© 2020, The Author(s). The Saccharomycotina subphylum (budding yeasts) spans 400 million years of evolution and includes species that thrive in diverse environments. To study niche-adaptation, we identify changes in gene expression in three divergent yeasts grown in the presence of various stressors. Duplicated and non-conserved genes are significantly more likely to respond to stress than genes that are conserved as single-copy orthologs. Next, we develop a sorting method that considers evolutionary origin and duplication timing to assign an evolutionary age to each gene. Subsequent analysis reveals that genes that emerged in recent evolutionary time are enriched amongst stress-responsive genes for each species. This gene expression pattern suggests that budding yeasts share a stress adaptation mechanism, whereby selective pressure leads to functionalization of young genes to improve growth in adverse conditions. Further characterization of young genes from species that thrive in harsh environments can inform the design of more robust strains for biotechnology.