Food News

Here's Why All the Yeast Is Sold Out Right Now

Plus, what to do if you can't find it.

March 28, 2020
Photo by Rocky Luten

Now more than ever, home is where many of us are seeking refuge and solace in light of the novel coronavirus. This is a tough time, but we’re here for you—whether it’s a new pantry recipe or a useful tip for your kitchen, here are some ideas to make things run a little more smoothly for you and your loved ones.


Sarah Jampel, Bon Appétit editor and former Food52 staff writer, tweeted earlier this week about a noticeable lack of yeast in stores, as did food writer Aaron Hutcherson, who also noted an absence of flour.

At the time of this article’s publication, the popular Northeast grocery delivery service FreshDirect was completely out of dry active and instant yeast, as well as all-purpose, whole-wheat, and bread flour.

After reaching out to friends in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Georgia, who noticed either a lack of or significantly reduced amounts of these items (the Connecticut store was limiting shoppers to two bags of flour), it’s clear that this is not just affecting New York City bakers. While Hutcherson did end up locating both yeast and flour later in the week, the mere fact that suppliers were even low is unprecedented.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“KAF has a terrific way to ask questions about baking or making a sour dough starter (uses wild yeast in the air or on the flour) for leavening home baked bread. They have several informative blogs about sourdough as well. Breadtopia.com is another terrific source with videos about sourdough. That should help with the lack of yeast questions. Ask KAF about substituting different flours. This is all about substituting nowadays. You can type in the flour that you have in KAF site or Bobs Red Mill.com and see what recipes can be used given the flour that you may already have in the pantry. If you're a senior, call your local stores to find out about senior shopping hours. Our Whole Foods has senior shopping hours every day in the morning for 1 hour before regular shopping hours. I was able to find the 1 bag of rye flour needed to feed my sourdough starter for a tangier end product during the senior hour. ”
— Bikegirl227
Comment

Though the New York Times reported last week that there has been no major disruptions to the American food supply chain, consumers have been stockpiling. This fear-induced behavior has created an environment where grocery stores—which are typically stocked with enough items for daily, not multi-weekly, need—cannot keep up with demand.

Even as supermarkets, warehouses, and food manufacturers add shifts to keep shelves stocked, it’s going to take some time to adjust to this new system. The CDC recommends having a two-week supply of food at home while still limiting trips to the grocery store, which means people need more food, but less often.

While at this point we can hopefully assume that a couple weeks from now the stores will have restocked on these dry goods, one question consumers have been asking is: What do I do if I don't have any right now?

“There has honestly never been a better time to build your own sourdough starter,” NYC-based pastry chef Zoe Kanan told me in an email. Requiring just flour, water, and time, sourdough starter relies on wild yeast naturally present in flour and in the air of your home. As the starter ferments, it negates the need for a packet of yeast to make a loaf of bread. “I like thinking about the bacteria and yeast in my apartment's environment which colonize my starter's mixture,” added Kanan. “In this moment when the entire world is at war with something microscopic, lactobacillus are definitely the good guys.”

Cookbook author and sourdough whisperer Tara Jensen also recommends making starter from scratch, noting that the process can take anywhere from one to two weeks to become active. You can use starter in almost any baked item, she explained to me, but with a caveat: “The key thing to remember is that there is much less yeast, and more unpredictable yeast, in a sourdough starter than in a package of commercial yeast,” adding that a starter can be almost 100 parts bacteria to one part yeast.

“While it improves the flavor of everything it touches, it also works very slowly," she said. "The rise times require patience and attention. Your best bet is to find a sourdough specific recipe for what you want to bake. But since sourdough predates commercial yeast, almost anything you can think of can still be made.” Jensen also mentioned the beauty of baking with sourdough discard, which is the extra starter that is removed from the main starter during feedings.

Experienced bakers may have an easier time substituting starter for commercial yeast, but there are plenty of recipes out there that already call for starter instead of dry active or instant yeast. Try a starter focaccia, like this recipe from cookbook author Alexandra Stafford, or starter cinnamon rolls—I’m partial to this recipe from Maurizio Leo.

Of course, if you don’t feel the need for a starter in your life, simply bake things that don’t require yeast. Kanan recommends breads that are leavened with baking powder or soda instead, like skillet flatbread, Irish soda bread, and cake salé.

And if it’s flour you’re lacking right now, I’ve noticed that many gluten-free flours are still lining the shelves. Though they take a bit of getting used to, they can easily be made into cakes, cookies, and more.

Are you noticing a shortage of yeast (and flour) in your neighborhood? Let us know in the comments.

Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Gigi Pravda
    Gigi Pravda
  • Patricia Fisher
    Patricia Fisher
  • Shena Mitchell
    Shena Mitchell
  • Patricia
    Patricia
  • Dianem
    Dianem
Comment
Rebecca Firkser is a freelance food writer and recipe developer. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, among them Food52, TASTE, Edible Manhattan, Extra Crispy, The Strategist, and Bon Appetit's Healthyish. She contributed recipes and words to the book "Breakfast: The Most Important Book About the Best Meal of the Day." Once upon a time, she studied theatre design and art history at Smith College, so if you need a last-minute avocado costume or want to talk about Wayne Thiebaud's cakes, she's your girl.

143 Comments

Gigi P. April 2, 2020
SF Bay Area - Silicon Valley completely out of yeast and grocery store flour. We do have small local producers who have flour, Giusto's, Community Grains & Froghollow Farm, but they are direct order & not represented at most supermarkets. It's all about wild yeasts right now.
Darina Allen in her seminal book, Irish Traditional Cooking, talks about how the Irish used a variety of unusual ingredients to make starters when wheat flour was in short supply. My copy is buried in the garage right now so I can't be more specific.
 
Patricia F. April 2, 2020
I'm not being smug, but I'm so glad I buy yeast in 2 pound packages and store it in my freezer. Two weeks ago in Madison, Wisconsin, the shelves were empty of yeast and most flour, including the whole wheat I needed. Last week, the stocks seemed to be reappearing. I think the panic buying has settled down.
 
Shena M. April 2, 2020
I have searched for yeast going on 3 weeks. Every store I go in the shelves are empty of yeast. Sad sad sad
 
Patricia April 2, 2020
impossible to find bread flour or yeast on line or in stores - Northern Colorado 4/2/20
 
Challenger B. April 2, 2020
There are a lot of wonderful and hardworking smaller farmers and millers that have plenty of flour in stock right now. We've compiled a list of these organized by state. You can find this list at the bottom of our page on Ingredients for bread: https://challengerbreadware.com/the-ingredient-directory/
 
Dianem April 2, 2020
It’s pretty difficult to get any flour here in Fairfield County, Ct. You just can’t find it on any shelves
 
Challenger B. April 2, 2020
There are a lot of wonderful and hardworking smaller farmers and millers that have plenty of flour in stock right now. We've compiled a list of these organized by state. You can find this list at the bottom of our page on Ingredients for bread: https://challengerbreadware.com/the-ingredient-directory/
 
Fern B. April 2, 2020
Thank you for validating that I wasn’t going crazy and feeling like it was just me. I enjoy making artisan bread and it was going to be my go-to. When 10lbs of flour were gone on the shelves I bought a 25lb cause nothing else was left. I’ll trade the yeast hoarder some flour. 🤦🏽‍♀️ I’m going to try the sour dough. Hopefully the mold/mildew post hurricane is now gone. When I planted starter plants last year the mold/mildew began growing on my peat moss.
 
mm April 1, 2020
Even King Arthur's is out of all purpose flour and yeast--3-4 weeks wait for shipment and delivery. This just this morning 4/1/20. Appreciate the sourdough starter tip though not a sourdough fan. One must do what one must do.
 
Renate B. April 1, 2020
I just got a pound of yeast from Amazon. I’ll share it with friends, since I’ll never use that much .Yeast was also available at Aldi’s for 89 cents yesterday, so may we the yeast shortage is coming to an end.
 
Margo L. March 31, 2020
Please don’t suggest people buy gluten free. Those with celiacs have far fewer options. Thank you!
 
Renate B. March 31, 2020
I agree.
 
tricia March 31, 2020
I'd suggest going to a, how to put this, non-foodie-type grocery store. I'd read about the yeast shortage here and in the NYT and was concerned - I love to bake bread and now is the time to do it! But when I went to WalMart grocery this morning - tons of yeast and tons of unbleached white, wheat, bread flour. And the prices were as they were a month ago. So, yeah, more bread!
 
Dianne C. March 31, 2020
My sister in Portland, OR emailed and asked me to send her some yeast and all the stores there were out. I bake often so so I buy SAF yeast in bulk.
 
Renate B. March 31, 2020
I did that also,but a pound of yeast will last me for the rest of my life,,I think.
 
Renate B. March 31, 2020
There is some shortage of yeast packets, but it seems to be spotty. One reason for this is that some people are price gouging. If you go to Amazon, you will find sellers that sell the three little packets (.75 ounces) for anywhere from $19.99 to $24.00!!
When I questioned one of these , the seller explained that they had to travel to buy (hoard?) the packets and had to pay shipping and a fee to Amazon! I doubt that they were going for just one packet. I just got a three pack at Aldi’s fro 89 cents! So figure out the profit these sellers are making!
A crisis may bring out the best in some people, and it also brings out the worst.
I wanted to make Amazon aware of this, but was stymied as to how to complain to them. Sellers like that should not be allowed onAmazon!
 
Smaug March 31, 2020
I've run across some nonsensical prices on Amazon in the past; I remember looking for English muffin rings once, and the prices for the same product ranged from $5 (about what SurLaTable was charging) up to $85 or so, and I've seen similar discrepancies in other products- used records and books seem particularly prone to it. Often these prices are such that no one is going to pay them- I suspect that a lot of it has to do with vendors setting prices automatically by some sort of algorithm without the intervention of common sense, or something of that nature. Not to say that with the present crisis people aren't going to be trying to exploit it, I'm sure there are plenty of people out there selling TP from the trunks of their cars too.
 
Renate B. March 31, 2020
I emailed the vendor who is trying to sell three little packets of yeast for $20.They answered that I don’t have to buy it and can get it somewhere else...that they have to travel to a store to get it,putting themselves at risk and then having to,pay a fee to Amazon.
A friend found the $20 yeast packets at Aldi’s for 89 cents.
I replied to the seller that I found the yeast at that price...they’re obviously price gouging and in these times that’s actually unpatriotic.
Haven’t heard back yet 🤨
 
Merriec March 31, 2020
Speaking of ingredients missing from stores - this isn’t, I’m sure, because of the pandemic I’m sure, but what to do in place of Créme Fraîche? I’ve a Reuben Soup recipe complete with rye croutons I’m dying to make, and my town has zero créne fraîche....
 
mflowers March 31, 2020
Mexican crema is pretty close, and it's easy to make. https://www.rickbayless.com/recipe/mexican-style-thick-cream/
 
mflowers March 31, 2020
Recipe by Rick Bayliss
 
Author Comment
Rebecca F. March 31, 2020
Greek yogurt and sour cream, and mascarpone are the easiest to find subs for creme fraiche. You could also try making it: https://food52.com/blog/3781-making-creme-fraiche-at-home
 
Merriec March 31, 2020
Thank you for the link to your article - I enjoyed it much and WILL use your recipe!
 
Smaug March 31, 2020
Mexican crema is pretty easy to find in California, and probably other western states, and is probably the best sub. I believe even Nestles (or some such company) has a version. If using sour cream, it should be noted that it tends to break when cooked making it unsuitable in a lot of situations.
 
Renate B. March 31, 2020
I don’t think my city has it either , but probably never had. I think you can make it yourself?
 
cjauregui97 March 31, 2020
That's strange. Here in Chicago, and towns/suburbs around me have plenty of yeast at regular price, flour, eggs, etc. The only thing missing is toilet paper and hand sanitizer but the rest are here....!
 
Ruth W. March 31, 2020
I've read multiple comments at other sites that indicate the supplies were headed to metropolitan areas while small towns and rural areas are doing without. I guess that's what happening . . . how nice. My cousin in Florida just bought a half-dozen eggs today after being without for 10 days. The worst part is people who are supposed to be at home are making daily trips to the store trying to find pantry staples.
 
Smaug March 31, 2020
Your point about repeated trips is one that I've seen little mention of, but it's true- about all you can do if you need something is keep trying- either multiple stores or show up- along with everyone else- first thing in the morning until you find it. I habitually keep pretty well stocked on things and have so far not had to compete for toilet paper, bleach, alcohol etc., assuming that supplies would normalize in a couple of weeks, but stocks are getting low and I'll soon have to enter the fray.
 
jillyp March 31, 2020
I'm glad to hear you're well-stocked on your side of town. I'm in an inner ring burb of Chgo, and, while we can find most food items, I haven't seen flour in the stores (big chains or local independents) for the last couple of weeks.
 
Stephanie B. March 31, 2020
Smaug I think things are starting to slowly equal out - I even have a neighbor who found toilet paper this weekend. Many stores have limits on how many people can enter and how many non-perishables one person can purchase, which has really helped, at least in LA. Some reserve the first hour or two of business hours for senior citizens (Whole Foods I heard is doing this, and Gelson's but I think they're only in SoCal). I still recommend going in the morning, but I you'll probably be able to get what you need.
 
Smaug March 31, 2020
Stephanie- you're probably right. I passed on some toilet paper the other day on the theory that others had greater need, but did get some eggs (baking is one of my primary entertainments in winter and quarantine situations). Stocks should even out- it's not as if people are eating or going to the toilet that much more- though in different places (I do suspect that potato chip consumption is unusually high among those working at home). I do wonder about longer term effects, though- there are bound to be disruptions in production and transportation of new goods.
 
Daisy April 2, 2020
I'm also in Chicago and there is no yeast or flour in chain groceries or neighborhood markets that I or my friends have looked at. Do you mind mentioning which stores have yeast and flour? TIA!
 
cjauregui97 March 31, 2020
That's strange. Here in Chicago, and towns/suburbs around me have plenty of yeast at regular price, flour, eggs, etc. The only thing missing is toilet paper and hand sanitizer but the rest are here....
 
Challenger B. March 30, 2020
There are a lot of wonderful and hardworking smaller farmers and millers that have plenty of flour in stock right now. We've compiled a list of these organized by state. You can find this list at the bottom of our page on Ingredients for bread: https://challengerbreadware.com/the-ingredient-directory/
 
Stephanie B. March 30, 2020
This is helpful, thanks!
 
Bikegirl227 March 30, 2020
You can ask King Arthur four.com (KAF) to notify you when the type of flour you need is back in stock. KAF has a terrific way to ask questions about baking or making a sour dough starter (uses wild yeast in the air or on the flour) for leavening home baked bread. They have several informative blogs about sourdough as well. Breadtopia.com is another terrific source with videos about sourdough. That should help with the lack of yeast questions. Ask KAF about substituting different flours. This is all about substituting nowadays. You can type in the flour that you have in KAF site or Bobs Red Mill.com and see what recipes can be used given the flour that you may already have in the pantry.
If you're a senior, call your local stores to find out about senior shopping hours. Our Whole Foods has senior shopping hours every day in the morning for 1 hour before regular shopping hours. I was able to find the 1 bag of rye flour needed to feed my sourdough starter for a tangier end product during the senior hour.
 
Smaug March 30, 2020
I think that should be kingarthurflour.com
 
annamae March 30, 2020
Have not been able to find yeast in any of the major grocery stores in Nashville. Hubs said to try ethnic stores 🤷🏼‍♀️ did find a few pound yeast options on Amazon that are comparably priced - 1 lb for $20 - that’ll be ready to ship out by mid-week.
 
Jennifer S. March 30, 2020
1lb of yeast for $20 is totally price gouging.
 
Smaug March 31, 2020
It's certainly higher than I've usually paid for bulk yeast; on the other hand, 2 oz. jars at the supermarket (at least here) regularly sell for $6-7, and I shudder to think how it prices out if you buy it in packets. A pound is a LOT of yeast.
 
Renate B. March 31, 2020
I paid $17 for a pound of yeast. I guess if you bought the .75 ounces in the packets at 90cents it would be close to that for a pound. This is the first time I’ve bought that much, but I thought there was a shortage last week...there doesn’t seem to be one this week.
 
Alicia March 30, 2020
Page 465 of Fannie Farmers Baking Book
shows you a starter from low-fat yogurt, milk, and flour.
 
Renate B. April 1, 2020
Thanks ..I’ll check that out.
 
Bklynsu March 30, 2020
I live in Park Slope Brooklyn and there is not one packet of yeast to be found. Amazon and Google sold out. King Arthur sold out.
 
Bklynsu March 31, 2020
Updatev. Local supermarket restocked with yeast. Chocolate Babka here we come!
 
Renate B. March 31, 2020
I found it ,but had to buy a pound. Some people are obviously buying a lot and selling it for ridiculous prices... there are always people who take advantage in a crisis,,sadly.
 
MadeleineC March 30, 2020
No flour here in the Southern Tier of NYS last time I was in the stores, and my sourdough baker son in Silicon Valley reports the same. His baker friend is worried about is starter dying due to lack of any more flour to feed it.
 
Challenger B. March 31, 2020
There are a lot of wonderful and hardworking smaller farmers and millers that have plenty of flour in stock right now. We've compiled a list of these organized by state. You can find this list at the bottom of our page on Ingredients for bread: https://challengerbreadware.com/the-ingredient-directory/