I’ve been hearing about nutritional yeast for a while, and the glowing reviews of it always left me curious. What IS it? WHY would you want to eat it? WHAT is so great about it? Well, I finally broke down and bought some.
What IS it?
Nutritional yeast, or “nooch,” is a yeast fungus which is grown on a molasses base, harvested, and then deactivated. It is most commonly sold in flake or powder form.
Is it the same as Brewer’s Yeast? Baker’s Yeast?
No. They’re all yeasts, but beyond that their tastes and uses are very different. Vegemite and Marmite are made from Brewer’s Yeast.
Is it vegan? Is it lactose free? Is it ALIVE?
Yes, yes, and no. :) Nutritional yeast is actually extremely popular among vegetarians, vegans, and those with lactose issues, because it provides nutrients that can be missing from their diets, and because its flavor is a good substitute for butter and cheese. It is also free of Candida albicans and can be eaten even by those sensitive to yeast. Although it was once considered “alive,” its preparation process deactivates, or kills, it.
What does it taste like?
Its flavor has been described as cheesy, buttery, and nutty. It belongs to the flavor group “umami,” or savoriness. The texture of the flakes (the version I have tried) is (sorry, I can’t think of a better one!) like fish-food flakes.
How do I use it?
The most popular “first step” into the world of nutritional yeast seems to be as a popcorn topping, and that was my first attempt. And it was… SO GOOD! If you like parmesan cheese on your popcorn, you’ll love it. I’ve already converted a few skeptics.
Nutritional yeast is also a popular ingredient in casseroles, creamy soups and sauces, salad dressings, breads & dips. I’ve heard it’s great combined with soy sauce and olive oil on pasta or rice, or mixed with bread crumbs for baked/oven-fried foods. Here’s a recipe I’d like to try for something called “The Glory Bowl.” And check out this post from One Sweet Vegan for LOTS of great recipe ideas, including Twice-Baked Potatoes, Artichoke Dip, and Vegan Mac & Cheese – YUM!
WHY should I eat it?
Nutritional yeast is high in (complete) protein, folic acid, and B-complex vitamins (some varieties are also fortified with vitamin B12). Even if you are not averse to dairy, it’s a nice change from the norm. It’s low-fat and low-sodium!
How do I STORE it?
Store for up to a year in a jar or other airtight container in a cool, dark cupboard or in the fridge.
Where do I BUY it?
There are quite a few brands out there – I was recommended Bragg by the owner of my local health food store as she believes it has more of the buttery, nutty, cheesy flavor, which is what I was looking for. Pick it up (and have a looksy around) at the Green Penny Pincher Shoppe!