What Is Nutritional Yeast? A Tasty Vegan Condiment!

By Angela Tague in Healthy Feeling

Yeast? Who eats plain yeast? Me! Nutritional yeast reminds me of sharp cheddar cheese with its yellow color and umami flavor. As a vegetarian, this flaky condiment amps up the flavor of veggies and sauces while helping me maintain a balanced diet.

nutritional yeast on kale

What Is Nutritional Yeast?

When you hear the word yeast, you probably think of the little packets of activated baker's yeast used to leaven a fresh loaf of bread or activated brewer's yeast for beer-making. But there's another type of yeast that's gaining popularity in the vegan culinary scene.

Nutritional yeast, which is sometimes called nooch, is made from deactivated yeast that's been heated and dried, according to the University of California San Diego Health Nutrition Services. They explain that nutritional yeast is packed with all the B vitamins (including niacin and folic acid), is low in calories, has little sodium, and fits a vegan diet. Animal products, like meat and dairy, are rich in B vitamins, including B12, so for vegans, nutritional yeast is a good way to get those nutrients while sticking to a plant-based lifestyle.

Overall, yeast is a simple, single-cell fungus that's known for its high protein and nutrient content, as well as its role in triggering the fermentation process in cooking and baking, according to Science@NASA.

nutritional yeast on a sweet potato

How to Eat Nutritional Yeast

I keep a shaker of nutritional yeast on the kitchen table, next to the salt and pepper, and use it when I'd ordinarily choose a sprinkle of savory Parmesan cheese or sharp cheddar. I often top steamed green beans, lentil patties, sweet potatoes, and pasta with nutritional yeast flakes.

It's also a common ingredient in homemade sauces and creamy soup bases. On days when I'm cutting back on traditional dairy, I like to make Chocolate Covered Katie's ultimate vegan cheese sauce. It uses white beans and nutritional yeast as a base. It's delicious on noodles, mixed vegetables, and even as an Alfredo-like pizza sauce after mixing in some Italian seasonings and minced garlic!

Or, try nutritional yeast in this cheesy vegan stuffed peppers recipe featuring asparagus and garlic. Love pesto? Nutritional yeast works great to flavor the classic green sauce, too! Nutritional yeast really is a versatile ingredient that enriches anything you add it to.

I find nutritional yeast at my local grocery store, near the salad dressings and shelf-stable condiments.

Have you ever eaten nutritional yeast? What's your favorite way to use it? Post a few pictures on Instagram of your nutritional yeast recipes and ideas and tag Tom's of Maine so we can see what healthy ideas you're cooking up this week! And next time your vegetarian and vegan friends ask you, "What is nutritional yeast?" show them your yummy snapshots!

Image source: Angela Tague

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Why It’s Good

Whether you're looking to shave a few calories from your day, maintain a vegan diet, or stay away from the cholesterol in cheese, nutritional yeast is a great substitute for that classic savory flavor. As a bonus, it's packed with B vitamins, so try adding a sprinkle to your child's dinner plate to sneak in some extra nutrition.