Are you making a vegan recipe and wondering what is nutritional yeast? Find out why this unusual ingredient is loved by vegans as we guide you through everything you need to know about nutritional yeast
There’s no hiding the fact that vegans and plant-based eaters are into weird and wonderful food items.
I mean, we’ve got cheese made from cashew nuts, seaweed caviar, and gluten-based meat alternatives that we shape into dinosaurs.
So is it really any surprise that the dried, yeasty flakes that make up nutritional yeast, aka nooch, have become a staple in many a plant-based cupboard?
What is nutritional yeast?
Whilst nooch might sound (and look) like something out of a lab, this cheesy product has actually been around long before veganism became mainstream. We’re talking 5-10 years PMA (pre-meat alternatives).
It’s one of the original vegan staples usually found in health-food and/or specialist stores.
The small, yellow flakes that make up nutritional yeast are dried, deactivated forms of yeast (usually the Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain, if you want to get technical).
These differ from other types of yeast such as Brewer’s yeast and Baker’s yeas. These are usually purchased alive/active or reactivated upon cooking.
Nutritional yeast spores are killed during their manufacturing. They are therefore inactive when they reach your plate.
In order to produce nutritional yeast, the cells are cultured (grown) for several days using a source of sugar, such as molasses or beet sugar.
Once the yeast has grown, the culture is heat-treated to deactivate it.
It is then washed, dried, and crumbled into small flakes.
Then, the yeast makes its final journey into packaging, ready for you to sprinkle, blitz, and blend in whatever recipes take your fancy.
Nooch can be added to a range of recipes such as sauces to give them a rich, cheesy flavour.
What’s the difference between fortified nutritional yeast and unfortified?
Much like plant-based milks, nutritional yeast comes in two distinct forms: fortified and unfortified.
The unfortified yeast is free from any added vitamins or minerals and contains only the nutrients which are naturally found in the yeast itself.
Fortified yeast has additional vitamins and minerals added to the flakes in order to enhance their health benefits. It is the most common type of nooch you’ll find on supermarket shelves.
Don’t forget, if the product is labelled as vegan, particularly if it has the Vegan Trademark logo on the packaging, these additional ingredients will have a plant-based origin. So there’s no need to worry about potentially unethical hidden ingredients.
It’ll come as no surprise that fortified nutritional yeast products contain more vitamins than the unfortified alternatives.
However, both types do contain B vitamins and trace minerals.
A popular choice amongst vegans is to buy nutritional yeast which is fortified with vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is a vitamin that is not readily available in modern foods and is particularly not abundant in a plant-based diet.
Is nutritional yeast good for you?
Nutritional yeast is considered a superfood by many.
And when looking at the nutritional profile of these wonder-flakes, it’s easy to see why.
Nooch is naturally low in fat and carbohydrates, but comparatively high in protein.
For example, per 5g serving of unfortified nooch, there’s 2.4g of protein, 0.25g of fat, and 0.95g of carbohydrates, with next to no sugar or salt.
The protein found in these yellow flakes is also high-quality and complete. This means it contains all nine essential amino acids that we need to source from our foods.
Glutathione and Selenomethionine antioxidants are also found in nutritional yeast.
Antioxidants work to help your body process damage caused by pollutants, stress, and environmental toxins.
Even better, Beta Glucan, a dietary source of soluble fibre, is abundant in nooch flakes, which can help towards lowering cholesterol.
Sprinkle it on popcorn for a healthy savoury snack
Can you have too much nutritional yeast?
Just 5g of nooch contains almost your entire daily nutrient requirements for vitamin B1, B2, B3 and B5, as well as being rich in biotin.
Nutritional yeast also contains trace minerals, such as selenium and zinc. These can aid in healthy immunity and regular bodily metabolism.
Each different brand and type of nooch will vary in its nutritional and vitamin profiles.
So, if you’re looking for a particular fortification, shop around to find the product which suits your needs.
Nutritional yeast is safe for most people to consume, and luckily, there’s no upper limit on how much you should eat.
Some people may find the high niacin (B3) content may cause skin flushing or redness, but this shouldn’t occur if you have around 1tbsp per day.
How to use nutritional yeast
You don’t need to prepare nutritional yeast, it’s ready to go straight out of the packet.
It also has a really long shelf life, so there’s no need to worry about it going off anytime soon (if it sticks around for that long!).
Nooch is a really versatile ingredient and can be used in a variety of ways based on your cooking style.
The flavour of nutritional yeast is hard to define but lies somewhere in-between hard cheese, such as parmesan, and cashew nuts.
It has a distinctive, cheesy taste which makes it an ideal cheese substitute for use in cheese-based recipes.
Here are a few ideas:
The simplest way to use nutritional yeast is to sprinkle it onto your finished dishes as you would cheese.
For example, on top of salads, pasta bakes, stews, soups, roasted veggies, jacket potatoes, and much much more.
Nooch can be baked into savoury recipes with ease.
For example, use nooch to add a cheesy flavour to savoury cakes, as well as vegan quiches and pizza rolls.
Nooch adds a depth of flavour to cheesy sauces such as this epic nacho cheeze topping.
Where to buy nutritional yeast
Nutritional yeast is much easier to locate these days, it’s pretty much everywhere.
Nooch has been a staple in specialist health shops and local independent vegan stores for many years.
However, these days you can often find it at larger supermarket outlets and high street health and wellbeing chains.
Once you’re used to using it in your everyday cooking, you’ll soon find yourself bulk-buying the stuff online.
Is tofu healthier than meat and what is the best way to cook it to ensure the perfect taste and texture?
Find out with our ultimate guide to tofu.