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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.