Why Does My Pizza Dough Smell Like Alcohol?

Have you let your homemade pizza dough sit in the fridge for a few days and now it smells like alcohol? If you’re wondering why that is, and what you can do about it, you’ll be interested in what I’m about to say.

Pizza dough that smells a little like alcohol is perfectly normal – in fact it’s a sign that the fermentation process is taking place. However, pizza dough with an overpowering smell of alcohol usually means the dough has been over-fermented and will likely have a sour taste.

But the answer isn’t as simple as not letting the dough sit for so long because a long fermentation is a good thing. Avoiding an overly alcoholic smelling dough really comes down to striking a balance between fermentation time and the total amount of yeast used in the recipe.

pizza dough smells like alcohol Why Does My Pizza Dough Smell Like Alcohol?
An over-fermented dough is usually the culprit for that alcoholic smell.

Active Yeast Produces Alcohol As A By-Product Of Fermentation

Something that many people don’t realize is that yeast is not just an ingredient, it’s a living, breathing and growing organism.

Just like all organisms, yeast needs food to live. In the context of pizza dough, the yeast feeds off of whatever sugar has been added first and then begins to covert the starches in the flour to sugar to continue feeding. This is the foundation of the fermentation process.

When the yeast feeds on sugar and flour it creates a number of by-products, namely CO2 gas (carbon dioxide), as well as various alcohols and acids. The gas is what causes the dough to rise while the alcohols and acids are what give the dough it’s unique taste, similar to sourdough bread.

The longer the dough ferments, whether proofing at room temperature of cold-fermenting in the fridge for an extended period, these gasses, alcohols and acids continue to build up.

Related Post: How Much Yeast Goes In Pizza Dough?

Over-Fermenting Pizza Dough Can Cause It To Become Overly Alcoholic

If your pizza dough has an overpowering alcoholic smell, it’s usually a sign that something has gone wrong. The dough will still be edible and perfectly safe to eat, but it will likely have a sour taste to it.

The most common reason why pizza dough smells like alcohol is because it was left to proof for too long at too high of a temperature or contains too much yeast.

As time goes on, the yeast in your dough will consume more and more sugars and produce more and more alcohol as a by-product. This process is accelerated at higher temperatures.

Less Yeast and Less Fermenting Can Solve Most Problems Of Alcoholic Smelling Pizza Dough

The more yeast you include in a pizza dough recipe the faster the dough will ferment. This is because yeast, as a living organism, reproduces, so the more yeast you start off with the more yeast you’ll end up with in a shorter amount of time.

All of this means the processes of fermentation will create more alcohol that affects the taste and smell of your pizza dough.

To avoid an alcoholic smelling pizza dough, try the following (ranked from best to worst):

  • Use less yeast and give the pizza dough more time to ferment. (best)
  • Use the same amount of yeast and give the pizza dough less time to ferment.
  • Use more yeast and use the pizza dough immediately after it’s risen and proofed. (worst)

In general, the secret to a delicious pizza dough is ample fermentation. But when this happens with too much yeast, you’ll quickly get an overly alcoholic smelling dough.

So to counter this smell of alcohol, the easiest thing to do is use much less yeast while still giving the pizza dough ample time to proof and ferment.

Many pizza recipes online call for far too much yeast because these pizza doughs are meant for immediate consumption. All that yeast will cause the dough to rise quickly, which is useful when you want it ready in a hurry. But if you leave that same dough to ferment for over 24 hours, it will end up smelling and tasting like alcohol.

I recommend using no more than a 1/4 teaspoon of active dry yeast per 500 grams of pizza dough in your recipe if you plan on letting it ferment for over 24 hours. This strikes a good balance between growth of the dough and minimizing the effects of too much alcohol production.

Wrapping Up

If your pizza dough smells like alcohol, it’s like the result of using too much yeast or letting it ferment for too long.

If you want to use your dough in a hurry, use more yeast and don’t let it ferment and rise for more than a few hours.

But if you want the benefits of a properly fermented pizza dough, use significantly less yeast and let it ferment for 24-48 hours. Yeast is a living organism so it will reproduce itself slowly over time during the fermentation process.

Related Question:

Should Pizza Dough Smell Like Alcohol?

Pizza dough fermentation is a similar chemical process to beer production, so a slight smell of alcohol is normal. But if your pizza dough has a strong smell of alcohol, it probably means you used too much yeast or let the dough ferment for too long. This is because when pizza dough ferments the yeast produces small amount of alcohol as a by-product.

Why Does My Dough Smell Like Alcohol?

When yeast mixes with water and flour it begins to break down the starches in the flour to sugar and feeds on it. One of the by-products of this chemical reaction is alcohol, which is why a rising dough can sometimes have a faint smell resembling beer. But if your dough has an overwhelming alcoholic smell to it, it’s probably because the yeast has overgrown and produced too much alcohol. This happens as a result of using too much yeast or letting your dough proof or ferment for too long.

How Can You Tell If Pizza Dough Has Gone Bad?

You can tell if pizza dough has gone bad by examining it for discoloration or other signs of mold. If you’re unsure, throw it out but keep in mind that dough actually has a long shelf life in the fridge – often up to a week or more. The main problem with pizza dough that’s been left too long is that can develop a sour or alcoholic taste or tear due to a weakened gluten network.

Is Over Fermented Dough Safe To Eat?

In general, over fermented dough is perfectly safe to eat – but that doesn’t mean you’ll want to. You can usually tell if your dough is over fermented by the strong smell of alcohol which results from yeast overgrowing and producing alcohol as a by-product. Dough that has been over fermented will usually have a sour taste and not rise in the oven due to the weakened gluten network.

Can Pizza Dough Make You Sick?

Just like anything that has spoiled or gone bad, pizza dough can absolutely make you sick if it contains molds or bacteria. In fact, even pizza dough that hasn’t gone bad but is simply raw can make you sick due to the potential presence of molds and bacteria. This is why it’s very important to inspect your pizza dough for mold before using it and never eating pizza dough that hasn’t been thoroughly baked.

How Long Can Pizza Dough Stay In The Fridge?

Pizza dough has a very long shelf life and can be safely eaten up to a couple of weeks later. However, i’s important to keep a couple of things in mind before doing so. As the pizza dough sits in the fridge, it will continue to slowly ferment. This can be a good thing and create an intense flavor similar to sourdough bread, but for long-ferments make sure not to use too much yeast or you’ll wind up with a pizza dough that tastes sour and smells overly alcoholic.

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  1. If your pizza dough has a slight smell of beer or alcohol, it’s actually a normal result of the fermentation process. However, if your pizza dough has a very strong alcoholic smell, it’s usually the result of an over-fermented dough or too much yeast added to the recipe.

    This happens because as pizza dough ferments, the yeast feeds on starches and produces gas, acids and alcohols as a by-product.

    What’s your experience with fermented pizza dough and how do you deal with avoiding an overly alcoholic finished product?

  2. Thanks for the article. Very informative and useful since I love to make pizza dough myself. I prefer pre-fermented processes like Biga.

    1. Thanks Anna. I’m really glad you found the post useful.

      Pizza dough made with biga is amazing as well!

  3. Thank you for the post. I agree. 1/4 t. of yeast should be sufficient for refrigerator dough, not like the recipe I saw for 2 T. !!! However, now I have a bitter alcohol dough in my fridge and I thought perhaps if I add baking soda to it it would help it expel that awful alcohol taste and smell. What do you think?

    1. Hi Teresa. If you’re pizza dough smells like alcohol, it’s probably time to start a new dough. I wouldn’t add baking soda as it will inhibit the yeast and change the flavor for the worse. Good luck!

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