What is nutritional yeast?
Nutritional yeast (aka Savoury Yeast Flake or “nooch”) is a deactivated yeast sold in yellow powder or flake form. “Deactivated” means this yeast isn’t the type that will make your bread rise. Nutritional yeast is cultured- meaning it is put in a nutrient-dense medium and rested until healthy microorganisms grow in it. Therefore, it is known to be better for you than many other commercially available yeasts (more on that below). After being cultured sufficiently, it is exposed to heat to deactivate it, then packaged and sold.
Nutritional yeast is often used in vegetarian and vegan cooking as a way to add flavor, especially as a way to emulate cheese. It also makes a great sprinkle topping for popcorn, kale chips, pasta or soup. Additionally, it’s delicious stirred into eggs or tofu scramble.
What does nutritional yeast taste like?
A lot of people describe nutritional yeast as cheesy or nutty, but for me these are just rough approximations. It really does have a savory flavor all its own. When used to emulate cheese, it rarely hits the exact flavor by itself but it can come close. I encourage you to let go of the idea that it’s going to “fool” you into believing that it’s real cheese. As I have said in a few posts such as my Black Bean Burger recipe or my Mediterranean Tofu Scramble (LINK) recipe, I reject the entire concept of food needing to trick you to be enjoyable. Relax, and enjoy nutritional yeast for what it is instead of focusing on how much it is or isn’t like the “real thing”.
Another thing to note is that there are some slight flavor variations from brand to brand. Test some out to see which is the right brand for you! Most that I have found are quite strong in flavor and it just takes a little to do the trick.
Where can I find nutritional yeast?
Most natural and health-conscious grocery stores sell nutritional yeast, often in the bulk section and sometimes with the vitamins and supplements. If you have a Natural Grocers is your area, that’s where I get mine. I find it over in the supplements section, specifically in the sports nutrition area and dietary supplements area. Where I live in Denver Colorado, this is by far the cheapest option.
What are some benefits of nutritional yeast?
- It’s a complete protein – nooch has all 9 essential amino acids that the human body cannot create and so must consume. This is a rarity among vegan and vegetarian products! It also has 2 grams of protein per tablespoon. Nooch is a great way for vegetarians, vegans, and everybody else to get a solid boost of protein.
- It’s a flavor enhancer that is low in sodium – no salt is added to nutritional yeast and its natural sodium comes in at just 10 mg per tablespoon. That’s less than 1% of your recommended daily sodium intake. Nooch is a total flavor bomb that won’t significantly add sodium to your meal.
- A study by the University of Michigan found a correlation between increased nutritional yeast intake and decreased seasonal allergy symptoms such as nasal congestion, sneezing, and watery eyes. It was also shown to correlate to a decrease in the duration that symptoms were experienced.
- Nutritional yeast contains the antioxidants glutathione and selenomethionine. Glutathione reduces oxidative stress on your cells. Having levels of oxidative stress that are too high is a precursor to diabetes, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis. Glutathione also may help fight autoimmune diseases. Selenomethionine provides support for the thyroid, heart, immune system and is useful for the management of healthy cholesterol levels.
How do I store nutritional yeast?
Nooch is best stored in a cool dry place in a sealed container. While it does have a shelf life, it lasts longer than active dry yeast would. You can get up to two years out of nutritional yeast if stored properly. You will know it has gone bad if it tastes and smells bitter or rancid. Another option is storing it in the freezer, which will also prolong the life of your yeast. And finally, many brands of nutritional yeast are fortified with B vitamins- if yours is one of these you will want to keep it in a dark colored container so the light does not deteriorate these vitamins.