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What the Heck Is Nutritional Yeast?

Learn why these savory flakes should be in your pantry!

Yeast is nothing new to human cuisine. Even people who’ve never baked bread in their lives know that yeast is used to make dough rise, and to convert the sugars in fruit juice into alcohol. One type of yeast that has become more popular in recent years is called nutritional yeast, also known as “savory yeast” in some parts of the world. You might even see it referred to as “nooch” in some vegetarian recipes.

What Is Nutritional Yeast?

Nutritional yeast is a form of deactivated yeast that is often used as a condiment and food additive due to its savory flavor and high level of healthy nutrients. Nutritional yeast is a different strain of yeast from both baker’s yeast or “bad” yeast like candida. It is one source of complete protein and numerous vitamins, especially B-complex vitamins (folates), making it popular among vegans and vegetarians, who can sometimes become deficient in these vitamins. Nutritional yeast is also naturally low in fat, making it a popular cheese substitute not only for people who eschew dairy but also for those who are watching their waistlines.

The easiest way to enjoy nutritional yeast is to sprinkle it onto foods the same way you would use salt, herbs, or grated Parmesan cheese. Due to its cheesy, nutty flavor, nutritional yeast has become a popular low-sodium topping for popcorn. It can also be used in recipes to make low-fat alternatives to cheese or to add flavor to gravies, soups, and sauces.

Where to Buy Nutritional Yeast

Most natural food and health food stores carry nutritional yeast, usually in the “bulk foods” section, and many grocery stores are starting to carry it, as well. Online retailers such as Amazon.com also carry it.

Here are a few recipes to help you add these healthy, tasty flakes to your diet:

Macaroni and “Cheez” Recipe

Ingredients:
1 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup white or wheat flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
3 cups milk or soymilk
16-oz. macaroni

Directions:
Boil macaroni according to the directions on the package and drain. In a saucepan, melt butter or margarine. Add the flour and stir rapidly. Add the soymilk, salt, and garlic powder, stirring continuously. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Stir in the nutritional yeast fully full incorporated. Remove the mixture from heat and pour it over the pasta. Stir and serve.

Veggie Gravy

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons margarine or butter
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup flour
2-3 cups milk or soymilk, depending on desired thickness
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Black pepper to taste

Directions:
Pour nutritional yeast and flour into a cold pot and slowly add milk, stirring constantly until it forms a paste. Add butter or margarine and soy sauce. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly until desired temperature and consistency is reached. Add pepper and additional soy sauce to taste.

Vitamin-Packed Popcorn Recipe

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup unpopped popcorn
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted (optional)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste

Directions:
In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add popcorn, and cover. Shake to coat the corn kernels with oil. Once the corn starts to pop, shake the pan constantly until the popping stops. Remove from heat, and pour popped corn into a large bowl. Drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with nutritional yeast flakes, chili powder, cumin, and salt. Stir until the herbs and yeast are evenly distributed.

Jaime McLeod is a longtime journalist who has written for a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites, including MTV.com. She enjoys the outdoors, growing and eating organic food, and is interested in all aspects of natural wellness.

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Lisa

This article was very timely, I just had nutritional yeast delivered and looking forward to trying it. One question, for the veggie gravy would it be okay to use liquid aminos instead of soy sauce? Thank you!

JC

Is this nutritional yeast good to help produce milk for mothers that are breast feeding?

Peter G

There’s also Vegemite and Marmite, both madee from yeast. Both are acquired taste, but Brits and Aussies know them well.

Peter G

Is there a difference between “Nutritional Yeast” and “Brewers Yeast?”

Jaime McLeod

Peter, Yes there is a difference. The two products are similar in that they are both deactivated yeasts, and both are very nutritious. They have a different texture and flavor, though. Nutritional yeast, as mentioned above, is flaky and has a savory, almost cheesy, flavor. Brewers yeast is coarser and can sometimes be bitter. They are generally grown differently. Brewers yeast is usually fed on grain, such as wheat, while nutritional yeast is generally fed on molasses.

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