What Is Nutritional Yeast?
Nutritional yeast. It sounds like something your granny might use to fatten you up when you show up for your summer visit. Like it belongs in the same category as cod liver oil and liver pills. I would likely take a giant “pass,” even straight to granny’s face.
But nooch? It sounds illegal and mid-expanding. I’d definitely want to add that shit to my belly as often as possible.
But nooch and nutritional yeast are the same things! Packaged in the store it’s labeled nutritional yeast. If you grew up in or around the 70s, it’s nooch.
You can call that shite whatever you choose. Since I’m old and have lived through the 70s, I’m going with nooch.
Nutritional yeast (usually sp. Saccharomyces cerevisiae) is dead yeast. The yeast was once alive and reproducing like the yeast used to make bread and beer. After the yeast grows on its medium of sugar beets or molasses, the yeast is exposed to high heat in a drying process that stops the fermentation and kills the yeast.
For those that are interested, this video from Bragg’s (a “hippie” food manufacturer!) talks about the process a bit more in-depth. Much of this video is an advertisement, but the summary of the manufacturing process is interesting.
What Does Nutritional Yeast Taste Like?
Folks describe nutritional yeast as cheesy, nutty, and roasty. Honestly, it is not quite any of those. It needs its own adjective!
Nutritional yeast typically adds a level of complex flavor to recipes. It also makes a good substitute for the cheesy texture in some food. And its flavor adds a nuttiness to other foods. It definitely adds umami — the savory background complexity to dishes. Much like salt, it gives food an “oomph” although it’s nearly sodium-free.
It’s important to understand that nutritional yeast is sold both fortified and unfortified, and both have their advantages.
Fortification is a process where vitamins and minerals are added to food to increase their nutritional value. Fortified nutritional yeast has been boosted with B12, other B vitamins, and trace minerals that our bodies need. Originally marketed to vegetarians and vegans, the B-vitamin fortification was seriously touted. That’s especially true for vitamin B12, since that vitamin is not available in any plant sources.
But here’s an important distinction. Vitamin B12 is only present in fortified nutritional yeast. Vitamin B12 does not naturally occur in nutritional yeast so don’t be sold on the blanket statement that nooch is the answer to your B12 problem.
If you prefer nutritional yeast in its most non-processed form, you’ll need to purchase non-fortified nutritional yeast.
Much like other processed food products, the flavor and nutritional value of nooch vary by brand. I like to purchase non-GMO foods in their most whole-food form. So I buy non-fortified nooch and get my B vitamins and trace minerals through other food sources and a select variety of supplements. We like Sari Nutritional Yeast (affiliate link!) available in some health food stores and online. It is GMO- and gluten-free, and it is not fortified.
Some scientists recommend that individuals with autoimmune diseases, especially Crohn’s disease stay away from nutritional yeast. And there are individuals who report that they experience MSG-reactions when using nutritional yeast, although the science is not clear.
As with all new foods, start with just a small amount of nutritional yeast and pay attention to how your body responds.
Using Nutritional Yeast
I’ve heard that some folks can just eat nutritional yeast by the spoonful — I do not recommend that!
But sprinkled on popcorn and it vaguely tastes like cheese corn. Sprinkled on pasta it’s a fine substitute for parmesan cheese. Added to casseroles it lends an umami similar to cheese and nuts. In recipes, it’s often added to give a salty flavor and increase the thickness and satiety of a recipe. You can also sprinkle it on a toasted bagel along with Everything But the Bagel seasoning and it’s delicious.
Look for nutritional yeast in the “health food” section of your grocery store, in close proximity to shelf-stable dairy-free milk. Your store may carry it in the bulk section as well, or you can order it online via the link above.
Stored in a airtight container in a dark corner of the pantry, nooch lasts a long time. Like up to a year! As with all food items, if it looks or smells weird after a time, throw it out. There is no amount of umami worth food poisoning. Nooch can be stored int he refrigerator or freezer for an even longer shelf life.
Have you tried nutritional yeast? What’s your favorite way to use it?
Would you like to try nutritional yeast in a yummo recipe? Try these Kindly Cafe recipes, and don’t forget to let us know how it works out?
If you have questions about nutritional yeast or any other ingredients, pop a comment in the box below.