What is Autolyzed Yeast Extract?

What is “Autolyzed” Yeast Extract?

“Autolyzed” comes from the word “autolysis”. Autolysis is a rudimentary biology term for the destruction of a cell by osmosis, which then releases its own enzymes, in turn self-splitting the yeast protein into simpler compounds. Autolyzed yeast extract comes from applying autolysis to “fresh yeast” — breaking “fresh yeast” down into simpler compounds such as the soluble amino acids and peptides.

Autolysis isn’t only used in the industrial food industry, it’s also used by bakers. This method — in reference to french bread — is carefully documented by kitchen gurus, Julia Child and Raymond Calvel (author of the Le goût du pain). Modern baking enthusiast and blogger of “A Bread A Day” describes a tasting she conducted after applying autolysis to homemade bread:

The autolyse bread simply had a much more complex range of flavors, and a depth that you couldn’t quite put your finger on.


Is Autolyzed Yeast Extract “clean Label”?

According to Panera, Autolyzed Yeast Extract is not considered clean label.

However, “Natural Yeast Extracts” are considered clean label by Panera, and the other dominant, clean label authoritative influencers.



So, What is “Yeast Extract”?

Yeast extract is an ingredient that is made from the same yeast that is used to make bread, beer and wine.


What Is the FDA definition for “Yeast Extract”?

The FDA Definition is: Sec. 184.1983 Bakers yeast extract. (a) Bakers yeast extract is the food ingredient resulting from concentration of the solubles of mechanically ruptured cells of a selected strain of yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It may be concentrated or dried.

Why are “yeast extracts” used?

Yeast extracts are flavor enhancers that provide “umami”.

Umami is the fifth known taste after salty, sweet, sour, and bitter. It is derived from tasting the amino acid, glutamic acid, and is the taste that tells our body that we are consuming protein.



What is “Kokumi”?

Kokumi is another protein-derived taste we have developed, similar to umami, but specific to the amino acids that contain sulfur, and it carries a meatiness and hearty flavor.



What is the difference between “fresh yeast” and “yeast extract”?

“Yeast extract” comes from “fresh yeast”. Enzymes are naturally occurring within “fresh yeast”, that break down a part of the naturally occurring proteins into smaller, taste-delivering pieces known as “yeast extracts”.


Image Credit: Bread, Cakes and Ale

Is “yeast extract” vegetarian?

Yes, as you see above, yeast extract comes directly from “fresh yeast”, therefore does not contain any meat ingredients and is suited for vegetarian dishes.

What’s the difference between “yeast extract” and “glutamate”?

Glutamate is naturally present in saliva and breast milk and many familiar food products, including mushrooms, tomatoes, and parmesan cheese.


Glutamate is also one of the many natural components of yeast extract, in a concentration of about 5-10%. Yeast extract is often mistaken for monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer that is about 86% glutamate. Unlike yeast extract, monosodium glutamate doesn’t have a taste of its own and only serves to make existing flavors stronger. See below visual:


Natural Glutamate content: Yeast Extract vs. msg



Does Yeast Extract Trigger Allergies?

No, all tests for allergenic effects by third-party nutritionists have confirmed that yeast extract is not an allergen.