What is Nutritional Yeast (Nooch)?

Although I assume that most of the non-vegans who read my blog are familiar with things like tofu and chickpeas, it’s occurred to me that there may be a few questions surrounding some of the lesser-known vegan/health food ingredients. So with that, I’ve added a new section to my blog called What’s That?, and every now and then I’ll write a post about one of these ingredients, and link to it when my recipes call for it.

What is Nutritional Yeast?

First up: Nutritional Yeast. Because (lacto-ovo) vegetarians get their cheese-fix from dairy, many of them are not familiar with this ingredient. But because it imparts a “cheesy” taste to food, it is loved by vegans and other people who do not consume dairy. It’s not something that you see used in a lot of commercial food products (to the chagrin of us vegans), so you kind of have to be “in-the-know” to have heard about it. But it’s not that difficult to find and it’s even easier to use, so I really encourage you to try it if you haven’t already.

Facts

  • It is a deactivated yeast and a fungus
  • It is produced by culturing the yeast with a mixture of sugarcane and beet molasses for a period of 7 days, then harvesting, washing, drying and packaging the yeast
  • The flakes are bright yellow in color
  • It is a complete protein, meaning it contains an adequate proportion of all nine essential amino acid that we need to function
  • It is a good source of protein and B vitamins (If you’re vegan, you should seek-out a brand that is fortified with B-12)
  • It is low in fat and sodium and is free of sugar, dairy and gluten
  • It has a strong nutty/cheesy flavor that can be added to any dish to impart a cheesy taste
Source: Wikipedia

Nutritional Yeast

Uses

  • Grind it in a food processor with an equal part of blanched almonds to mimic Parmesan – this is great sprinkled on pasta!
  • Add a tablespoon or two to risotto, quiches, cannelloni, stuffed mushrooms – anywhere you would normally use Parmesan or other cheese
  • Sprinkle it on popcorn
  • Blend it with nuts to make vegan cheese sauce, and soft or hard cheese

Where to Buy / What to Ask For

  • It is sold as “savoury yeast flakes” in Australia and Brufax in New Zealand
  • Do NOT confuse it with Brewer’s Yeast, which is a by-product of the brewing industry! (MANY health food store employees have tried to sell me this in the past so be vigilant!)
  • It is affectionately called “Nooch” by those who love it (If you’ve ever seen that term, now you know what it is!)
  • Most good health food stores will stock nutritional yeast
  • It can be easily ordered online via Amazon
  • In Australia, I order from Aussie Health Products (sold as “savoury yeast flakes”)

Tips

  • This is a great alternative for vegans and those who are lactose-intolerant or trying to cut-back on dairy and/or fat
  • Because of it’s strong smell/taste, some people find Nooch off-putting the first time they eat it (especially if they still eat dairy cheese and/or recently went vegan)
  • In my experience, the longer you’ve been vegan, the more likely you are to think that this tastes like “real cheese”
  • When trying nutritional yeast for the first time, start by sprinkling it on pasta (to mimic Parmesan) or using a tablespoon or two in other savory dishes, such as those mentioned above
  • Once you’re ready to go “Full-Nooch”, I encourage you to try making the Best Ever Mac & Cheese I’ve ever had – it’s life-changing!

Recipes

Here are a few of my favorite recipes using nutritional yeast:

Homemade Vegan Cheese
Homemade Vegan Cheese
Vegan Caesar Salad
Vegan Caesar Salad
Best Ever Vegan Mac & Cheese (Vegan and Gluten-Free)
Vegan Mac & Cheese
Versatile Vegan Quiche
Versatile Vegan Quiche
Tofu & Spinach Cannelloni (Manicotti)
Tofu & Spinach Cannelloni
Rocket and Cashew Spread – Vegan and Gluten-Free
Rocket and Cashew Spread

Here’s a full list of all my nutritional yeast recipes


Good luck on your Nooch adventures! Feel free to ask me your questions below and I’ll do my best to answer them.

PS. According to Wikipedia, some movie theaters offer nutritional yeast as a popcorn condiment. Have you ever seen this? I would die and go to heaven if I ever saw that!!

Q: What are your favorite uses for Nutritional Yeast?

65 Comments

  1. I LOVE these magical vegan flakes! I try to add it to as many sauces and other dishes that I can like my hash brown casserole and (as you know :) ) the cashew cheese pasta. It’s always great in Alfredo sauces, too. I will have to see if our local theaters offer it for popcorn–that’s so cool!

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Thanks for your feedback! I’m posting a link to your cheeze sauce later this week. It’s a life-changer. For reals, it’s gotta be on my top-5 vegan recipes of all time. You rock!!

      Reply
    • Antoine says:

      Would love to know how you include vitamin b12, iron and protein etc. I’m a new vegan and seem to be stuck with these.

      Reply
      • vegangela says:

        Hi Antoine – That’s a good question! Check out this awesome post on my friend JL’s site: http://jlgoesvegan.com/vegan-101-planning-healthy-vegan-diets/ – That should be enough info to get you started. I personally try to include a lot of fresh veggies in my diet, as well as beans and tofu everyday. I also take a multi vitamin and a B12 supplement. But check out that article and let me know if you have any other questions. You can do it – Good luck!

        Reply
    • Charlotte says:

      Thanks for putting this info up, I’m pretty new to veganism and have been coming across this ingredient a lot. But not sure where I can buy it. I live in Melbourne, and can see that your in Sydney, any ideas of where I could find it? Supermarket, health food shops?

      Thanks!

      Reply
      • vegangela says:

        Hi Charlotte – So sorry for the delay! I had a really tough time finding it in Sydney. Shopkeepers kept trying to sell me brewery’s yeast, which is NOT the same thing. Read above for the link to Aussie Health Products – that’s who I often ordered from. Hope that helps!

        Reply
  2. Great idea for a page on your site! I think I sometimes forget that all the ingredients that are now so “normal” to me are probably mysterious to most other people.

    What DON’T I love nooch on?! ;) I love it so much, but especially on popcorn – though I have never seen it in movie theatres!! That would be AMAZING.

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Hi Jess – thanks for your comment. Yeah, I think we do take our “secret ingredients” for granted so I thought it might be nice to share with the “others”. And apparently, there are some vegans who’ve never had it. Shocking I know, but it’s really not that popular here in Oz so I have to order it online as the local health food stores don’t stock it (and I’m in a major city). I would have to say that my love/use of nooch has definitely increased over the past year… it goes into virtually everything these days. And yeah, I would fall over and die if I ever saw nooch popcorn at the movie theatre. Would make the $7 price tags almost bearable! ;)

      Reply
  3. Very cool… I’ve seen this called for in vegan recipes before, but never really knew what it was meant to do. Now I know!

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Hi Ian – thanks for your comment and I’m happy to hear that this was helpful ;)

      Reply
  4. It took me awhile to “like” nooch. But I’m slowly getting on the bandwagon ;)

    I like the idea of pulsing with almonds for a vegan Parmesan cheeze!

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Thanks for your comments, JL! Yes, it’s definitely an acquired taste, but even in small quantities, I find that it adds a nice complexity to recipes. Parmesan cheeze rocks – you can make a bunch and just leave it in the fridge in a shaker jar ;)

      Reply
  5. Hannah says:

    I’ve been loving nooch mixed through plain, firm, cold tofu. Methinks my body is craving savoury protein after too much chocolate and nut butter of late…

    What brand of nooch do you use? I think mine is Marigold Engevita or something like that?

    Reply
  6. Julie says:

    If I ever finally get myself to Oz (I do have friends in Tassie and Brisbane), I’ll bring a BIG container of it for you! It’s so easy to get here in the US and especially in Tucson, where I am. I’ll bring back a BIG container of Vegemite (love that stuff)!

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Aww thanks so much Julie! You should definitely make it over to Oz, especially if you already have friends here. It’s such an amazing place – beautiful landscapes (and seascapes!), friendly people, and great food (and wine)! So you’re a Vegemite fan, huh? I only tried it once, years ago before I lived here, and I haven’t been brave enough to try it again since…

      Reply
  7. Megan DiPiero says:

    I’m new to the whole vegan diet. Stumbled on this article. It’s just great. Informative, yet totally engaging. Great writing. I’m gonna go Facebook like you. Look forward to updates!

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Hi Megan – Welcome to the world of veganism! Glad to hear that you found this helpful and thanks for the kind words about my writing. Let me know if you have any questions, I’m happy to help :)

      Reply
  8. Dennis Patterson says:

    Hi : My wife is a 4th year practitioner of Quantum Reflex Analysis, the tutors fly out from Texas, once a year. She has been informed that most supplementry B vitamins, from the chemist shops, etc, are derived from the petro chemical industry, and we should NOT be taking them !
    The naturally fermented flake yeast / savory yeast, is much better for us.
    The cheapest source, that we have found, so far, in New Zealand, is at Bin Inn.
    Cheers,
    Dennis

    .

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Yes, I’ve heard that at well. Most B-12 is sold as “cyanocobalamin”, which is in the cyanide family. I prefer using methylcobalamin myself, and of course, eating as much nutritional yeast as possible! Thanks for your input!

      Reply
  9. Sparkina says:

    I am a lacto-vegetarian and I have rediscovered nutrirional yeast (or “Flavor Grains” or “Tasty Flakes”) as I refer to it. Although I do eat dairy foods, I like “nooch” on popcorn or in recipes. I don’t think of it as a cheese substitute or a substitute for anything. I think of it as an ingredient and flavoring aid in its own right

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Awesome! I wish more people would check it out, it adds such a cool flavor dimension to foods.

      Reply
  10. Thor says:

    I am trying to find out how I can make this. I live in a developing country (Thailand) where it is not available and importing it from Australia is not really a sensible option -financially or environmentally.

    I can’t get any info anywhere on making it.

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Sorry to hear that. Where do you live in Thailand? I know that there are some pretty good health food shops in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ko Samui…

      Reply
  11. Sandra says:

    I’m allergic to Baker’s Yeast and Brewer’s Yeast. Is this the same thing? If it is, is there an alternative to Nutrional Yeast I can use for flavor?

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Hi Sandra, It’s not the same thing, however it is a yeast, so you may want to check with your doctor. There really isn’t anything quite like it to compare taste-wise…

      Reply
  12. Lisette Armstrong says:

    After trying more and more recipes from your site I’m coming back to this one (think I’ve trawled every page on your site and pinned a bunch to cook!) and thinking it’ll be a great addition to the panty. Now to get ordering, thanks for the link earlier in the comments :)

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Start off slow with it because it’s definitely an acquired taste. Matty doesn’t notice it in most recipes, but he hates the Mac n Cheese because it’s very prominent in that recipe. But in small quantities, it adds a deep nutty flavor and has a great nutritional profile. Good luck!

      Reply
      • Lisette Armstrong says:

        Good tip thanks!

        Reply
  13. Rachel says:

    Thanks a lot for this. Very helpful.

    I’ve just gone vegan and am trying to figure out what’s available in Bangkok and what’s not (surprisingly, even though soy milk is everywhere in Thailand, soy yoghurt seems to be impossible to get here).

    Had heard of nutritional yeast but wasn’t sure what to use it for. Thanks to you, now I know :) Now all I have to figure out is where to buy it in Thailand.

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Hi Rachel! I’m so glad to hear that was helpful for you. I love Thailand and spent a month there last year. You may want to give Mai Kaidee a shout (http://maykaidee.com/) – I met her in Bangkok and she’s awesome! She may be able to point you in the right direction for the nutritional yeast :)

      Reply
  14. Patty says:

    If you have a health concern, you should be aware that Nutritional Yeast feeds cancer and candita.

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      I’ve never heard that. Do you have a link to share?

      Reply
  15. Lillian says:

    Hi
    Thank you for all the lovely recipies…… Working my way through some of them and really enjoying it!
    Do you or anyone else know what nutritional yeast would be called in the UK…. All I can find is the brewers yeast…??

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Hi Lillian – Sorry for the delay. Try looking for “savoury yeast flakes” – that’s what it’s called in Australia anyway… Good luck!

      Reply
    • Mina says:

      Hi! It’s called Engevita in the UK! (I got a huge tub off amazon lol)

      Reply
  16. Mina says:

    Hi! When adding it to recipes or say, on top of mash or popcorn, do you literally just throw a few flakes on? Will it melt or do you have to cook it first! Thanks

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Nutritional flakes are very dry. Without sounding too gross, it actually looks kind of like fish food :) So, while it does not melt, you can definitely sprinkle it on top of mash or potatoes, or stir it into sauces and casseroles. Hope that helps!

      Reply
  17. Pete says:

    The Savoy Theater, Montpelier, VT USA has served nutria-yeast on their popcorn since the 1970s. Of course, this is not a commercial multiplex theater, just a funky little art cinema.

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Love it! Lucky you!

      Reply
  18. Yvonne says:

    Is there a brand you recommend? I’ve heard some are more bitter than others.

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      I’ve used various brands, and don’t have any favorites to recommend, sorry!

      Reply
  19. Victoria says:

    Hi vegangela

    All these nutritional supplements are 100% organic?

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Hi Victoria – I’m not sure what you mean?

      Reply
  20. Alyssa says:

    My son is lactose intolerant and cant handle soy or gluten either. I recently discovered nutritional yeast flakes and for his sake I am in love. He normally hates baked potato. Last night I mashes potato with nooch and he gobbled it down. I think it smells and looks like fish food but if hes happy and likes it Ill gladly keep a container around just for him.

    Reply
  21. Derk says:

    Hi, As a Vegan I have tried this and do love the flavor, however, after learning that it is processed using Beet Molasses, which I assume Genetically Modified Sugar Beets are used as they are in abundance in the USA, I have stopped using it until I learn more. So simply put, if a person is not using Nutritional Yeast that is processed using Organic Sugar Beets, it’s reasonable to say that conventional Nutritional Yeast is a Genetically Modified food? I have also found that even finding an Organic Nutritional Yeast online is quite difficult. So even if people go out of their way to avoid GMO foods such as GMO Soy, Corn etc..if they eat this they are still consuming GMO foods yes?

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Good point, I hadn’t thought about that. I’ll update this post if I’m able to find non-GMO nooch in the future. For now, I’ve decided to continue eating it since I only eat it in small quantities as it is.

      Reply
      • Derk says:

        I’m sorry, I wasn’t suggesting that you shouldn’t eat it, I just was wondering if I was correct that it’s a GMO food product. I hope that I didn’t offend you, rather I was seeking your input.

        Reply
        • vegangela says:

          Not at all! I honestly hadn’t thought of it, so I definitely appreciate the insight. I try to eat organic wherever possible, so it’s something I’m going to keep an eye out for :)

          Reply
  22. Jenn says:

    Hi there,
    I have a friend who has gut flora issues and she has to stay away from most foods with yeast (among many other restrictions). I assumed this would be okay since the yeast is dead, but she seemed to think that she couldn’t have it.
    Any thoughts on this?

    Reply
    • Hi Jenn – I don’t know for sure. I would recommend that your friend speak with her doctor or nutritionist to be certain. I wouldn’t want to make anyone sick by giving the wrong advice… :(

      Reply
    • Those on candida diets cannot consume nutritional yeast, but those avoiding active yeast products (as in breads) can.

      Reply
  23. Ashley says:

    Unfortunately, nutritional yeast is closely related to MSG chemically, so people who have strong reactions or allergies to MSG may become quite ill if they consume nutritional yeast. I personally know two vegans who cannot eat it for this reason (vomiting, diarrhea, migraine inducing). Yeast extract is another common vegan ingredient to watch out for if you are MSG sensitive.

    Reply
    • What a shame. I’m glad I don’t have any issues with it. Thanks so much for sharing!

      Reply
  24. Kristy says:

    Herbed popcorn!!! Air-pop some popcorn, and add a little oil (or, sorry, we like the butter) and then sprinkle over with some (whatever amount your taste buds like!) nooch, dried dill, tiny bit of italian seasonings, (maybe a dash of red pepper/paprika?) and salt, if you are so inclined. Sounds simple, but highly addicting in my house! They lick the bowl clean of the “dust”! (y)

    Reply
    • Yum, will try that next time. Thanks :)

      Reply
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