What Is Sorbitan Monostearate in Yeast

By: Bob's Red Mill | May 8 2022

We're often told to stick to foods with ingredients that we know how to pronounce when following a healthy diet. And while heeding to this method is an excellent way to ensure that you're enjoying healthy, wholesome foods regularly, it's not to say that you should write off all foods with tricky sounding ingredients. For example, yeast, a popular component of baked goods, often contains the hard-to-pronounce ingredient sorbitan monostearate, leaving individuals wondering about the health benefits and if this ingredient falls within their dietary requirements. If you're someone who reads the labels on ingredients before you begin cooking with them, then you're likely searching for more information about this mystery ingredient. In this article, we'll dive into everything there is to know about sorbitan monostearate and answer questions like "what is sorbitan monostearate in yeast?"

What Is Sorbitan Monostearate?

Sorbitan monostearate, often abbreviated as SMS or Span 60, is an emulsifier made from sorbitol and stearic acids. Emulsifiers are often used to stabilize oil and water mixtures, allowing the two ingredients to combine. They can be found in several pre packaged and processed foods like mayonnaise, margarine, ice cream, salad dressings, peanut butter, creamy sauces and bread. However, the emulsifier sorbitan monostearate is mainly used in baking yeast to improve the activity of instant dry yeast when the yeast is rehydrated before use.

How Is Sorbitan Monostearate Made?

collection of delicious ice cream

We mentioned that sorbitan monostearate is a mixture of sorbitol and stearic acid. So what are these two ingredients, and why are they combined?


Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol with a sweet taste and is often used as a sugar replacement in snack foods such as mints, cookies, cakes, bread and chewing gum. It's most often made from starched corn and potatoes that undergo a hydrogenation process.

Stearic Acid

Stearic acid is a saturated fatty acid found in animal fats and oils and vegetable oils. Aside from its use in everyday food products, it's also used in the production of cosmetics, soaps and detergents. For stearic acid to be used in food, it must meet specific requirements and pass FDA standards.

How Is Sorbitan Monostearate Used?

Sorbitan monostearate acts as an emulsifier in various food products. Though it's most commonly used in instant dry yeast, it's also found in desserts, food supplements, cake, margarine, spread, etc. Here's a quick overview of the most common sorbitan monostearate food items.

Dry Yeast

Most commonly used in active dry yeast, sorbitan monostearate helps the yeast maintain its moisture while drastically extending its shelf life. Just a tiny amount of this emulsifier can help aid in the rehydration of yeast cells before they're mixed with other ingredients.

Ice Cream

When used in dairy products like ice cream, sorbitan monostearate promotes the emulsifying of dairy fat and prevents the formation of ice crystals—ultimately helping all ingredients combine into smooth ice cream that is easy on the palate.


Like ice cream, adding sorbitan monostearate to margarine improves the overall texture of the food and reduces any sandiness created by the combination of ingredients.

Whipping Cream

Just a tiny amount of sorbitan monostearate can help improve the volume and texture of whipping cream to create a pleasant and stiff foam.

Bread and Cake

When used in bread and cake recipes, sorbitan monostearate helps to increase the loaf volume and improve the texture of baked goods.


Sorbitan monostearate is used in many confections and chocolate recipes to help stabilize the emulsion of the oils and fats, creating a well-blended, great-tasting treat.

A slice of delicious chocolate cake

Is Sorbitan Monostearate Safe to Eat?

Aside from being approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration and European Safety Authority and the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, sorbitan monostearate has almost no side effects and is safe to eat for nearly everyone.

Is Sorbitan Monostearate Vegan?

While most forms of sorbitan monostearate are vegan, not all are. Because sorbitol is a corn derivative, it is always vegan. However, the type of stearic acid used determines if the final product is a vegetarian/vegan product. If the stearic acid is made from vegetable oils, it remains a vegan product. If it's created from animal fats/oils, it is not suitable for vegans to consume. Before baking with active dry yeast or adding sorbitan monostearate to your recipes, we recommend checking that packaging to determine if it is suitable for a vegan diet.

How Does Yeast Work When Making Bread?

Yeast loves to feed on carbohydrates like sugar and starches, making the dough the perfect combination of ingredients. During fermentation, yeast works alongside the ingredients in the dough to help it rise and expand. As the dough ferments, two things are happening: the yeast feeds off the sugar and starches producing carbon dioxide gas and alcohol and two, the gluten in the flour traps the bubbles adding lift and texture to the bread. Bread made without yeast often results in a hard and dense loaf.

Tips for Baking With Yeast

Man slaps flour over the dough

Though baking with yeast is not tricky, it can be challenging for those who have never worked with it before. If you're new to baking with yeast, follow the tips below to ensure success.

Avoid Using Water That Is Too Hot

Yeast loves warm water. However, hot water can quickly kill the yeast and ruin a recipe. If you're baking with active dry yeast, use warm water vs. hot water. Test the water before combining it with the yeast by checking the temperature of the water with two fingers. Water that is too hot for the yeast will also be too hot to touch. Room temperature and cooler water can also be used, although it will require more rise time.

Use the Right Kind of  Yeast

There are several different kinds of yeast, and while they all derive from the same thing, they are slightly different. When working with a recipe, you must use the yeast recommended. When using active dry yeast, it will need to be activated in warm water before combining it with the other ingredients. At the same time, instant yeast can be added directly to your recipe.

Avoid Using Too Much Salt

Many recipes that use yeast also call for salt. While a small amount of salt is acceptable, avoid overdoing it. Salt counteracts yeast, and it's essential that the salt does not come in direct contact with the yeast during the mixing process. When proofing your yeast, ingredients like sugar and oil can be added directly to the yeast. Once the loose liquid is gone, and the yeast is added to the remaining ingredients, you can add the salt.

Feed Yeast with Sugar

Though you don't need sugar to activate dry yeast, it does help. Adding a bit of sugar to your yeast when proofing it will help feed it, allowing it to regain strength. That being said, doubling the amount of sugar you add will not shorten the rise or proofing time.

Pay Attention to Temperature

Yeast thrives at room temperature and reproduces best at 70°F to 80°F. If your house is too cold, try finding a warm area to allow the dough to rise. If your home is too warm, search for a cool and dark location.

Store Active Dry Yeast in the Freezer

Though active dry yeast is best stored in a cool, dry location, it lasts the longest when stored in the freezer. Yeast goes dormant at 50°F, and keeping it in the freezer will undoubtedly extend its shelf life.

Main Differences Between Active Dry Yeast and Instant Yeast

rising dough

  • Active dry yeast takes longer to rise. However, it also produces a more flavorful dough.
  • Active dry yeast must be dissolved in warm water and sugar before adding other ingredients.
  • Instant yeast can be added directly to dry ingredients to create a well-risen dough.
  • Instant yeast produces a slightly more yeasty/tangy flavor due to the faster fermentation and rising process.

What Happens if Dough Rises for Too Long?

Allowing bread dough to rise for ample time is essential in creating well-baked bread. However, it's equally vital to prevent the dough from rising for too long. An overly fermented dough will begin to smell yeasty and produce an alcohol-like aroma due to the overproduction of the yeast. This overproduction will carry the yeasty smell over into the final taste and make it hard for the gluten to stretch further, resulting in a deflated, strong-tasting bread. 

Now that you know more about the role sorbitan monostearate plays in yeast, you can better determine if this is an ingredient that you'd like to incorporate into your baked goods. Yeast or not, no matter what you create, we are confident it will be delicious. From the Bob's Red Mill family to yours, we wish you the best of luck on your baking journey.


  1. Marjorie Tuckerman
    Marjorie Tuckerman
    Thank you for this very informative article! I AM a reader if Ingredients and this was a great help in explaining what sorbitan monostearate is.
  2. Lauren Weinstock
    Lauren Weinstock
    Is the stearate used in sorbitan monostearate, in the baking yeast from Bob's Red Mill, vegan?
    Thank you.
    1. Elisabeth Allie
      Hi Lauren, please email [email protected] for assistance.
  3. Louise
    A great article.
    My question: Is baking yeast available without SMS?
    Despite a very controlled diet, I had suffered for years until I removed stearates, stearic acid and vegetable lubricants, which were ubiquitous in many supplements I was consuming. Relief to my GI Track was quick and for years I now avoid all such possible toxins that were previously believed to be safe.
    1. Elisabeth Allie
      Hi Louise! Please contact [email protected] for more info.
  4. Rae Burnett
    Very helpful. But the word I was looking for is totally missing: organic.
    I am familiar with your company and trust it. I actually read the entire article and got many needed answers as I am just embarking on making yeast breads with my new Hitachi bread making machine.
    Is there organic yeast?
    I appreciate your explaining what sorbitan monostearate is, if it is produced from non-organic sources, I am afraid of it. Can you address this and help me make a decision about what to use. Thank you do much.
    1. Elisabeth Allie
      Elisabeth Allie
      Hi Rae! Please email Customer Service at [email protected].
    2. Sandra
      Make your own organic yeast by creating a sourdough mother from all organic ingredients.

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