Nutritional yeast is no longer a niche product that only hippies use. Also known as “nooch” (you know, the first syllable of “nutritional”), is a superfood that not only packs a punch in flavour, but also in versatility and nutrients.
For vegetarians and vegans, it is a common substitute for ingredients in dishes that would provide that cheesy, unctuous flavour, but its uses are not limited to being just a cheese replacement. Nutritional yeast carries a deep umami flavour, so in addition to being a crucial ingredient to vegan macaroni and cheese, it’s also great for amping dishes like scrambled “eggs.”
In addition to its versatility, though, what makes nutritional yeast a staple in the cupboards of vegetarians and vegans? Here, we delve into why it is such a beloved ingredient and how it went from niche to delicious nooch.
What is Nutritional Yeast?
Nutritional yeast—or Saccharomyces cerevisiae—is exactly what the name implies. It is actually the same yeast that is used by bakers and brewers to bake bread and brew beer, but with a few key differences. Nutritional yeast is specifically grown to be used as an edible product, and its yeast cells are killed during its production. So, no, you can’t do any baking or brewing with nutritional yeast
To produce nutritional yeast, the cells of Saccharomyces cerevisiae are grown on a sugar-rich medium like molasses. Then, its active components are deactivated with heat, and the yeast is then washed, dried, and crumbled to the state we know it as.
Nutritional yeast comes in flaked and powdered form. One isn’t better than the other; it just depends on your application of it.
What Makes Nutritional Yeast Nutritional?
This gluten-, soy-, and sugar-free superfood packs a punch in vitamins and minerals that those who may be missing nutrients in their diet. Nutritional yeast is a great source of protein and dietary fibre, and contains essential minerals and vitamins, including magnesium, zinc, copper, B12, B1, B9, B6, and B3. It’s also rich in iron and potassium, and low in calories.
Though nutritional yeast is jackpaked with B vitamins, most of the nutritional yeast you find at grocery stores today are fortified with additional vitamins and minerals.
Many of these nutrients are usually found in animal products, making nutritional yeast an easy way for vegans and vegetarians to get said nutrients without having to consume animal products. Nutritional yeast also has the ability to help lower cholesterol, and help to stabilize blood sugar since it’s a low-glycemic food.
As with all foods, it is important not to overindulge on nutritional yeast. Since nutritional yeast is high in fibre, it can cause gas and bloating.
Where Can I Buy Nutritional Yeast?
Though it used to be harder to come by, nutritional yeast can now be purchased at any grocery store in the health food section. In Vancouver, places like Safeway, Save-on-Foods, Whole Foods, Buy Low, Famous Foods, and No Frills, all carry nutritional yeast. Oftentimes, it can be found in the health food aisle.
Many vegan meal prep delivery services—like Planted Meals—may also utilize nutritional yeast to make their dishes more nourishing.
What Can I Make With Nutritional Yeast?
There is no wrong way to incorporate nutritional yeast. Its versatility makes it good for almost any savoury dish. Its nutty, umami-packed flavour profile is often highlighted in cheesy-flavoured plant-based recipes. Think of nutritional yeast as a perfect parmesan substitution when the time is right.
Of course, you do not need to include nutritional yeast through cooking it; nutritional yeast is totally edible in its “raw” form. It’s great for sprinkling over popcorn, Brussel sprouts, or dips.
Ready to dive into the world of nutrition yeast? Below are some of our favourite recipes that feature the beloved product.
From Love & Lemons
¾ cup peeled and diced Yukon gold potato
¾ cup peeled and diced sweet potato
2 garlic cloves
¼ cup raw cashews
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup water
To make your cheese spicy or smoky, try adding:
½ to 1 chipotle pepper from canned chipotles in adobo
1 tablespoon pickled jalapeños
¼ to ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
Place the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water by about 1 inch. Add a few pinches of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until fork-tender, 8 to 12 minutes.
Drain and transfer to a high-speed blender with the garlic, cashews, apple cider vinegar, nutritional yeast, onion powder, salt, olive oil, and water. Blend until smooth.
For spicy vegan cheese, add the chipotle pepper or pickled jalapeños. If you’d like a smoky flavor, add the smoked paprika.
Serve with tortilla chips for dipping or over pasta to make vegan mac & cheese.
Tofu Scramble Florentine
¼ cup nutritional yeast
1 tbsp garlic powder
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp black salt (kala namak) or sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
½ cube of no-chicken bouillon cube or 1 tsp vegetable bouillon
1 cup water
1 tbsp non-dairy butter flavoured coconut oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 packages medium or firm tofu, drained (I prefer medium)
2 green onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped, or 1 tsp dried dill
1 cup fresh spinach
In a small bowl or blender, combine yeast, garlic powder, turmeric, salt, pepper, bouillon and water. Whisk or blend until combined and lump free. Set aside.
In a medium-size pan, heat oil over medium-high heat.
Add onions to the pan, and sauté until translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
Crumble tofu with your hands and add to the pan. Cook for 3 minutes.
Add broth mixture to the pan with the tofu, and cook without stirring for 4 minutes.
Continue to sauté, stirring occasionally until the liquid has evaporated. About 5-8 minutes.
Add green onion, and fresh dill, spinach, and everyday seasoning. Saute until greens are wilted, about 3 minutes
Popcorn with Nutritional Yeast and Aleppo Pepper
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 cups just-popped popcorn (from ½ cup kernels)
¼ cup olive oil
Finely grind nutritional yeast, Aleppo pepper, and salt in spice mill or with mortar and pestle.
Arrange popcorn on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with oil; toss to coat.
Sprinkle with some of the nutritional yeast mixture and toss well to coat, adding more nutritional yeast mixture to taste.
A Final Note
Clearly, not only can you add nutritional yeast to just about any dish, but it is also chock full of vitamins and nutrients. Because the nutrients it contains are usually only found in animal products, nutritional yeast is a great alternative for vegans and vegetarians, as well as those who simply wish to add some more vitamins, minerals, and protein to their diet.
Have you tried nutritional yeast before? If so, how do you like incorporating it? Let us know in the comments below!