buy Yeast?

Active dry or instant yeast is readily available in local supermarkets, bakery supplies stores, or online.  See below for details.

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