Food Focus: Nutritional Yeast
If you’re a vegan or vegetarian home cook, you are probably familiar with the unique umami flavor pop of nutritional yeast. Also known as “nooch,” this interesting food product is a deactivated yeast (a single-celled microorganism called Saccharomyces cerevisiae) that is grown on enriched, purified cane and beet molasses under carefully controlled conditions. Once harvested, it is washed and heat-dried to cause deactivation. Unlike baking yeast, which is a live culture, nutritional yeast does not “grow” or froth and does not serve as a leavening agent.
- Why use it? Vegans and vegetarians in the know describe the taste and texture of nutritional yeast as nutty, cheesy and creamy, which makes
it a popular ingredient for recipes that aim to replicate cheese flavor— think mac and cheese.
- How to use it. This versatile flavor booster can be sprinkled over popcorn or salads. Try adding it to mashed potatoes, soups, grits or casseroles. It’s a natural in sauces, spreads and other condiments. Some people even add it to smoothies, juice and cereal for a nutrient boost.
- Nutritional profile. Nutritional yeast is a reliable protein source that contains all nine essential amino acids; it is also a good source of B-complex vitamins. Many brands are fortified with vitamin B12, which does not occur naturally in the product. It is low in fat and sodium and is sugar-, dairy- and gluten-free. Values vary from brand to brand, but on average, 2 tablespoons provide 60 kilocalories, about 5 grams of carbohydrates (4 g of which are fiber) and 9 g of protein.
- Where to buy it. You can find nooch in the bulk sections of most natural food stores. It is sold either as yellow flakes or as powder. Be sure to check the label, as some brands add whey, an animal product.