Nutritional Yeast 101 provides an introduction to Nutritional Yeast, including what it is, nutrition information, recommended recipes, and frequently asked questions.
The first time I heard the word nutritional yeast, it was from a clerk at a small, natural foods store in Denver who was recommending I try it out. This was before I started eating plant-based and had stopped in the store to check out their products. She actually referred to it as ‘nooch’, which sounded like a strange, hippie food that was going to taste weird and definitely wouldn’t be for me. Uhhh yeah. Was I wrong. Never judge a book by it’s name. We now eat this cheesy, savory food on a daily basis in our home.
To take a step back, let’s talk about yeast in general. Yeast refers to a single-celled, microscopic fungus that is capable of converting sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. You’re probably most familiar with brewer’s or baker’s yeast. These are active yeasts. However, some yeasts are pasteurized and sterilized, so that the yeast is dead, with no leavening power, but leaves its nutritional content and other properties behind. These are inactive yeasts. Enter Nutritional Yeast. Nutritional Yeast, appropriately named, is specially grown for it’s nutritional value, made in a sugar cane or molasses mixture.
Just a ¼ cup of this powerhouse food provides many essential vitamins and minerals at amounts above the recommended daily values (RDV), therefore all that is recommended to meet your nutritional requirements is a teaspoon at each meal. Just a few of these include vitamin B, iron, selenium and zinc and provide cell damage repair, decrease iron deficiency, repair tissue, heal wounds, aid the immune system (we eat it when we feel a cold coming on), helps to lower cholesterol and with lactose intolerance. Should we even discuss what it does for digestion? It is also a complete protein, containing at least nine of the 18 amino acids that your body cannot produce. Mic drop.
See below to learn more about nutritional yeast, including other frequesntly asked questions and recipe ideas!
Basic Nutritional Information
*1/4 cup Nutritional Yeast
Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I find nutritional yeast?
Although it used to be that it was only found in natural health food stores, these days, nutritional yeast can be found in almost any grocery store, and often in the bulk bins. Look for a yellow, flaky food similar to the picture above.
Is nutritional yeast related to Candida – I’ve heard Candida is harmful?
No. Candida is a harmful yeast and robs your body of essential nutrients like iron and other minerals. It also keeps your body very acidic. This should not be confused with nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is an entirely different strain of yeast – also known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae – and bears no relationship or connection to condida. In addition to being a different strain, it’s heated and therefore not an ‘active’ yeast.
I’ve heard nutritional yeast is used as a cheesy topping. Does it contain dairy?
No, nutritional yeast is completely dairy-free. It’s also free of wheat, nuts and corn.
What are some brands of nutritional yeast that I should try out?
Bragg’s and KAL are two highly recommended brands. We personally use KAL in our house.
Now to the Good Stuff: Recipes
Easy Peezy Avo Toast
1 slice of bread
1/2 of a tomato
1-2 tsp. nutritional yeast
Optional: basil leaves and red pepper flakes
Mash the avocado and chop a small tomato into large piece. Take a piece of bread and spread the avocado mix onto the bread. Next, add the chopped tomatoes. If you have basil or red pepper, add those on top as optional. Then, sprinkle the nutritional yeast over the top. Enjoy!
Creamy Baked Mac n’ Cheese with Homemad Bread Crumbs
This is my own pared down version of a combination of two recipes from Minimalist Baker and Inspired by Nick.
8 oz. spiral, whole-wheat pasta
Cup of water for sauteeing
1/2 an onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
4 Tbs. cornstarch or arrow root startch
1-2 cups of of almond milk
1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper
1/4 c. nutritional yeast
a little cayenne,
1/2 c. vegan parmesan cheese
Homemade or store bought bread crumbs
1/4 c. green onions
*Note: We cook oil-free, so our vegetables are always sauteed with water.
Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.
Put the garlic in a non-stick skillet with a little water and cook until browned. Add the onion and some water as needed. Add the cornstarch and whisk until clumpy, and then add the almond milk. Whisk for a minute until it is blended. It will still be clumpy. Transfer to a blender and blend on high for a few minutes. Then add the nutritional yeast, vegan parmesan cheese and salt and pepper as needed and blend again. Pour the sauce back into the skillet and heat on medium, stirring. Add more almond milk as needed if it’s too thick to combine with pasta. Add more nutritional yeast or vegan parmesan cheese to taste. Add in a little garlic powder, paprika and cayenne as needed. Let this simmer on low and turn the oven to broil. Once the pasta is ready, strain the water keeping some of the pasta water aside. Put the pasta and a little of the pasta water into the skillet with the cheesy sauce and mix well. Once mixed, add the pasta mixture to a glass baking dish (I used a small dish) and top with breadcrumbs. Bake until the breadcrumbs become golden brown. Remove from oven, let cool a bit, and then serve in bowls with green onions on top!
Another favorite way to use nutritional yeast is in a tofu scramble for a cheesy, morning breakfast idea. What are some of your favorite ways to use nutritional yeast? Let us know in the comments!