Some people have jars of sugar and flour on their counter for easy access. I have a jar of nutritional yeast. I pull from it several times a day for sprinkling on a chickpea scramble, to give a cheesy flavor to air-popped popcorn, or as a treat for Jezebel and Avon. And when the jar runneth empty, it’s time to make a grocery store run. STAT. It’s not an ingredient I want to be without. But there was a time when nutritional yeast flakes weren’t a pantry staple. In fact, when I first went vegetarian, I’d never even heard of it before.
What is nutritional yeast?
Nutritional yeast is grown on molasses. It has been dried and is inactive. That means it can’t be used for making raised donuts or breads. And the same holds true the other way around – if a recipe calls for nutritional yeast flakes, do not substitute with brewer’s yeast, torula yeast, or active yeast sold in packets. It’s not the same thing and won’t deliver the results you want.
Worried that yeast isn’t vegan? Assuage your fears here. But the short answer is that yeast is part of the fungus family, like mushrooms.
(Update: Lots of folks have messaged about this nutritional yeast jar. It was made by vegan potter, Jeanette Zeis. You can find them here in her Etsy shop.)
How does it taste?
I’ll admit that the name nutritional yeast flakes doesn’t sound wholly appealing. (If you can’t bear to call it nutritional yeast, give nooch a whirl. It’s a popular slang term for it in the vegan community.) Luckily, it makes up for it in taste. It has a cheesy, nutty flavor that is a wonderful addition to sauces, dips, or gravies.
When it comes to flavor, nutritional yeast can be a bit divisive. It seems to be one of those love it or hate it foods like cilantro or mushrooms. I fall strongly into the former camp. It’s also important to know that the flavor of nutritional yeast can vary from brand to brand. So if you don’t like it the first time around, give it another chance with a different brand.
Does it have any other benefits?
In addition to giving foods a cheesy taste, nutritional yeast is also a source of protein and vitamin B12. (Although, I recommend taking a regular B12 supplement as well, if you’re vegan. A B12 deficiency is nothing to mess around with.)
Where can you buy nutritional yeast?
Nutritional yeast is popping up in more and more places nowadays. In addition to being sold at Whole Foods and other natural grocery stores, Trader Joe’s recently started selling their own TJ’s brand. It’s also for sale at Hy-Vee (in the health market), Walmart, and Amazon. It’s usually in the natural foods section, near the baking stuff like flour, or with the supplements.
How do you store nutritional yeast?
As you’d probably guess since it’s sold in bulk bins, nutritional yeast does not need to be refrigerated. It can be stored anywhere cool and dark to preserve its B vitamins. A ceramic jar in the pantry or on the countertop works fine. Since it’s a dry product, the key is keeping moisture out. If you’d prefer, it can also be frozen in a sealed, air-tight bag. It has a shelf life of 1 to 2 years.
How do you use nutritional yeast?
Sprinkle it on avocado toast or a toasted hummus & avocado bagel.
Use it as a popcorn topping.
Melt vegan butter, drizzle it on popcorn, add nutritional yeast, and a pinch of salt. I’m so addicted to this, I’ve been known to smuggle my own nutritional yeast into movie theatres. (Some movie theatres have jars of their own!)
Use it instead of parmesan cheese on spaghetti.
You can use just the nutritional yeast, or you can blend nutritional yeast in a food processor with walnuts or cashews, and salt until it becomes a powder.
Give it to kitties for a treat.
Most cats love it! Just put sprinkle some onto a little dish, and let them lick it up.
Stir it into polenta
Pair it with tofu
Use it on chickpeas
Make cheesy things
Make creamy things
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