With a large global emission rate and high reactivity, isoprene has a profound effect upon atmospheric chemistry and composition. The atmospheric pathways by which isoprene converts to secondary organic aerosol (SOA) and how anthropogenic pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and sulfur affect this process are subjects of intense research because particles affect Earth’s climate and local air quality. In the absence of both nitrogen oxides and reactive aqueous seed particles, we measure SOA mass yields from isoprene photochemical oxidation of up to 15%, which are factors of 2 or more higher than those typically used in coupled chemistry climate models. SOA yield is initially constant with the addition of increasing amounts of nitric oxide (NO) but then sharply decreases for input concentrations above 50 ppbv. Online measurements of aerosol molecular composition show that the fate of second-generation RO2 radicals is key to understanding the efficient SOA formation and the NOx-dependent yields described here and in the literature. These insights allow for improved quantitative estimates of SOA formation in the preindustrial atmosphere and in biogenic-rich regions with limited anthropogenic impacts and suggest that a more-complex representation of NOx-dependent SOA yields may be important in models.