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…


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