a vegan’s best friend: nutritional yeast

The name might sound a bit scary and indelectable, and you may know of a cat with a serious addiction to it, but I promise nutritional yeast is your friend. And a very good one at that.

Let me begin by disavowing the unsavory etymology of the stuff. Some prefer “nooch” over nutritional yeast, a much friendlier sounding label, so let’s stick with that.

What is “nooch” (nutritional yeast)?

A cousin of edible mushrooms, nooch is a yellow flaky or powder supplement made from a single-celled organism, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, which is grown on molasses and then harvested, washed, and dried with heat to “deactivate” it. This means that it has no leavening ability, and will not make your bread rise like baking yeast. It is not active dry, instant or fresh yeast. It is not brewer’s yeast, a very bitter tasting product of the beer-making process. It is not torula yeast. It is also not dairy or whey yeast.

You would never want to substitute any of the aforementioned yeasts for nutritional yeast as 1. it will taste absolutely horrid and 2. you will probably be left with a big frothy mess of a meal.

Why should I eat nutritional yeast?

As the name implies, it is packed with nutrition, specifically the kind vegans crave. Its dietary roster includes B-vitamins, folic acid, selenium, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, and protein. Most brands (not all- check the label) of nooch are fortified with B12, an essential vitamin majorly absent from the plant kingdom. It is also rich in dietary fiber, low in fat and sodium, and gluten-free.

Truthfully, the vitamins and minerals are just a plus for me. It’s the flavor that I love. Nooch is unbelievably savory. Nooch is deliciously nutty. Nooch is incredibly cheesy. All in all, it’s sinlessly delicious.

How should I use nutritional yeast?

The combinations are truly endless, but here’s my favorite ways to eat nutritional yeast:

  • swirl nooch into soup, sauces and stews for more depth of flavor
  • sprinkle it on popcorn
  • toss it on toast with Earth Balance and garlic powder for easy cheesy garlic bread
  • fluff it into mashed potatoes
  • blend it with raw almonds and a touch of lemon juice for a Parmesan substitute
  • shake it with salads or dark greens like kale and spinach
  • speckle it on steamed or stir-fried veggies
  • add it to roasted potatoes fresh out of the oven
  • powder into vegan egg dishes for a more authentic flavor
  • top off any pasta dish for a cheesy finish
  • mix it with gravy for that “umami” touch

Where can I find nutritional yeast?

Most health food stores carry nooch, and often times in the bulk section. Popular brands include Bob’s Red Mill, KAL, Now Foods and Red Star. Chain supermarkets are just beginning to stock their shelves with nutritional yeast, but you can always find it at Whole Foods or online.

How to best store nutritional yeast

Nooch is best kept in an airtight container in a dry, dark, cool place for up to a year. Store it in a pantry, refrigerator, cupboard or freezer.

How do you eat nutritional yeast? Tell us below! We’d love to hear your favorite nooch concoctions…


11 thoughts on “a vegan’s best friend: nutritional yeast

  1. I absolutely LOVE NutraYeast (as we dubbed it) and we just stuck ours in an old parmesan cheese shaker. We searched high and low for a sugar shaker container (like at a restaurant, big, tall, one hole on top) but nobody around here sells them.

    I like the flavour as it is, but I heard a vegan give me the advice that if I wanted it to taste more like parmesan (or any of the hard cheeses) I needed to toss some sea salt (for saltiness) and some cashews (for fattiness and a bit of a nutty flavour) and grind those up together, then mix thoroughly with the TVP. Supposedly that makes it even better.

    Personally, I add Nutritional Yeast during cooking, as well as a hefty amount on top after as well. I think my favorite dish to eat it with is either Pizza or Spaghetti.

    Why I’m happy? I’m a vegetarian, and I know hard cheeses come with much less suffering and pain than a burger would, but I still think making the cheeses and the toll that the cheese production takes on the planet – as much as I enjoy it I think I could probably start to make some smarter choices in my own life. I’m naturally leaning more and more toward a vegan diet and NutraYeast was one of the last things I needed to replace (cheese). For softer cheeses (tacos, nachos, pizza) I’ve heard that Daiya is the best vegan ‘cheese’ brand so I can’t wait until I have a need to try that!

    • That parmesan recipe sounds delish! Thanks for sharing 🙂 I’ve also heard of blending it with almonds and sea salt. Last night I made a “ricotta” with cashews, lemon juice, sea salt, fresh basil, a little nutritional yeast & roasted garlic. Wowzas! Super yum!

      I’ve heard Daiya is good, too, though I’ve never tried it. Follow Your Heart is my brand of choice. If you’ve never tried their Vegenaise, do yourself a favor and pick up a jar. Omnivores eat it normally because it tastes BETTER than mayonnaise. I absolutely recommend it! For a super yum sauce, try my roasted red pepper sauce recipe. I promise you’ll love it!

      It’s really great that you’re aware of the ecological & social impact your food choices have on the world. That’s a big reason behind my choice to be a vegan. Thanks so much for reaching out and for taking the time to comment! Have a beautiful day!

  2. Great post; I love using Nutritional Yeast and it’s amazing the amount of energy gained from it. I use it as a supplement to protein powder in my morning smoothie!

    • Wow I’ve never thought to use it in a smoothie! Thanks for the tip. Have you tried Spirulina ( blue-green algae) as a protein supplement? It’s very potent stuff! I’ve read that it contains 3 – 4x more protein than fish or beef, and is one of the most nutrient dense foods around.

  3. Haha, yes, I pour spirulina in my morning smoothies as well! It’s a giant green mess but it gives me a ton of energy and all worth it!!! I usually do about a tablespoon of it in there. I also put in spinach, celery, and cucumber.

  4. Pingback: But what about parmesan cheese? | EcoVeganBuddhist's Things and Stuff

    • You absolutely should!! You may be able to buy a wee bit from your local health food store or coop if they sell it in bulk, that way you won’t have to commit to a large tub of it if you don’t like it.

  5. Nutritional yeast and rice eaten together make a complete protein. B vitamins are heat sensitive, so when nutritional yeast is cooked, B vitamins are destroyed. I make a roux (whisk flour with an oil while slowly adding water or soy/nut or other milk while whisking to avoid lumps until desired consistency (salt may be added any time.) AFTER it is done, add nutritional yeast to conserve the B vitamins. I pour the yeasty roux over cooked carrots.

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