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Nutritional Yeast: A Delicious and Nutritious Choice for Vegans

Updated on September 14, 2014
Nutritional yeast is typically sold as small, light flakes.
Nutritional yeast is typically sold as small, light flakes. | Source

How Does Nutritional Yeast Taste?

The taste of nutritional yeast is usually described as "nutty" or "cheesy." It is frequently found as an ingredient in recipes that require a cheesy taste, such as vegan versions of macaroni and cheese, risotto, and various sauces. It also makes a delicious topping for popcorn, salad, or any pasta dish.

A vegan version of parmesan can be easily made by combining equal parts of nutritional yeast and the nut or seed of your choice - such as walnuts, blanched almonds, or sesame seeds - in a food processor and adding salt and garlic powder to taste. (Combining salt with nutritional yeast makes the flavor "pop" nicely.) This condiment can be stored with a tight-fitting lid in the refrigerator for quite some time. This makes it convenient for sprinkling on pasta or salad dishes. (See below for more recipes!)

Mac-n-"Cheese" made with Nutritional Yeast

Vegan "cheese" sauces are often created using nutritional yeast.
Vegan "cheese" sauces are often created using nutritional yeast. | Source

How Is Nutritional Yeast Made?

Nutritional yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is a fungus related to the mushroom and is grown on a combination of cane and beet molasses. B vitamins are added in order to help the yeast grow, which is why it is such a good source of various B vitamins.

After harvesting, the yeast is heated in order to deactivate it. So unlike active yeast, nutritional yeast will not cause bread dough to rise or liquids to become frothy when beaten. It is also different from brewer's yeast, which has a very bitter flavor.

Nutritional Benefits of Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is a superb source of vitamin B12. This is of particular importance to vegans because vitamin B12 occurs naturally only in meat, dairy, and egg products. Vegans, who do not consume any animal products, must eat foods fortified with vitamin B12 or take vitamins containing B12 in order to maintain healthy levels of this nutrient in their bodies. B12 deficiencies carry significant health risks, so this is an issue of some concern.

Most - but not all - brands of nutritional yeast have more than enough B12 to meet the dietary guidelines of 6 micrograms (mcg) per day. Because some brands have lesser amounts of B vitamins, it is necessary to check the label for nutrient information. Although not very common, some brands may also contain whey, a dairy product, so do read the ingredient label carefully.

In addition to being an excellent source of vitamin B12, nutritional yeast is a powerhouse of other B vitamins, protein, and fiber. Different brands contain different amounts of these nutrients. KAL Yeast Flakes, the brand that I use, has 150% of the daily requirement for vitamin B12 per serving size of three rounded tablespoons. That serving size also contains a remarkable 9 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and an abundance of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, and folic acid.

For most uses, I personally don't consume an entire serving at one sitting. I typically use anywhere from two teaspoons to two tablespoon when I sprinkle nutritional yeast on popcorn, salad, or pasta. Even so, this provides a generous portion of B vitamins and a respectable amount of fiber and protein. Combined with other foods I eat during the day, this gives me a nice boost of critical nutrients.

Kal Nutritional Yeast Flakes

Nutritional Yeast Flakes Kal Unsweetened Wonderful Nutty Flavor 22 oz
Nutritional Yeast Flakes Kal Unsweetened Wonderful Nutty Flavor 22 oz

This is the brand of nutritional yeast I use. It has a great flavor and is packed with B vitamins and other nutrients.


Do You Use Nutritional Yeast?

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Over the years, the word "nooch" has been adopted by many vegans when referring to nutritional yeast. It's a much more fun, endearing term than "nutritional yeast!"

Nooch is most commonly sold as flakes, though it also comes in powder form. If you are using the powder in a recipe, only use about half the amount that the recipe specifies, since it is much more dense than flakes.

Check out Vegan Journey!
Check out Vegan Journey! | Source

Your Comments Are Welcome Here

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    • My Bell profile image

      Marcelle Bell 2 years ago

      Another great hub! I have Nutritional Yeast everyday to get my vitamin Bs since I don't eat meat. It tastes so good and also it's a nice source of protein for very little calories. I enjoyed reading about where Nutritional Yeast came from because, honestly, I didn't know. Thanks for all your awesome hubs!

    • Shades-of-truth profile image

      Emily Tack 2 years ago from USA

      I use nutritional yeast, a lot. One of my favorite ways to use it, is when I make a "nacho cheese" dip, that doesn't have any cheese in it at all. Because I rarely eat any flesh foods, except fish, I need the B12 it provides.

    • sangre profile image

      Sp Greaney 2 years ago from Ireland

      It's always good to find out from others about other alternative products like this that you can use for whatever reason. I had no idea there was something like this out there.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 2 years ago from New Zealand

      Looks yummy. I have never heard of nutritional yeast either. Its worth looking for if I can find it in NZ. I like cheese but some cheeses upset my old stomach, so it would be nice to have something that tastes like cheese but doesn't give me problems.

    • Valerie Bloom profile image

      Valerie Bloom 2 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      Nutritional yeast is not the same as bread yeast. It provides a lot of nutritional value without the fat of dairy cheese. While it does have a delicate "cheesey" flavor, it's not the same as cheese, either. It truly is in its own category!

    • Ladymermaid profile image

      Ladymermaid 2 years ago from Canada

      You taught me something today. I have never heard of nutritional yeast. So it is like a cheese or nutritional flavoring rather than a yeast to rise bread? How different.