What is leaven?

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Leaven includes yeast, a biological leavening agent that produces fermentation, and chemical leavening agents such as baking powder, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), and potassium bicarbonate.

Items such as bread, cake, crackers, cookies and prepared cereals and pies that contain leavening must be put out. Doing this is symbolic of putting both the visible and hidden sins out of our lives.

Homemade cream puffs, angel food cake, popovers and sponge cake, while light and fluffy, need not contain any of the above ingredients. Most pie crust recipes (except for graham cracker crusts) are unleavened. However, these products, when purchased from stores or bakeries, frequently do include leavening. Check the ingredient list.

Even though pita bread, flour tortillas and graham crackers are flat, they do contain leavening. Even some brands of matzos marked "kosher for Passover" can also list baking soda or baking powder in the ingredients! So be careful.

Although the following ingredients are associated with leavening products; they are not, by themselves, leavening agents: brewer’s yeast, yeast extract (a flavoring), cornstarch and cream of tartar (a dry acid). Cream of tartar, being an acid, merely neutralizes the alkaline nature of baking soda and does not, by itself, cause dough to rise.

Leavening Agents

Leaven is any agent that produces fermentation and causes dough to rise, by causing the formation of carbon dioxide gas to bubble into and spread throughout the dough. This is accomplished either chemically (as with baking soda) or biologically (as with yeast).

• Baking Soda: a crystalline alkaline salt that gives off gas when an acid is added. The following are different types of baking soda:

• Sodium bicarbonate, also known as “Saleratus.”

• Potassium bicarbonate, or potash.

• Ammonium carbonate, or “baker’s ammonia.”

• Ammonium bicarbonate, also known as “hartshorn.”

• Baking Powder (baking soda + acid-forming ingredients + starch filler).

• Sourdough starter (a wild yeast colony that is maintained with flour and moisture).

• Yeast (a single-celled fungi, used to leaven).

Not Leavening

• Autolyzed yeast: A yeast that has ‘self-destructed’ and is sterile – incapable of leavening.

• Brewers Yeast: A dead form of yeast that cannot leaven bread; a ‘nutritional’ yeast.

• Torula Yeast: A dead yeast that cannot leaven bread, considered a ‘nutritional’ yeast. Also hickory smoked torula yeast. Used as a savory seasoning that imparts smoky aroma to foods.

• Yeast extract(s): Derivatives of yeast, which are sterile and cannot leaven bread.

• Cream of Tartar: Tartaric acid – potassium bitartrate or potassium hydrogen tartrate. This is an acid used to combine with baking soda. By itself, this is not leavening.

• Tartrate powder: Phosphate powder or sulfate powder – usually added with cream of tartar. By itself this is not leavening.

•  Alum: A metallic double salt, usually added with cream of tartar. Most common is sodium aluminum sulfate (SAS or sulfate powder), and potassium aluminum sulfate (or potash alum). By itself this is not leavening.

• Sorbitan monosterate: A flavor and texture enhancer. Not leaven of itself.

• Sodium Caseinate: A milk protein, not a leaven

• Sodium Silicoaluminate: A fine powder that is used to keep cocoa, salt and other products dry, not a leaven

• Polysorbate 60: A preservative; not a leaven.

• Egg whites: Not a leavening agent. While beaten egg white can be stirred into dough, it does not spread through dough as leavening does and is not leavening.

• Steam or air (such as in popovers or angel food cake). The same principle as egg whites (above) applies; there is no leavening agent mixed through the dough.

Nonfood Leaven

Should I remove nonfood products that contain leavening from my home during the Days of Unleavened Bread?

The Bible tells us that during the Days of Unleavened Bread we remove leaven and leavened products from our homes (Exodus 12:15; Exodus 12:19; Exodus 13:7). Leaven is a food additive, which causes bread or bread products to rise. Symbolically, this represents removing visible and hidden sins out of our lives. Since leaven puffs up dough, we’re given an object lesson about hypocrisy and pride. 

Leavening agents are also found in many items other than breads. Toothpaste, carpet deodorizer, beer, body powders, antacids, dog and cat food, and some medicines to name a few. Even class C fire extinguishers contain forms of leavening agents! Must all of these items be removed during Unleavened Bread? No, these need not be discarded.

We are commanded to celebrate the Days of Unleavened “Bread.” This helps us realize it refers to items such as bread, crackers, cookies, cake, cereals, and pies that contain leavening that are to be put out. Whatever foods that contain a biological leavening agent that produces fermentation or a chemical leavening agent such as baking powder, sodium bicarbonate, and potassium bicarbonate must be removed.

When leaven is found in nonfood products, even though they need not be discarded, it becomes a matter of personal conscience between the individual and God as to whether the product should be removed. If having these types of products in your home during the Days of Unleavened Bread defiles your conscience, then it is better dispose of them during the Festival (Romans 14:23).

What does leaven picture during the Feast of Unleavened Bread?

During the Days of Unleavened Bread we are to have no leaven or leavened products in our home (Exodus 12:15; Exodus 12:19; Exodus 13:7). Leaven is a food additive, which causes bread or bread products to rise. The apostle Paul used this property of leaven to teach Christians that a “puffed up” attitude is sin (compare 1 Corinthians 5:2 with 1 Corinthians 5:6-7).

Leaven pictures sin. It is compared with malice (wrong motives) and wickedness (breaking God's law). Since leaven puffs up bread, it provides an object lesson about pride and hypocrisy. And Jesus Christ used it as an analogy of the wrong teachings (doctrines) of the Pharisees that had been derived by human reasoning, yet were given more importance than the actual laws of God. Jesus gave several examples of these human traditions of His day (Mark 7:1-13), and by implication Christians must be careful not to follow teachings today that stray from the Bible (1 Corinthians 5:8; Luke 12:1; Matthew 16:11-12).

What spiritual lessons can we learn by removing leavening from our homes?

Like leaven, sin easily grows, spreads and can permeate our lives. Putting out leavening from our homes is symbolic of putting both the visible and hidden sins out of our lives. Christians come to realize that we can't do this on our own. We need to examine ourselves and repent and strive to change, but it is Jesus Christ's help, as we submit to Him living in us, that produces true spiritual progress (1 Corinthians 5:6-8; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Ephesians 4:22-24).

What spiritual lessons can we learn by eating unleavened bread?

Jesus Christ living in us helps us overcome and remove sins, and Christ in us also helps us develop His positive character. Eating unleavened bread is symbolic of feeding on every word of God, and becoming like Jesus, the bread of life (Matthew 4:4; John 6:35).

Submitting to our Savior and Deliverer is the only appropriate response to His incredible sacrifice and love. An appreciative, forgiven Christian will seek Christ's help to not repeat the sins that earned that death penalty.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread is a reminder of our deliverance from slavery to sin and of the transformation we can have by allowing our Deliverer to live in us.

If you would like to make some unleavened bread to eat during the Days of Unleavened Bread check out the unleavened recipes available on the website.


  • Val

    Found the answer on Google. Will not be making Essential Everyday Potato and onion Perogies during the Days of Unleavened Bread, as they contain Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate which is a chemically made leaven agent SAPP. It is also used as use as a chelating agent for processed potatoes, an emulsifying agent in cheeses and a curing accelerator in processed meats. But I am not going to take the chance on the Perogies.

  • Val

    What is Sodium acid Pyrophosphate? Does anyone know?
    It is in 4 boxes of my husbands Perogies.
    He does not keep the days of Unleavened Bread. But wondering if they are safe to make during those days.

  • rjmoore007

    PLEASE do not say that bicarbonate of soda causes fermentation.... fermentation is a biological process involving enzymes and organic chemical compounds,.... Fermentation as most people know it occurs in beer and wine, it is the action of yeast (alive) on sugars to produce alcohol (prime aim) and carbon dioxide (used to condition beer that is not to be sterilised and kegged...

    ...Bicarbonate of Soda undergoes chemical reactions with other ingredients (organic or inorganic) to produce Carbon Dioxide (causing material to rise) and Water.... NO ALCOHOL.
    It is not a living process.

    Now consider the physical exercise of removing leaven from our household (and here I mean yeast). You can remove from your home all traditional leavened bread, packets of yeast, yeast starters or cultures and even if you bleach your cupboards top to bottom you have yeast around, in the air, on the skin of fruit and our own skin... the exercise is a physical reflection of a spiritual reality - that no matter how hard we try, it is not possible to remove all sin from our lives by our own efforts (works)...

    You can leave bicarbonate of soda in your house, it won't readily infect anything else.

  • Chowell610

    I am so deeply grateful to read your post. I wish I had seen it weeks-years ago. Every year I would get overly anxious about the unleavening holy holiday because I could not get clear and concise answers about how to comply to Gods standards. Finally I researched leavens and that is exactly the conclusion I reached. No way can one unleaven their homes totalky toady regardless! According to all that i found i realized that in order to even begin to get an unleavened home one would have to throw all groceries in the trash! All except potatoes., marshmallows. And then there would still be leavening due to other leavening processes in air and chemically. All my efforts are would be futile and only God could be able to unleavened anyone's home today. If we lived in tents and had no groceries it would be more easily done. But I believe that your words were put out there for many of those like me who genuinely sought truth. Again this year I have had to repent during this holiday. But now that I finally got the truth i can meet it head on next year. without sin with all of Gods supernatural intervention. Thank you

  • Johnalex Zarco

    Thank-you for this, weve been looking for a leavening list.

  • lisak
    Hello all! I've looked on many different web sites and the information I find here from Mr. Myers seems to match all the other sites I could find regarding what is considered leavening and what is not. One thing I have found myself doing the last few days is becoming so consumed with what may be leavening and what is not that I am neglecting the most important part of this special time. Of course, we all know leavening isn't evil; it is symbolic of the sin in our lives. The most important thing we can be doing right now is looking deep within ourselves. We also need to avoid forcing our conscience on others. That is not what this time of reflecting is all about. I appreciate the information here and am looking forward to the Spring Holy Days! Love to all! Lisa
  • Trudy51
    I believe you need to do more research on egg whites when whipped they do become a leaven. Egg whites beaten and added to plain flour will make it rise and some what fluffy. Make 2 cake or 2 bread both using plain flour in one but the eggs with out beaten then in the other one with them whipped up real good and bake both the same the one with the egg whites rise. Leven makes things rise. Same in bread back in the 70s I used brewers yeast in all my bread making. When you us regular yeast you add it to warm water and let it set. The same is done with brewers yeast. Using plain flour and just Brewers yeast the bread rises. Leaven rises. Just because most do not use it for that those that do it is an leavening. I have been a cook for 55+ years I hold Food Service Management white eggs beaten is leavening for it makes the food rise and fluffy. Using brewers yeast in making bread makes it rise and puffy their by leavening. Dig and do your research. I know dunning ULB in my home there is no whipping of eggs and nothing that makes things rise like brewers yeast.
  • Malachi 3_16-18
    Hi Olumide, Interesting question. Here is an answer for each ingredient you had in question: Sodium polyphosphate is not leavened. It is an emulsifier, foaming agent, texturizer, and whipping (not rising) agent. Sodium carbonate is not leavened. It’s an inactive ingredient unless used with other substances (such as baking soda) to produce baking powder. Potassium carbonate, sometimes called pearlash, can be used to replace yeast as a leavening agent, according to research I did. It causes carbon dioxide bubbles when combined with such products as sour milk, buttermilk, or molasses. So I would suggest, treat it as leaven. Guar gum is not leavened. It is a type of gum used as a stabilizer and emulsifier. Tartrazine is not leavened. It is a synthetic yellow food dye. Antioxidant TBHQ is not leavened; it is a food preservative. Monosodium glutamate is not leavened; it is a flavor enhancer. So it looks like one ingredient in all of these may be leavening. As the saying goes, If in doubt, throw it out. There are probably other kinds of noodles that can be purchased without potassium carbonate.
  • Malachi 3_16-18
    Hi dadefoxx, I would say it’s more like chalk. Some websites will say it's a leavening agent. However, it’s an inert ingredient when not used in conjunction with other substances (such as baking soda) to produce baking powder, which IS a leavening agent that causes dough to rise. Calcium carbonate is similar to cream of tartar, which also is not a leavening agent of and by itself, but when combined with baking soda in wet batter, it causes rising. So before the Days of Unleavened Bread, I don’t throw out my jar of cream of tartar, just as I don’t throw out my Vitamin D capsules, which list calcium carbonate as their first ingredient. I hope this helps.
  • Romona Adkins
    My Pastor and I talked about this. My thoughts...1-you will most likely not be able to remove All leavening out of your home...ever (even the most righteous is but filthy rags). The toaster was my example. I'd have to buy a new toaster every year. 2- what is the purpose behind de-leavening? Answer...to look deep inside our self and face some "issues" / sin we've let slide or are unaware of. So, to me what's more important..a few crumbs in my toast or looking inside myself / my heart? God already knows what's there, He wants me to see it and work on "being more willing" and obey out of my love for Him. Please God first. And God has shown me a lot this week that I hope to take with me through out the rest of the year.
  • Olumide Oyetoke
    There's a kind of noddles that's common in my country. here are some of its ingredients that I'm not sure of: Sodium polyphosphate Sodium carbonate Potassium carbonate guargum tartrazine CI 19140 antioxidant (TBHQ) the seasoning powder contains: Monosodium glutamate (621) I saw in this article both Sodium bicarbonate and Potassium bicarbonate are listed as leavening agents. How about when the "bi" is absent as in Sodium carbonate?
  • Lena VanAusdle
    @SkyKing, oatmeal is NOT a leavening agent. @TimS, food starch is also NOT a leavening agent (it's usually a thickener). @JWF57, when it comes to medications, cleaning agents, pet foods, and personal hygiene products it really comes down to your personal convictions. My thoughts on the subject have always been, "would I use this product to make food?" I'm not going to use my toothpaste (that contains baking soda) to make bread. I'm not going to use my puppy's dog food to make my dinner, and I'm not going to use my medication to do so either, therefore, it is not a leavening agent per say (these are questions the Israelites never would have faced). As a caveat, I have heard some say in response to my stance, "well, I'm not going to use my bread crumbs to make dinner either, so should I not clean my house?" My response to that is those crumbs were my food at one point, and should therefore be put out.
  • Malachi 3_16-18
    Hi Skyking, No, oatmeal is not leavening, although it does swell up when cooked. But so do dried fruits and a number of other things. Oats don't cause fermentation, which yeast does, thus causing dough to rise.
  • Malachi 3_16-18
    Hi Tim S, No, food starch is not a leavening agent. Food starches (such as corn starch) are used as thickeners and/or stabilizers in recipes, and of and by themselves, don't cause dough to rise.
  • Skyking
    Is oatmeal considered to be leaven?
  • dhenry
    Actually Larry, I tend to disagree only in that, through living God's way, and trying to avoid sin, we can rise. I see it as two different things - puffed up with self righteousness and sin and the other simply rising in that God provides for his people to ultimately rise above adversity. Anyways, just a thought. Hope you have an inspiring DULB. I think sometimes we go overboard and end up like the phairasees - like when I used to throw out my toaster ...
  • TimS
    What about Modified and/or Unmodified Food Starch?... or just starch altogether?
  • KARS
    The not the Feast of Unleavened toothpaste, wine, fish food, dog food, cat food, etc. It's unleavened bread. No leaven ingredients in the bread, cake mix, pancake mix, cookies, crackers, etc.
  • JWF57
    What if a medication contains yeast?
  • TimS
    @ "Watchful" First read Matthew 19:16-30... Then read the article I noted above! What Products Contain Leavening? by Steve Myers Submitted March 11, 2013 Thanks & Happy reading!
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