The first time I used nutritional yeast, fourteen years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. It wasn’t popular back then (to wit: The New York Times ran a story last month saying it has gone mainstream), and neither were internet how-tos.
I bought “nooch,” as it’s now commonly known, in a huge container, the only size available. I recall only two other things about the experience: It made what I ate taste terrible—because I put it in a sweet smoothie—and I gave away the remaining 40 to 60 ounces of my purchase.
“Nooch is great for adding a cheesy element to dairy-free dishes,” says Amanda Russcol, who has been a vegan chef and recipe developer since 2007 and co-owned two vegan eateries in Florida. “It’s in the umami category of flavors— savory—and it’s a bit salty, but it doesn’t have the other components that you find in cheese: sour and fatty.”
In other words: not what you put in a banana-berry smoothie. Nutritional yeast and its characteristic small golden flakes are a byproduct of making molasses, Russcol says. “It lasts forever and is high in protein and fiber.”
Here are 4 delicious ways to use nutritional yeast …
As a simple, healthful substitute for parmesan
This requires one step: Sprinkle nooch atop your dish.
As a simple, healthful substitute for butter & salt on popcorn
Again: Sprinkle nooch, this time on your popcorn.
As an elevated substitute for parmesan, croutons, cheese/meat/protein crumbles
Grab a handful of nuts, one or several kinds, and pulse them in a food processor until they have a crumbly consistency. Add some nooch, a little salt and some lemon juice or raw apple cider vinegar (the vinegar lends a “funkier note,” Russcol says). Finally, throw in a chopped garlic clove (green germ in its center removed), along with herbs, if you choose. If you don’t have a food processor, use nut meal or nut flour instead of whole nuts, and then mix your ingredients together, Russcol says.
To make sauces, “cheesy” ones especially
Love mac-and-cheese but not how you feel after you eat it? Create a “cheeze” sauce: Soak a handful of cashews for at least an hour (then drain and rinse them). Put them in a blender or food processor, and add several spoonfuls of nooch, a spoonful of Dijon mustard and a chopped garlic clove (green germ in its center removed). Add at least several spoonfuls of water to get your sauce as “creamy” as you want. Then add salt and pepper to taste, along with cayenne if you want some kick. If you don’t like cashews, sub in macadamia nuts.
… and 3 ways NOT to use nutritional yeast:
As a source of vitamin B-12
Vitamin B-12 deficiency concerns vegans and some vegetarians because the micronutrient comes mainly from animal products, such as eggs, meat, poultry, fish, milk and cheese.
“Too many people trust nooch for B-12,” Russcol says. “It has not been proven to be reliable for this. Take a supplement.”
To make dough or baked products rise
Nooch is an inactive yeast.
To add protein to fruity shakes
You already read about how that went.
Journalist Mitra Malek writes and edits wellness-related content, including for Yoga Journal.