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If you frequently cook plant-based meals, no doubt you’ve seen nutritional yeast as an ingredient in macaroni and “cheese,” kale chips, popcorn, and more. That cheesy, tangy flavor, minus the cheese, usually comes from one ingredient: Nutritional yeast.
Sometimes referred to as “nooch” by devotees, it’s been enjoying a renaissance as a popular ingredient in the last few years, though it’s been around for decades.
What is Nutritional Yeast?
Nutritional yeast is made from a strain called saccharomyces cerevisiae, the same type used in bread baking and beer brewing. But don’t use nooch in your favorite sourdough recipe; while baker’s yeast is a live product, nutritional yeast is not.
The yeast is grown on a carbohydrate substrate such as beet sugar or molasses, and after it ferments, it’s heated, then dried. It becomes inactive during the heating and drying processes.
Nutritional yeast is bright yellow, and it’s sold in flakes or as a powder. It’s vegan and gluten-free.
What’s so great about it?
Nutritional yeast is rich in B vitamins, and some brands are fortified with B12, which typically comes in animal proteins. It also provides fiber, folic acid, and minerals such as iron, selenium and potassium. Though it doesn’t have a lot of protein, what it has is a complete protein; that is, it contains all 9 essential amino acids, the ones our bodies can’t generate on their own.
How can I use it?
- If you like a cheesy flavor, stock up on nutritional yeast. It’s delicious sprinkled on popcorn and baked potatoes, used in breading for vegetable “fries,” as a seasoning on roasted vegetables, and in dips, soups and sauces. Try it in pesto, as a pizza topping, baked into homemade biscuits or crackers, and sprinkled onto rice, quinoa or other grains when building a bowl.
Here are some of our favorite uses for nutritional yeast:
- Breakfast Tacos with Cheesy Hemp Scrambled Tofu
- Healthy Saag Paneer
- Mac-and-Cheese-Style Cauliflower
Where do I get it?
You’ll find nutritional yeast sold by brands such as Bob’s Red Mill, Bragg and Anthony’s in supermarkets and online. Health food stores also carry it, and there you may also find it in the bulk bins. You can store it in your pantry for up to two years as long as it’s kept cool and dry; or you can refrigerate or freeze it to make it last even longer.