Principles of De-Leavening

By sunset this past Monday, April 14th, 2014 Christians who observe the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread had removed all leavening and leavened food from their homes. For them, the Passover pictures the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins (blood on the doorposts; Exodus 12:13, 1 Corinthians 5:7), and the Days of Unleavened Bread picture our coming out of sin (Egypt) and walking a new way of life on the path toward the Kingdom of God (the Promised Land) Exodus 12:15, 19.

This is a good time to go over some of the basic principles of de-leavening.

During seven days of the Unleavened Bread festival we are to actually eat unleavened bread on each of the seven days, and no leaven can be in our homes.

Principle 1: Remove all leavening (Exodus 12:19a) “For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses….”

In ancient Israel this was perhaps simpler than it is today.

LEAVEN (from The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia):

In Bread-Making – The form of leaven used in bread-making and the method of using it were simple and definite. The “leaven” consisted always, so far as the evidence goes, of a piece of fermented dough kept over from a former baking. There is no trace of the use of other sorts of leaven, such as the lees of wine (residual yeast). The lump of dough thus preserved was either dissolved in water in the kneading-trough before the flour was added, or was “hid” in the flour (the King James Version “meal”) and kneaded along with it, as was the case mentioned in the parable (Matthew 13:33). The bread thus made was known as “leavened,” as distinguished from “unleavened” bread.

Today there are more things that are used as leavening and there is more understanding about exactly what causes bread to puff up. We have to know what is and what is not leavening so that we know what to remove. A simple principle to go by is that if you have a product which has its primary purpose of leavening bread (or any grain recipe) then get rid of it.

The product may have other uses, but since its primary use is to leaven, then it has to go. Baking soda, baking powder and bread yeast are the main examples of this.

Other products can be used as leavening, but that’s not their primary purpose, so we don’t have to get rid of them. Nevertheless we are not supposed to use them as leavening during the DULB.

As an example, baking soda needs something acidic in order to produce carbon dioxide gas which leavens dough by bubbling through it. Lactic acid from milk, lemon juice or cream of tartar can be used as the acidic ingredient, but we don’t have to get rid of all these acidic things because leavening is not their primary purpose.

Baking powder is simply baking soda that has an acidic ingredient already added to it. When you mix the baking powder into a liquid, a chemical reaction occurs and releases carbon dioxide, like when you put a baking soda solution on a battery post.

Principle 2. Avoid all leavened bread AND all leaven.

It’s important to recognize that the Bible mentions both. Bread that has been puffed up by whatever means is leavened bread.

Leavening also makes crackers and cookies crisp and flaky. So they are leavened products too.

Identifying leavened bread has to do with the state it is in after it is
baked rather than the ingredients in it (or not in it). There are ways to leaven bread without using yeast, baking powder or anything else that is primarily used as a leavening agent.

Exodus 13:7 states that neither bread which has been leavened, nor the actual leavening agent shall be seen among you. So what’s the difference between something that has been leavened and the leavening itself?

Definition of Leavening Agent

A leavening agent is a substance used in doughs and batters that causes them to rise. In the presence of moisture, heat, acidity, or other triggers, the leavening agent reacts to produce gas (usually carbon dioxide, but it can be any gas like oxygen or nitrogen). This gas becomes trapped as tiny bubbles within the dough. When a dough or batter is baked, it “sets” and the holes left by the gas bubbles remain. This is what gives breads, cakes, and other baked goods their puffiness. (Adapted from Article ‘Precision Baking”

There are three types of leavening agents:

  • Biological (yeast)
  • Chemical (baking soda)
  • Mechanical (beating)

Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide is a key leavening agent for most baked goods. Carbon dioxide is a gas that expands when heated and is generated from within the product rather than being incorporated by beating. The creation of the gas bubbles itself is enough to provide quite a bit of leavening action. This is obvious with yeast breads. Yeast is added to the batter or dough and the carbon dioxide is a waste product of yeast metabolism. As the yeast cells go to work, the carbon dioxide produced causes the bread to rise. More rising occurs in the oven when the bread and carbon dioxide bubbles are heated.

Carbon dioxide can also be produced in a product by chemical means. Sodium bicarbonate (in baking soda or baking powder) can combine with an acid to release carbon dioxide when the wet and dry ingredients of a recipe are mixed (


Air is important for many foods since, like carbon dioxide, when the food is heated the air expands to take up greater volume. Unlike carbon dioxide which is generated within the product, beating of a batter or egg whites incorporates air which will help the product rise when the heating begins and the air bubbles expand. The amount of beating has to be sufficient to incorporate enough air yet over-beating will often cause the air to be lost. Air may be the major, if not only, leavening agent in pound cakes and angel food cakes.

Even though air can be used as leavening, we don’t have to remove all air from our homes, yet it shouldn’t be used as a leavening agent during the Days of Unleavened Bread. That’s a bit obvious, I know, but the same thing goes for other substances that CAN be used as leavening but usually aren’t, such as bottle conditioned beer or steam.

This technical information about leavening helps answer any reasoning we might use to get around the intent of the Days of Unleavened Bread.

Angel food cake for example is leavened bread, leavened mechanically with air bubbles instead of chemically with carbon dioxide bubbles.

Let’s get back to the question of why the distinction between something that has been leavened and the leavening agent itself. Consider this: When you make yeast bread, the yeast that was used to leaven the dough has been killed in the baking process and cannot somehow be reused as leavening after the bread is baked.

In other words, yeast bread doesn’t actually contain active yeast – the leavening agent. But yeast bread is in a leavened state even though there is no active yeast in it after it’s baked. God commands us to avoid leavened bread – not because it has an active leavening agent in it – but because it has been leavened.

So it makes sense that in Exodus 13:7 God says avoid leaven AND leavened bread. That’s not a redundancy in the verse.

Principle 3. Eat unleavened bread “Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days.” (Exodus 13:7a).

It’s not enough only to symbolically remove sin from our lives by avoiding leaven and leavened bread. But we must also symbolically put on Christ by consuming un-leavened bread (Galatians 3:26-27).

Unleavened Bread symbolizes purity and holiness.

God’s plan of salvation doesn’t stop with Jesus Christ’s death. It takes effort on our part to remove leaven and avoid it during Days of Unleavened Bread. And it also takes effort to actually eat unleavened bread every day for these seven days. We should always keep in mind that these efforts do not earn our salvation, but our actions should be a response to God’s mercy and an expression of our faith (James 2:22).

If we remember these overriding principles, then our keeping of the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread will be profitable and effective.

When shopping for groceries during the Days of Unleavened Bread, it’s a good idea to check ingredients for leavening. But how do you know if some of the strange chemical names are leavening or not? Here is a list of commonly used leavening agents, including some with names you probably might not readily recognize.

Commonly used leavening agents include:

 What is NOT leaveaning:

  • Autolyzed yeast
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Brewers Yeast (when sold as a dietary supplement): A dead form of yeast that cannot leaven bread; a ‘nutritional’ yeast.
  • Torula Yeast
  • Yeast extract Derivatives of yeast, which are sterile and cannot leaven bread.
  • Yeast contained in fermented beverages such as beer and wine
  • Non-food products that contain bicarbonate of soda as an ingredient, such as toothpaste and detergent.
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