What Is Nutritional Yeast?

Mar 22, 2021

The first thing you need to know about nutritional yeast (colloquially called ‘nooch’) is that it cannot, under any circumstances, be used as a replacement for active dry yeast. It’s not a rising agent, and we can guarantee your bread recipe will not work out if you accidentally purchased nutritional yeast instead of active yeast. That being said, nutritional yeast is a wonderful, naturally dairy-free food with a cheesy flavor, and it is one of the most versatile yet underappreciated seasonings out there. Here is everything you need to know about nutritional yeast including what it is, its health benefits, and how to use it. 

What Is Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is a strain of yeast known as saccharomyces cerevisiae. Biologically speaking, it is a form of yeast, but it is not active and will not work as a leavener. The saccharomyces cerevisiae is deactivated using heat then processed into light, flaky pieces. We hate to use this analogy, but the final product closely resembles fish food. Not in taste, but in texture. We swear, this stuff is gold, and you’ll be sprinkling it on everything after reading this article. Trust us. 

Is Nutritional Yeast Healthy?

Yes, nutritional yeast is truly a nutritious food. It’s naturally dairy-free and vegan, so it is free from harmful cholesterol and saturated fats. Nutritional yeast also contains an abundance of concentrated nutrients. A 30-calorie, two-tablespoon serving contains four grams of protein, three grams of fiber, and over one hundred percent of the daily recommended amounts for vitamin B6 and B12*, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin. This serving size only contains 25 milligrams of natural sodium (1 percent of the percent daily value) and 0.5 grams of unsaturated fat. Thanks to this nutritional profile, nutritional yeast is an excellent way to add flavor to your meals without compromising your health.

How to Use Nutritional Yeast

The short answer—on everything. Use nutritional yeast to season steamed or roasted vegetables, popcorn, baked potatoes, salads, tofu scrambles, grains, beans, pasta, and more. Nutritional yeast is also essential for making nondairy cheese sauces, savory dips, flavorful soups, and even lending a cheesy note to vegan cheesecakes and pastry cream (just note, in these latter two applications, a little goes a long way). Try it out on your favorite foods; if you’re struggling with giving up cheese, nutritional yeast may help to satisfy the craving. 

Where to Find Nutritional Yeast

Most grocery stores carry nutritional yeast. You’ll find it near the spices—typically high up or down below on the shelf. It comes in both plastic canisters and bags. Popular brands include Bob’s Red Mill (turquoise bag), Bragg (bright yellow canister), and Trader Joe’s (striped blue and white bag). You can also buy nutritional yeast online. There is no notable difference between brands in terms of taste or quality, so just opt for what’s available to you. 

Recipes with Nutritional Yeast

The versatility of nutritional yeast knows no bounds, but we’ve included some excellent starter recipes to add to your repertoire. From dairy-free mac and cheese to creamy vegan broccoli cheddar soup, these nutritional yeast recipes provide a punch of cheesy flavor without any dairy. 

4-Ingredient Vegan Parmesan
Plant-Based Caesar Salad Dressing
Cheesy Chickpea Omelet with Veggie Scramble
Fiesta Bowl with Dairy-Free Queso
Simple Stovetop Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese
Roasted Veggie Lasagna
Vegan Broccoli Cheese Soup

*While nutritional yeast contains a surplus of vitamin B12, doctors and dietitians still recommend a B12 supplement. 

Photo credit: Day Organic Market

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