I remember the first time I saw nutritional yeast listed in a recipe. It brought up curiosity more than anything else. I had no idea what it looked like or why it was even used in the recipe. But when I eventually got around to it and began to use it in a variety ways, I realized I was missing out – it’s actually quite delicious when added to meals! In fact, it has become a staple in my kitchen.
What is it anyway?
Nutritional yeast – sometimes referred to as “nooch” – is produced from a strain called Saccharomyces cerevisiae which is a species of yeast that is primarily used as a brewer’s yeast for making wine and beer. Now, this isn’t really the form we use in cooking. This yeast is actually “deactivated” or dried out with heat to allow us to use in our cooking. It can be made in the form of flakes or powder that can be used in a variety of ways.
Are there any nutritional benefits?
Absolutely! Nutritional yeast provides several B-vitamins, protein, zinc and fiber. Nutritional yeast is known as a source for vegans to obtain Vitamin B12 when a product has been fortified. Vitamin B12 is important as it plays a role in normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, and in the formation of red blood cells. Vitamin B12 is only produced by bacteria. This means that yeast, plants or humans cannot produce B12, so we have to obtain this vitamin from other sources - such as fortified foods. Certain foods are fortified with Vitamin B12, such as fortified non-dairy milks and nutritional yeast to name just a few. Be sure to look for a fortified nutritional yeast that contains vitamin B12. Check the Nutrition Facts Label and/or the ingredients to see if this vitamin is listed.
Where can I buy it and how do I store it?
You can find nutritional yeast at your local grocery store in the spices section or at a nearby health-food store, such as Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or Lassen’s. If stored properly (tightly sealed to keep moisture out) it can last for up to two years. I keep mine in the refrigerator once the original package is opened.
How do I use it?
Nutritional yeast has many uses! In the plant-based world, it’s primarily used and known for its “cheesy” flavor addition to recipes. Here are my top 5 favorite ways to use nutritional yeast in my kitchen:
Add it to sauces for a cheesy flavor (typically used for mac & cheese or alfredo sauces)
Season baked kale chips or sautéed leafy greens
Sprinkle on popcorn for a delicious snack
Mash into mashed potatoes
Flavor salad dressings
My favorite way to use nutritional yeast is in a vegan Alfredo sauce made from blending soaked raw cashews, garlic powder, and some salt for a delicious pasta dish. Yumm! I practically make it every week! But here is one recipe that I have been enjoying as a spread for sandwiches and wraps. The nutritional yeast adds another layer of flavor without changing the overall taste of the spread. This was featured in the Tempeh Sandwich with Chipotle Cashew Aioli blog post (click here for the full recipe).
Chipotle Cashew Aioli
¾ cup raw unsalted cashews, soaked
2 tablespoons chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Juice of one lime (or 2-3 tablespoons of lime juice)
8 teaspoons of filtered water
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the cashews in a container and pour enough filtered water to cover. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours.
In a high-speed blender or food processor, blend all ingredients together until smooth.