What is nutritional yeast and how do you use it? Nutritional yeast is inactive yeast, grown on molasses. It has a cheesy, nutty flavor. It’s a source of protein & B12.
Today I’m sharing all of the details on “nooch” plus 25 ways to use it.
Some people have jars of sugar and flour on their counter for easy access. I have a jar of nutritional yeast.
(This one was made by vegan potter, Jeanette Zeis.)
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 the kitties.
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 or part of my vegan essential spices and seasonings.
In fact, when I first went vegetarian, I’d never even heard of it before.
What is nutritional yeast?
Nutritional yeast is dried, inactive yeast, grown on molasses.
Since it 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.
You may wonder, is yeast vegan? <—– Find out here. But the short answer is that yeast is part of the fungus family, like mushrooms.
How does nutritional yeast 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.
Is nutritional yeast good for you?
Yes! 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. That’s a link to the one I use.)
Where can you buy it?
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 sells nutritional yeast with their own branding. At $2.99 bag, that’s what I buy most of the time.
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. You can often find it in bulk bins as well.
How do you store it?
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?
So you’ve purchased nutritional yeast, and now you don’t know how to use it? Here are some ideas to get you started.
Sprinkle it on avocado toast or a toasted hummus & avocado bagel.
Use it as a popcorn topping.
How do you make nutritional yeast popcorn? 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 in lieu of parmesan. Or you can blend nutritional yeast in a food processor with walnuts or cashews, and salt until it becomes a powder.
Give nutritional yeast to cats for a treat.
Most cats love it! Just put sprinkle some onto a little dish, and let them lick it up.
Make cheesy things
Because of its cheesy flavor, nutritional yeast adds so much to dairy-free sauces. This savory vegan chili cheese dip is loaded with three bean chili, seitan chorizo, and creamy cashew queso.
Build-your-own vegan nacho bar
Continuing on the nacho thread, nacho bars are lots of fun for all ages. And it’s a relatively low cost way to have a dinner party!
Fill a table with toppings like spicy black beans, vegan chili cheese dip, salsa, and guacamole. Then let your guests pile them onto chips, exactly how they like.
Satisfy the kid in you with vegan chili cheese tater tots. So messy & delicious, it ticks all the pleasure sensors! Serve it as an appetizer or a full meal on its own.
Vegan Philly cheesesteak with jackfruit and cashew cheese sauce
Vegan Philly cheesesteak sandwiches are loaded with savory jackfruit, creamy cashew cheese, sautéed onions, and peppers. It’s a hearty, heavy-duty sandwich that screams comfort food.
Nutritional yeast gives a cheesy edge to tofu ricotta. Add it to vegan lasagna, stuffed shells, and mushroom pizzas.
It’s made with just a few ingredients in the food processor, and comes together in only minutes.
Vegan lasagna for one in the air fryer
Vegan lasagna is layered with pasta sauce, tofu ricotta, zucchini, fresh basil & spinach. This mini casserole is just the right size for one.
And it’s ready in only 30 minutes thanks to the air fryer! Perfect for when you need something cozy fast.
Fried squash blossoms with cashew cheese
Fried squash blossoms with cashew cheese are a vegan appetizer that’s sure to impress! Delicata squash or zucchini blossoms are stuffed with cashew cheese, dredged in flour and spices, and shallow fried.
Cheesy udon noodle bowl with Brussels sprouts
Udon noodle bowl is topped with a cheesy cashew sauce & browned Brussels sprouts. The creamy sauce is filled with the flavors of miso, sriracha, and tamari.
Vegan pesto rice is the perfect weeknight meal. It uses just 10 ingredients & takes about 8 minutes to make.
Eat it on its own, as a side dish, or as a base for delicious pesto rice bowls with your favorite toppings!
Stir it into polenta
Polenta and nutritional yeast work so well together in creamy vegan polenta. Dotted with sun-dried tomatoes, this soothing breakfast is good for easing into the day.
Polenta breakfast with Brussels sprouts & vegan breakfast sausage
For a heartier option, top the polenta with toothsome vegan sausage, browned Brussels sprouts, and a drizzling of maple syrup.
Vegan polenta stacks with barbecue squash & cashew cream
There’s something about stacked food that just screams fancy. These vegan polenta stacks would make an eye-catching entree for the holiday table or a dinner party.
Pair it with tofu
Crustless mini vegan quiche in the air fryer or oven
Tofu is a blank slate for flavors. So when you add nutritional yeast, it stands out in a marvelous way – like in crustless mini vegan quiche.
They are filled with red bell pepper, onions, kale, and seitan bacon in a savory tofu and cashew filling. Cook these adorable, portable quiche bites in the air fryer or oven.
Vegan breakfast tacos with tofu & black beans
Vegan breakfast tacos are loaded with seasoned tofu, black beans, corn, bell peppers, onions, and garlic. Pile the scramble into warmed corn tortillas with a dollop of guacamole and pinch of cilantro.
Vegan shakshuka with eggy tofu
Sprinkle nutritional yeast onto slabs of tofu. Then add them to a sauce of tomatoes and bell peppers. This savory brunch is satiating and cozy.
Breakfast nests with creamy queso
Speaking of brunch, you’re going to love these delicate breakfast nests with layer of hash browns, tofu scramble, and a drizzle of cashew queso.
Austin breakfast with tofu scramble
This Austin breakfast platter is a panoply of spicy scrambled tofu, refried beans, breakfast potatoes, and guacamole. All of your brunch favorites on one plate.
Vegan tofu scramble with kale and avocado
This vegan tofu scramble recipe is filled with fresh, seasonal vegetables – kale, red bell pepper, and onions. It’s topped with avocado.
Vegan breakfast sandwich with eggy tofu & sausage
This vegan breakfast sandwich with thinly sliced eggy tofu, non-dairy cheese, and veggie sausage is wonderfully filling & perfectly portable.
Use it on chickpeas
Nutritional yeast is a delightful topping on roasted chickpeas. Eat the roasted chickpeas as a snack, or use them as a salad topper.
Make creamy things
Loaded sliced potatoes in air fryer
Nutritional yeast gives cashew cream added umami flavor.
These sliced potatoes are almost like crostini. With decadent cashew cream, smoky seitan bacon, and a smattering of green onions, your guests will be raving about it.
(No air fryer? No problem. Get the oven version here.)
If you ever went to a casual dining restaurant chain in the early 2000’s, chances are someone at your table ordered spinach & artichoke dip. This version is veganized with nutritional yeast added for richness.
Few foods give the cozy comfort of a bowl of creamy vegan tomato soup with a non-dairy grilled cheese sandwich for dipping. This full-bodied soup has a wonderful depth of flavor from the addition of sun-dried tomatoes.
Add a handful of homemade vegan croutons and a drizzle of sun-dried tomato oil on top just before serving.
Use it for breading
Vegan fried ravioli in the air fryer
An appetizer the whole family will love. Fried ravioli in the air fryer – seasoned with basil, oregano, nutritional yeast, and garlic. On the side, marinara sauce for dipping.
Give foods an edge of cheesy, savory flavor
You’re going to love these vegan corn cakes for breakfast or brunch. They’re great on their own or with a tofu scramble on the side. Plus, they’re naturally gluten-free!
Originally posted May 2017. Content updated May 2019.