You may have heard about nutritional yeast, but you might not know all the reasons it's so great. In this post, you'll learn all the things to love about nutritional yeast along with answers to some of the most common questions on how to make the most of it. You'll be sure to want to add it to your shopping list by the end!
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Top 15 Reasons to Love Nutritional Yeast
1. It Helps Recreate Vegan Comfort Foods
One of the most popular uses for nutritional yeast is to recreate vegan versions of cheesy comfort foods. The most popular being the comfort food staple mac n' cheese. There are tons of recipes out there, but the basic principles are always the same, and once you've mastered a base recipe, you can adapt it to fit your own tastes.
- All you need to do is blend up soaked cashews, nutritional yeast, and some lemon juice with enough water to blend.
- The combination of neutral flavored fat from the cashews, umami from the yeast, and acid of the lemon will create a flavor profile and texture that's extremely similar to cheese sauce.
- Additional ingredients such as boiled potatoes, carrots, onions, and miso paste can be added to enhance or modify flavors and textures.
2. Gluten Free Way to Thicken Up Soups and Sauces
Nooch can thick up soups and sauces without having to add flour or make a roux. It’s an especially great alternative if you’re gluten-free! Using it this way is simple and easy.
- Take whatever liquid you want to thicken and slowly add drops of nutritional yeast and stir.
- Repeat this process until desired thickness is reached.
- Be careful about adding too much at once because the you can always add more, but you can't take any away!
3. Affordable and Lasts a Long Time
Nutritional yeast has been commonly mistaken as an expensive ingredient, but it's actually extremely affordable if you know how to buy it.
Now, you may have noticed shaker bottles in your local grocery store, and they may have been a little pricey.
The best thing to do is to buy bulk pails (of 5 pounds or 10 pounds) from sites like Amazon or Jet for a one-time cost of around $50-$60. Then, store it in a cool dry place in the bucket and place a portion of it in an easy to access small container that you can use for dispensing.
This is the way I've been doing it for years and usually end up buying one bucket annually.
4. Packed with Nutrients
Nutritional yeast is packed with vitamins and is usually fortified with B12, an essential nutrient produced by microbes.
It’s also a great source of vitamins and minerals including Magnesium, Copper and Manganese and a very good source of Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Pantothenic Acid, and Zinc.
Be sure to check the label, though, because levels of each nutrient vary depending on the brand and how it's fortified.
5. Funny & Catchy Names
Nutritional yeast has some catchy nicknames like “Yeshi,” “Hippie-Dust,” and, the most popular, “Nooch.”
Really, what other condiment or seasoning can you say that about?
6. Makes Easy Popcorn Seasoning
It makes a great popcorn seasoning and is even offered by some movie theaters. Many people like to use ingredients like coconut oil, olive oil, or even vinegar (a low-fat option) in order to make the nutritional yeast stick to the kernels.
Of course, your imagination is the limit here. Experiment with adding different seasonings both sweet and savory to compliment the nooch.
7. Replaces Parmesan Cheese
If you blend it together with cashews and salt it makes a substitute for Parmesan cheese that actually tastes better than the real thing! Just like with the cheese sauce, you're using the cashews for the fatty flavor profile and mouth-feel, but you don't add the liquid. This gives it a crumbly texture so that it can still be sprinkled.
8. It Has Umami
It’s got “umami” – a 5th taste that many people don’t know about (just like sweet, sour, saltiness, and bitterness). It’s one of the few plant-based umami-tasting foods outside of mushrooms, seaweed, soy sauce, ripe tomatoes, and some fermented items.
9. Helps Cut Salt Intake
If you’re trying to cut down on salt, you can use nutritional yeast to reduce the amount of salt you put on your food and have it taste just as good.
From my experience, I've found that I can reduce the amount of salt I use by around half. From there, I just like to sprinkle in a bit of nooch until I reach the flavor profile that I'm looking for.
What I've found is that by using small amounts, it can make things taste more salty without imparting the cheesy flavor from larger amounts.
10. Can Help Meet you Meet Daily Fiber Requirements
Nutritional yeast has around 4 grams of fiber per serving (unlike cheese which has 0).
This can help people meet their 31.5g recommended fiber intake, a goal which most fall short on. This is especially great for people who do not consume certain whole grains or certain fiber-rich vegetables and are hard-pressed to find reliable daily fiber sources. (1)
11. 8g of Protein Per Serving
Since it has around 8g of protein per serving, it’s a quick way to turn something like a pasta dish into a meal that’s well-rounded in macronutrients without doing anything complicated.
12. Cheesy Breadcrumbs!
You can blend up some nooch with some hardened leftover bread for cheesy breadcrumbs that you can use on almost anything!
Additionally, you can use it to bread things like tofu as shown in the video below from Sarah's Vegan Kitchen. It can be used to complement other "crisp-generating" ingredients like cornstarch or any standard batter.
13. Makes Veggies Delicious - Instantly
If you’ve got some steamed vegetables like kale or broccoli, adding some nutritional yeast to it will not only make it cheesy, but will also give it a creamier texture since it will adhere to and dissolve in the moisture.
14. It's Low in Calories
Two tablespoons of Nooch is only around 60 calories, so you don’t have to feel guilty about liberally sprinkling it on your food. Since it’s so strong, you’re unlikely to even use that much.
15. It's Good for Some Pets!
Dogs and cats can enjoy the benefits of nutritional yeast too! It’s especially useful if your pet is a finicky eater, but of course be sure to speak with your vet before introducing new things into their diet. Our companion animals tend to be much more sensitive to dietary change than we are, so it is important to figure out what's best for their individual needs. (2)(3)
Now - let's move onto some common questions about nutritional yeast...
Nutritional Yeast Nutrition Facts
- Calories: 80
- Carbs: 14g
- Fiber: 5g
- Fat: 1g
- Protein: 9g
- Calcium: 10mg
- Copper: 0.2mg
- Iron: 0.7mg
- Magnesium: 24mg
- Manganese: 0.1mg
- Phosphorus: 200mg
- Potassium: 370mg
- Selenium: 28 μg
- Sodium: 5mg
- Zinc: 3.8mg
- Vitamin B1: 12.3mg
- Vitamin B2: 12.2mg
- Vitamin B3: 74mg
- Vitamin B5: 1.5mg
- Vitamin B6: 14mg
- Vitamin B12: 30 μg
- Folate: 900 μg
- Vitamin A: 0 IU
- Vitamin C: 0 mg
- Vitamin D: 0 IU
- Vitamin E: 0 mg
- Vitamin K: 0 μg
Nutrition Facts Per 3 Rounded Tablespoons Serving Size
Vitamin levels vary based on brand and varying vitamin fortifications
How is Nutritional Yeast Made?
The process of making nutritional yeast starts with Saccharomyces cerevisiae which is a species of yeast that’s normally used in the process of making alcoholic beverages. When making nutritional yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae is grown on diluted molasses (and sometimes cane sugar) in large vats where it won’t ferment as it would if you were making alcohol.
Then, it is dried and powdered and sold as nutritional yeast for it's nutty and cheesy flavor.
Saccharomyces cerevisiae first came to the market as Brewer’s Yeast. In the beer making process, this organism is used to turn sugar into alcohol during the process of fermentation. Since it is packed with B-vitamins (besides B-12 which may be added in later), Brewer’s Yeast is often sold as a supplement, popular because it doesn’t have the same pleasant taste as nutritional yeast.
Another great additional resource from Red Star can be found here.
Nutritional Yeast Flakes vs Powder
There's really no difference between nutritional yeast flakes and powder. The only thing that separates them is the particle size.
In fact, when buying nutritional yeast flakes, you may notice that the bottom of the container has turned to powder simply from settling.
In terms of making a sauce, there won't be any practical difference as both the flakes and the powder will both dissolve just the same.
However, it can be argued that the powder offers additional flavor when sprinkling because it sticks to food much easier and may be perceived as more concentrated on the tongue.
Either way, the differences are extremely minimal.
What is the Best Way to Store Nutritional Yeast?
The best way to store nutritional yeast is in an airtight container. By limiting the amount of air exposure, it stays fresher longer.
Personally, I like to use a resealable vacuum container.
This makes it easy to access.
It keeps very well in a place that’s dark and cool like a kitchen pantry or cupboard.
Nutritional Yeast Shelf Life
Each package of nutritional yeast will have its own “Best By Date.” Most brands are packaged with a shelf life of up to 730 days or 2 years.
You can also consider freezing it in an airtight container or Ziploc plastic bag to extend the shelf life for a year or so longer.
Does it Need to be Refrigerated?
No, it does not need to be refrigerated. Although colder temperatures will extend shelf-life, it’s not really necessary since it has such a long shelf life to begin with.
What is the Best Brand of Nutritional Yeast?
Here are the most popular and best brands of nutritional yeast:
- Dr. Fuhrman
- Frontier Coop
- Bob's Red Mill
- Red Star
- Whole Foods Generic
While they all have similar (if not the same) flavor profiles, you may want to consider whether or not you want to get a nutritional yeast that's been supplemented with folic acid.
While folate is certainly a necessary micronutrient, there may be some risks to consuming it in synthetic form (folic acid). (4)
Some brands (like KAL) make both fortified and unfortified varieties, so you have plenty of options either way.
Is Nutritional Yeast a Complete Protein?
Yes! According to Cronometer Nutrition Calculator, nutritional yeast contains all of the essential amino acids (see image below).
Nutritional Yeast Amino Acid Profile (one serving)
- Cystine: 0.1g
- Histidine: 0.2g
- Isoleucine: 0.5g
- Leucine: 0.8g
- Lysine: 0.9g
- Methionine: 0.2g
- Phenylalanine: 0.4g
- Threonine: 0.6g
- Tryptophan: 0.1g
- Tyrosine: 0.4g
- Valine: 0.6g
By the way, did you know that the idea of whole foods being complete and incomplete proteins is a myth? I highly recommend the following resource on the topic.
Additionally, you can go on Cronometer or another nutrition calculator and play with this yourself. You'll find that any plant-based food you add to the calculator does have some amount of every essential amino acid that your body can't produce.
Yes, they aren't all as "well-rounded" as others, but as long as you're eating a somewhat varied diet, the odds of being deficient in one are extremely low.
Is Nutritional Yeast "Paleo"?
Whether or not our paleolithic ancestors ate nutritional yeast is uncertain (I'm joking - they most certainly didn't). It is certainly well-accepted as an approved ingredient within the Paleo Diet community.
In fact, since yeast is classified as a fungus (just like mushrooms), many Paleo-dieters promote it as a great way to replace dairy.
Is All Nutritional Yeast Gluten-Free?
All nutritional yeast is a naturally gluten-free product, but people with serious Celiac may want to check the label to see if it is labeled as such (most brands are).
If not, there always runs the small possibility of cross contamination in the packing plant, but this is unlikely to impact anyone who doesn't have an extremely severe case of Celiac.
There are so many different things to love about Nooch and so many different ways to use it that this list could go on forever.
So I wanted to pass it over to you, the readers, so that you could start experimenting and using this amazing food in your meal preparation today!
What's your favorite way to use nutritional yeast or are you yet to give it a try?
Let me know below in the comments!