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The Joy of Nutritional Yeast

Updated on July 30, 2015
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Susannah is a high school culinary arts teacher and vegetarian cookbook author.

Nutritional yeast has long been loved by vegetarians and vegans, but anyone can use it to add nutrients and flavor to their cooking. It's an excellent source of B vitamins, often lacking in vegetarian diets, and it also contains a ton of protein ounce for ounce.

But nutritional yeast is also something of a mystery for first time users. Let's explore some basics of nutritional yeast, and talk about common (and less well known) uses for this product.

Bragg Nutritional Yeast
Bragg Nutritional Yeast | Source

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Nutritional Yeast Basics

You can buy nutritional yeast in health food store and some grocery stores. I've shown a picture of the Bragg brand, but many other brands make nutritional yeast, including Bob's Red Mill, Red Star, and Frontier. Most health food stores also sell nutritional yeast in the bulk section. Since the yeast doesn't weigh very much, you can get usually get a large bag of yeast for several dollars, making this the most cost effective option.

So what is nutritional yeast, exactly? It is a type of yeast grown on molasses. It is not the same thing as bread yeast, or brewer's yeast, which is used to make beer. It contains no eggs, gluten, dairy, salt, soy, wheat or corn. This makes it very friendly for those with allergy restrictions.

It looks like yellow powder or yellow flakes. The flavor of nutritional yeast is salty and rich. The closest flavor I can compare it to is the cheese "powder" that is often put on popcorn and chips.

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Nutritional Content

Nutritional yeast is, well, highly nutritional! One little tablespoon of nutritional yeast has 3 grams of protein! That's a lot for such a small amount. It also contains 160% of your daily RDA for vitamin B2, 140% of your B6, 40% of B12, 180% of B1, 70% of B3, 40% of Folic Acid, and 30% of Pantothenic Acid.

Just by sprinkling nutritional yeast on your food, you are greatly increasing your B vitamin intake for the day! If you cook with larger amount of the yeast, you can also add a significant amount of protein to your recipes.

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Nutritional Yeast Nutritional Information

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1 Tablespoon
Calories 20
Calories from Fat0
% Daily Value *
Fat 0 g
Saturated fat 0 g
Unsaturated fat 0 g
Carbohydrates 2 g1%
Sugar 0 g
Fiber 1 g4%
Protein 3 g6%
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 0 mg
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

Basic Uses for Nutritional Yeast

At its simplest, you can sprinkle nutritional yeast on anything you cook! It will add a subtle richness to any base flavor, as well as a saltiness. Nutritional yeast contains no salt, making it a great salt substitute for those eating low sodium diets.

You can sprinkle nutritional yeast on:

  • Popcorn
  • Salads
  • Baked potatoes
  • Vegetables
  • Pasta
  • Rice

How to Cook with Nutritional Yeast

Because of its "cheesy" flavor, nutritional yeast is often used in vegetarian and vegan recipes to duplicate the flavor of cheese. My personal favorite cooking use for this product is nutritional yeast "cheese" sauce. A couple of favorite recipes are here and here. Nutritional yeast also makes a great salad dressing, especially Caesar salad! Check out one popular recipe here.

The basic technique for creating these sauces is to blend the nutritional yeast with some kind of sauce base. Most recipes use either flour (like a gravy) or blended nuts (usually cashews, due to their creamy texture) as the base. You can put this "cheeseless" sauce on baked potatoes, rice, or pasta to create a vegan macaroni and cheese!

The other cooking use for nutritional yeast that I have returned to again and again is to use it in soups and stocks. When added to basic vegetable stock, nutritional yeast makes the soup taste like chicken soup. I've seen many recipes for vegetarian chicken soup that use nutritional yeast as the main "chicken flavor" ingredient. Here is one example of vegetarian "no chicken" soup.

You can add nutritional yeast to any soup or stew to add a "richness" to the broth. It enhances and complements any flavors you are building in your cooking!

Other Resources

There are a number of cookbooks and websites you can use to get started with cooking with nutritional yeast. The godfather of all nutritional yeast resources, for me, was The New Farm Cookbook. This book is an oldie but goody from the 70's, which includes a number of vegetarian classics.

Other cookbooks you can check out include:

  • Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
  • The Moosewood Cookbook
  • The Nutritional Yeast Cookbook

And you're off and running with nutritional yeast! Experiment, enjoy, and eat in good health!

Don't forget to check out my blog, The Artichoke, for more recipe ideas and food reviews!

© 2015 Susannah Levine

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    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 22 months ago

      This reminds me of that Vegemite stuff the Aussies talk about . This looks like it could be an interesting source of protein and fiber.

    • TheArtichoke profile image
      Author

      Susannah Levine 22 months ago

      I believe Vegemite is also a yeast based product! I know it's super popular in Australia, but Americans haven't fallen in love with it yet! As a side note, Australians put Vegemite on toast, and I love putting nutritional yeast on my toast in the morning! It's great!

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