Adding Hydrolyzed Yeast to Canned Meals.

I have wondered for some time now what on earth the purpose could be for adding “hydrolyzed yeast” and other things (like soy protein) to canned meals. Oh, I assume it is a flavor inhancer, or something like that. But I ask (somewhat rhetorically) why they feel they need to add it (and this thread is actually more of a mini-rant for that reason).

Short story. A couple of years ago, I was in a store. And I saw a can of something or another supposedly offered by Wolfgang Puck. Now, I (like I assume most of the rest of you), could probably never afford to go to one of his restaurants. But this seem an opportune time to try out some of his cuisine, and at a reasonable price. You guessed the rest: when I got home I found out it had hydrolyzed yeast in it! Mr. Puck, how could you?

Anyways, I offer in this thread a solution to the problem too. Apparently organic canned soups and such may not have this ingredient in it. In fact I just bought two recently that don’t, and they’re on my kitchen counter right now. The strangest thing, in fact, is I bought one for a dollar in a dollar store! (I know they frown on us endorsing product on these boards. So I will only tell you the 2 brand names of these organic soups if someone asks.)

Well, that is my thread: Why on earth do they have to add things like this. And what do the rest of you think?


These sort of ingredients are used as binding, texturing and flavoring agents. This enhances the look, feel and taste of the food without diluting the nutritional profile of the product.

The two ingredients you mention, hydrolyzed yeast and soy protein are actually pretty good for you.

Autolyzed Yeast should really be classified as Umami. Or hydrolized/

Uh, autolyzed yeast is where the yeast have starved so much their digestive juices break through the cell wall. They literally digest themselves. Hydrolyzed yeast is pretty tasty.

Yea, I meant hydrolized… that “or hydrolized/” was meant to be a correction of “autolyzed”.

I believe you answered your question in your OP.

Yes, it’s a flavor enhancer. It’s there to enhance flavor. Or rather, it’s there so the soup tastes good and people will buy it more than once.

Can I ask what your (strangely strong) aversion is to it? Are you a member of the PETA yeast division or something?

I just know, if I were to make a can of soup, I certainly wouldn’t add this exotic ingredients. When I buy something in the store, I expect it to be made with the same ingredients you would find in any kitchen. Maybe it is just an irrational feeling, I don’t know (I feel the same way about artificial flavoring, BTW).

Also, as I pointed out, I am just curious what on earth these ingredients may be, and why do you only find them in canned products?

Ok, well, I can tell you a little bit more about what it is, maybe that will help. You take yeast in water (the yeast are the same as or very similar to the yeast used to make bread rise or beer brew) and you dump a bunch of salt in it. The salt kills the yeast because it makes them all shrivel up and die, like slugs in your garden. You heat the mixture to finish breaking up the yeast, just like you heat water to break down the meat when you make stew. This heating also boils the water, evaporating it off. You keep evaporating the water until you have the consistency you want - usually a thick sticky paste, but you can keep going until it’s a dry powder.

That’s autolyzed yeast. It’s the stuff called Vegemite and Marmite, salty spreads that people in England and Australia spread on bread or toast.

Hydrolyzed yeast is essentially the same, but instead of adding salt to the yeasty water, they add enzymes or acid to kill the yeast and break them down.

Autolyzed and hydrolyzed yeast extracts give food a savory, meaty taste (the Japanese, and increasingly the US media, calls that flavor “umami”) that is especially useful in canned foods. Canning foods means you have to heat them to high heat under pressure, and, just like cooking in a pressure cooker at home, this makes the end product taste a little “flat”. Adding this stuff before you can it fixes that “flat” flavor in the end product.

I think most British and Australian people would be surprised to hear you call the stuff “exotic.” It’s about as exotic to them as grape jelly is to Americans. I’m not sure if they use it in cooking, but there’s no reason they couldn’t.

For vegetarians, it is a quick and easy way to get a savory flavor to the meal without using meat. It’s a common ingredient in vegetarian cooking.

It’s really not anything to be scared of, I promise. As lab created “frankenfoods” go, this stuff is really low level on the frightening scale. You could make it at home without any special equipment.

Well, I hear that some of the best chefs use Vegemite or Marmite or Bovril as a “secret ingredient” in their soups, stews, and sauces.

I think it has to do with limiting the sodium content of the food. There is a huge effort in food companies to reduce the amount of sodium in their food offerings. When you remove salt (sodium chloride) from food, the food loses a huge amount of flavor. Not just the salt flavor, but salt enhances almost every other flavor in the food that you are eating. Hydrolyzed yeast is one way to enhance the flavor without adding any more sodium to the picture.

Did I mention that I work for a food company?

I’d like to correct myself just a bit.

Vegemite/Marmite is not JUST autolyzed yeast extract, although that’s the bulk of the product. They also add “Salt, Mineral Salt (508), Malt Extract (From Barley), Natural Colour (150d)(Contains Preservative 220), Vegetable Extract, Niacin, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Folate.” to Vegemiteand “Salt, Vegetable Extract, Niacin, Thiamin, Spice Extracts, Riboflavin, Folic Acid, Celery Extract, Vitamin B12” to Marmite.

Apparently, Marmite was invented at the urging of a beer brewer who didn’t want to waste the nutritious yeast left over from the beer making. Marmite, at least, still uses yeast leftover from beer making…which makes me wonder if it’s gluten free, since it’s been soaking with barley at some point. The web is divided in opinion.