So what’s the deal with nutritional yeast?

While many plant-powered eaters and chefs rave about the numerous uses and nutritional benefits of nutritional yeast, those new to a more compassionate diet may be unfamiliar with this seemingly strange ingredient.

What exactly is it?

Nutritional yeast (sometimes called “nooch” in an attempt to give the cheesy, savory, flaky compound a more appetizing name) is a form of inactive yeast. This means that, while being classified in the same kingdom as other types of yeast and mushrooms, it is no longer alive like its activated-yeast cousins that are responsible for beer-making and helping bread rise. It is commonly available in two forms — powder and flakes — and is used not only for its nutritional qualities (which are extensive), but also for its ability to transform vegan dishes into cheesy, eggy, savory, and creamy masterpieces.

Nutritional yeasts are not all created equal, so before you purchase, be sure to check the nutrition label of the brand you are buying. In many cases, nutritional yeast is a great source of vitamin B12, which is an important nutrient to get when following a plant-based diet. The most fortified versions can contain up to 640% of your daily value (DV) of thiamine (B1), 570% DV of riboflavin (B2), 280% DV of niacin (B3), 60% DV of B6, and 130% DV of B12. It also contains zinc, magnesium, manganese, and copper.

But let’s get to the main selling point of nutritional yeast: its flavor.

Nutritional yeast can be used to add depth and creaminess to soups and dressings, combined with nondairy milks and nuts to create plant-based “cheese” sauces, and sprinkled on pasta salad or popcorn!

Where can you buy it?

Nutritional yeast can be found in the bulk section of health food stores and in the natural-foods section of large chain grocery stores. It can also be bought online at Amazon as well as online natural-foods stores. Bob’s Red Mill, Red Star. and Bragg are three common brands.

Excited to try nutritional yeast? Here are three of our favorite recipes:

1. Avocado toast (drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and nutritional yeast).

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2. Creamy, baked macaroni and “cheese.”

 

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3. Pesto Parmesan breadsticks.

If you’ve not tried nooch before, you’re in for a treat!

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