When I first joined the vegan community, I kept hearing about this mysterious stuff called nutritional yeast. I found it in the bulk bins at my local grocery store, and I bought a few scoops of the flaky, yellow substance. The next step: learning what the heck to do with it!
First of all, what exactly is nutritional yeast?
Affectionately known as “nooch” in the veg community, nutritional yeast, often a strain of saccharomyces cerevisiae, is a deactivated yeast in powder or flake form that is sold commercially as a food product. It is grown on molasses and then harvested, washed, and dried with heat to kill or “deactivate” it. It contains folic acid, selenium, zinc, and protein, and it is often fortified with vitamin B12. It is not the same as other yeasts, such as brewer’s yeast, and should not be substituted for any other type. It is a unique ingredient with a flavor that is often described as nutty, cheesy, savory, or “umami.” Read on for ten great ways to use nutritional yeast.
- On pasta dishes. Nooch can be used in place of parmesan cheese as a pasta topping.
- In soups and gravies. Just a tablespoon or two of nutritional yeast enriches any soup or gravy, adding depth to the flavor.
- To make a “cheese” sauce. For those who don’t want dairy or don’t tolerate it well, nutritional yeast is an excellent base for a “cheesy” sauce. (Check out my recipe for Nutritional Yeast Cheesy Sauce!)
- On pizza. Like with pasta, nooch can be used in the place of parmesan cheese on pizza. I tend to sprinkle it on liberally, especially since I usually eat my pizza without vegan cheese.
- In salad dressings. I’m a fan of using nutritional yeast in salad dressings – it gives them a rich, creamy, savory flavor. For a quick and easy dressing, add some nooch to equal parts apple cider vinegar and olive oil, plus some garlic and a little salt, and there you have it! A quick five ingredient dressing. Or try this Tahini Lime Dressing from Chef AJ and Plant-Based Dietitian Julianna Hever, it is delish!
- As a replacement for bread crumbs. In any recipe calling for bread crumbs, nooch can be used instead. It is an excellent binder, reduces carb content of the recipe, and tastes delicious.
- On kale chips. I love raw kale chips, and I sometimes make them in my dehydrator with a marinade that has nooch as one of the main ingredients. You can also make them in the oven on a low temperature setting.
- In a tofu scramble. On the weekends, I like to spend a little time in the kitchen and splurge by making a big brunch. Scrambled tofu is a favorite. Adding a couple tablespoons of nutritional yeast just prior to serving gives it a beautiful creaminess and richness of flavor.
- On popcorn. I’m addicted to organic popcorn lately – with melted vegan buttery spread and lots of nooch! It’s better than movie theatre popcorn, I promise.
- And finally, my favorite (yes, I am a Southern girl): to make “cheese” grits! Grits are a Southern staple, and I will always love them, even though I don’t add butter and cheese to them anymore. Instead, I add a little vegan buttery spread, salt, and nooch. It tastes divine, and it takes me back to my childhood in NC.
These are just a few of the hundreds of ways to use nutritional yeast. Be careful – it can be addictive, especially on popcorn! So, stock up and start experimenting.