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.
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.
- 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
- 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”)
- 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!
Here are a few of my favorite recipes using nutritional yeast:
Homemade Vegan Cheese
Vegan Caesar Salad
Vegan Mac & Cheese
Versatile Vegan Quiche
Tofu & Spinach Cannelloni
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!!