Nutritional yeast doesn’t sound too good does it? Despite it’s name, it packs a bunch of flavor and it’s a staple in most vegan/vegetarian/plant-based kitchens.
If you’re like me, when you mention nutritional yeast, you get this look from the other person that says “what the f is that?!” I used to get it all the time. I did have one pleasant surprise though. One day I was getting a pedicure and somehow the esthetician and I got on the subject of me being vegan. Then she mentioned how her daughter is allergic to dairy and how she uses nutritional yeast. I was like “WOW! A non-vegan likes nutritional yeast!” Needless to say, I was secretly pleased and proud.
You’ll also see nutritional yeast referred to as “nooch” in some places. I think that sounds a bit better than nutritional yeast.
When I first started cooking with it, I remember thinking “what the heck is nutritional yeast?” I certainly wasn’t expecting it to look the way it does. I was expecting it to look like baker’s yeast because it has “yeast” in it’s name. I was surprised and confused when I saw it because it looks like fish food. It’s flaky, yellow, and has a kind of weird nutty smell to it. I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I do, nor was I expecting these little flakes to have as much nutrition as they do.
What Is It?
As you can see from the photo above, nooch is this fish food-like stuff you use in vegan cooking. (I probably shouldn’t mention that it kind of reminds me of the way fish food smells, but that’s just me. My nose is weird.) It’s a deactivated yeast.* That means it won’t froth or grow or anything like baker’s yeast (the type of yeast you use to make bread).
For those of you who are curious, the scientific name for nooch is Saccharomyces Cerevisiae. It’s grown on molasses (either from cane or beets). To help the yeast grow, B vitamins are added to provide the nutrients it needs.*
According to Whole Foods’ site:
These crisp golden flakes have a nutty aroma and famously cheesy flavor, making it a go-to vegan substitute for Parmesan cheese. But it’s not just a one trick pony. This type of yeast is a potent source of umami, the savory element that hits our palates with deep, satisfying flavor.
Nutritional Value of Nooch
As I’ve mentioned above, B vitamins are added to the yeast as it’s growing. Because of this, it’s loaded with vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is easily sourced from eggs, milk, cheese, meat, fish, shellfish, and poultry. So, that means vegans have to get it from somewhere else and nooch is one place. However, you really shouldn’t rely on nooch as your sole source of B12 vitamins. A lot of vegan foods are fortified with it. The soy milk I have is fortified with it.
Other than having loads of vitamin B12, it has Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, vitamin B6, and Folate. That’s a lot huh? Apparently the flaky stuff is a source for complete proteins, has a low glycemic index, and has amino acids . If you have a diabetic in your family or know someone who is diabetic, you know that a low glycemic index is good.
Now here’s where you’ll have to recall your science class from school. Amino acids make up your muscles and tissues. They’re also the building blocks of protein. Nooch has all of the essential amino acids. These are the acids that your body can’t produce and must get it from other sources. Has the science class come flooding back yet?
How To Use Nooch
Some people use nooch by sprinkling it on popcorn. Personally, I haven’t done that but I’m curious to try it. I’ve used nooch in vegan cheese recipes like an alfredo, a macaroni and cheese recipe, in tofu scrambles, and making vegan Parmesan cheese. It’s more commonly used as a vegan substitute for Parmesan though (as state above). When my Mother-in-law or my Mom asks for a vegan recipe that I’ve made for them, I tell them to use regular Parmesan cheese instead of the nutritional yeast.
There are numerous uses for it. Most vegan recipes that are cheesy will have nutritional yeast as an ingredient. You just have to experiment and find which ones you like!
* Side Note 1: If you suffer from candida albicans consuming nutritional yeast might not be good for you. Candida albicans is an overgrowth of yeast and it can lead to a leaky gut, which is what I had. For the most part I’m cured of leaky gut but nutritional yeast still effects me.
*Side Note 2:When I was researching my allergy to yeast, I read that you need to be careful if you’re taking vitamin supplements because B vitamins are grown using yeast. I’ve had to email companies to be sure. Some websites will state if the vitamins are grown with yeast.