What is Nutritional Yeast?

January 3, 2011

In October of 2010, I switched to a vegan diet. Over the past few months, I have noticed that a lot of vegan recipes call for nutritional yeast. Huh? What is that? Nutritional. Yeast? That doesn’t even sound good. Nutritional yeast seems to be some sort of a substitute in recipes that call for cheese. Which I love. Or used to love. Or am learning not to love? Anyhow, I had to Google nutritional yeast to find out what it is.

According to Wikipedia, (I know. Not a solid go-to source. But whatever! In these kinds of instances, it is perfectly fine.), nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast. Huh? I’m not any closer to understanding what it is. It also says “Along with edible mushrooms, it is a fungus.” Waaa? A deactivated yeasty fungus that tastes like cheese? Deliver me! Apparently it is made by culturing yeast with a mixture of sugarcane and beet molasses. Still not sounding good! I guess it is a source of protein and vitamins, which is why vegans like it. It is a complete protein, and good source of the B-complex vitamins. Some brands are fortified with vitamin B12 – another reason vegans like nutritional yeast. I guess the vegan diet tends to lack in vitamin B12, as that is commonly found in animal proteins. It is low in fat and sodium, and sugar, dairy, and gluten-free.

Now that I have switched to a vegan diet, I figured it was time I stock my pantry with some nutritional yeast. I bought it in the open/unpackaged/bulk bins aisle at Whole Foods. I happened to walk up to the bin when another woman was filling a bag with it. I asked her what she uses it for, and she gave me some tips. I was a little bit skeptical, because it kind of looks like the flakes I used to feed my fish, but it is surprisingly tasty. It does have a cheesey, nutty flavor. I have used it in recipes that call for it, but one of my favorite uses is to sprinkle it on popcorn. Now I didn’t come up with that idea on my own. I’m not going to pretend I invented the wheel. But I will say it is pretty tasty. It has become a popular treat around here. My non-vegan daughter even really likes it on her popcorn. Of course, I haven’t told her it’s a type of fungus. Let’s just keep that between us. 😉

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Image Source: http://www.natural-health-restored.com/nutritional-yeast.html

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3 Responses to What is Nutritional Yeast?

  1. I had no idea what it was either. I think I will “trick” my 2 vegetarian kids into trying it. ;)Thanks for posting this!

    • Katherine says:

      You should definitely try it. My experience was the more familiar I got with the flavor, the more uses I found for it. I initially bought it because I noticed many vegan recipes call for it. It is great in dishes where you want a cheesey taste – ie. over popcorn for cheesey popcorn, over pasta as a parmesian cheese substitute (my daughter loves this as well). But I also use it in other dishes, where you can’t taste it as much, just for the nutritional value – I have added it to curry dishes, and have sprinkled it on taco salad, or in burritos as well. Have fun getting creative with it!

  2. Jen says:

    Haha, I’ve had the same reaction when I’ve seen the name nutritional yeast in recipes! Haven’t tried it yet. Thanks for the tips… it does sound better now. And I love popcorn!

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