Unlocking the Power of Nutritional Yeast: Everything You Need to Know

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(Last Updated On: August 22, 2023)

Nutritional yeast is a unique ingredient that has gained popularity in recent years for both its health benefits and savory flavor.

Derived from deactivated yeast, nutritional yeast is different from the yeast used in baking and brewing. You might hear nutritional yeast referred to as “nooch” or savory yeast, known for its cheesy and nutty taste, making it a delicious addition to your recipes, especially for those following plant-based diets.

In its inactive state, nutritional yeast doesn’t have the properties to make bread rise, yet it still offers plenty of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. From sprinkling it onto popcorn for a savory snack to blending it into sauces and dressings for an added depth of flavor, there are so many ways you can add nutritional yeast into your diet!

Understanding Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast, often called “nooch,” is a deactivated form of the yeast species Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This is the same type of yeast used in baking bread and brewing beer. However, unlike those living yeast forms, nutritional yeast has been deactivated, making it safe for human consumption.

You might find nutritional yeast as a yellow, flaky, or powdery substance in the grocery store. It has a savory, slightly cheesy flavor, making it a popular ingredient in various recipes, particularly among vegans and vegetarians. Nutritional yeast serves as a seasoning or topping on dishes such as pasta, salads, and popcorn.

There are many health benefits associated with nutritional yeast. It is an excellent natural source of essential nutrients like B-complex vitamins, including vitamin B12—a vital nutrient often lacking in vegan and vegetarian diets. Additionally, it typically contains minerals such as zinc, selenium, and manganese.

Using nutritional yeast in your meals adds a burst of flavor, nutrition, and versatility to your culinary creations. The deactivated yeast is not only easy to use but also serves as a healthier alternative to certain seasonings or flavorings. With its rich nutrients, health benefits, and various applications, nutritional yeast is a fantastic addition to your pantry staples.

Plate of food with nutritional yeast

Different Types of Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast, also known as “nooch,” comes in two main forms: flakes and powder. You can incorporate both forms into various dishes, depending on the texture and consistency you desire. They both offer a savory, cheesy flavor that enhances your cooking, especially when catering to vegan or vegetarian diets.

Fortified Nutritional Yeast is one type to consider. This yeast has added vitamins and minerals that enhance its nutritional value. Some common vitamins present in fortified nutritional yeast include thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), vitamin B6, folic acid (vitamin B9), and vitamin B12. Fortified nutritional yeast is an excellent option if you’re looking to boost your intake of essential nutrients, particularly for those following a plant-based diet.

Unfortified Nutritional Yeast contains no added vitamins or minerals. While still flavorful and nutritious, it offers a more natural option with fewer additives.

Our favorite non-fortified nutritional yeast:

Some of the most popular brands (and our favorites) for their taste, texture and the way they are so easily adaptable are:

Whichever type and brand you choose, nutritional yeast is a such a fun ingredient to play around with. Make sure to experiment with different options – flakes and powders, mixed in or sprinkled on top of your favorite dishes.

Nutritional Content

Nutritional yeast is a versatile and nutritious ingredient that can enrich your diet with essential nutrients. It is a deactivated yeast product, known for its nutty and cheesy flavor which makes it popular in many vegan recipes as a dairy-free cheese substitute.

Here’s a rundown of the key nutritional elements found in nutritional yeast:

  • Calories and macronutrients: A 1.5 tablespoon serving of nutritional yeast contains around 60 calories, with 0.5g fat, 5g carbohydrates, and 8g protein. It also consists of 3g dietary fiber, which is beneficial for digestion.
  • B Vitamins: Nutritional yeast is an excellent source of B vitamins, providing over 100% of the daily value of thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), and pyridoxine (B6). It also contains significant amounts of niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), folic acid (B9), and cobalamin (B12).
  • Minerals: Apart from vitamins, nutritional yeast also boasts a variety of essential minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, and selenium.
  • Amino acids: This yeast is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids that your body needs to function properly. This makes it an attractive protein source for vegans and vegetarians.
  • Other nutrients: Nutritional yeast contains a good amount of dietary fiber, which supports healthy digestion and can help you feel fuller for longer. Additionally, it has the naturally occurring amino acid glutamic acid, which gives it the umami flavor and is responsible for its savory taste.

Stuffed Peppers

Health Benefits of Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is a popular supplement, especially for vegans and vegetarians, due to its unique flavor and various health benefits. It brings an umami taste to dishes, making it a go-to ingredient for many recipes. But aside from its delicious taste, it also offers multiple advantages for your overall well-being.

One significant benefit of nutritional yeast is its antioxidants content. Antioxidants are essential for the protection of your cells from damage, helping reduce the risk of diseases. Incorporating nutritional yeast into your diet can contribute to ensuring that you receive adequate antioxidants.

For athletes or active individuals, nutritional yeast can be a valuable addition to your diet as it is a complete protein source. This means it contains all of the essential amino acids your body needs for optimal muscle function, tissue repair, and overall growth.

Another important component of nutritional yeast is chromium, a trace element known to regulate blood sugar levels and support immune system functioning. By adding nutritional yeast to your meals, you can benefit from the properties of chromium without needing to rely on additional supplements.

Nutritional Yeast in Dietary Restrictions

If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, nutritional yeast can be a fun addition to your meals. Many people use it as a plant-based substitute for cheese, due to its savory and umami flavors. As a vegan or vegetarian, adding nutritional yeast to your dishes can help you achieve a cheesy taste while staying true to your dietary preferences.

In addition to being suitable for vegans and vegetarians, nutritional yeast is also perfect for those with gluten-free and dairy-free diets. Since it is derived from yeast and not wheat, it naturally meets the definition of gluten-free. It does not contain any dairy products, making it ideal for those with lactose intolerance or individuals avoiding dairy for other reasons.

Nutritional yeast is not only compatible with various dietary restrictions, but it also offers numerous health benefits. It is rich in B vitamins, fiber, and is considered a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids needed for muscle structure.

Here are some fun ways to incorporate nutritional yeast into your diet:

  • Sprinkle it on popcorn or roasted vegetables for a savory, cheesy flavor.
  • Mix it into pasta sauce or soups to add depth and richness.
  • Use it as a seasoning for tofu or tempeh dishes, adding a burst of umami and protein.

Remember to check the ingredients list on the nutritional yeast packaging, as some brands may have added ingredients or flavorings that might not align with your specific dietary restrictions.

Popcorn in bowl

Cooking with Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is a versatile ingredient that can enhance the flavor of many dishes. It’s popular for its cheesy, nutty, and umami flavors, making it a great addition to a wide variety of recipes.

One of the simplest ways to enjoy nutritional yeast is by sprinkling it over popcorn. This will give your snack a tasty, cheesy flavor without the need for actual cheese. If you’re a fan of pasta dishes, try adding nutritional yeast to your favorite sauce. It can mimic the taste of parmesan cheese, and pairs well with pesto or creamy sauces.

Incorporating nutritional yeast into your bread recipes can add a subtle nutty flavor and a boost of nutrients. Simply include it in your dough, and watch your loaf transform into something not just delicious, but also nutritious. This ingredient also works well in both thick and brothy soups, adding depth and a touch of umami to each spoonful.

For a more cheesy taste, nutritional yeast can be used as a seasoning in dishes like mac and cheese or mashed potatoes. Its natural cheese-like flavor elevates these comfort foods without the need for excessive amounts of dairy. Try it on cauliflower or other roasted vegetables for a savory, nutty twist.

Nutritional yeast can be easily added to many sauces, from classic tomato-based marinara to creamy Alfredo. The umami flavor it imparts enhances the sauce’s overall taste and creates a more wholesome dining experience. Additionally, it’s a great option for anyone seeking a dairy-free or vegan alternative to traditional cheese-based toppings.

Storing Nutritional Yeast

When it comes to storing nutritional yeast, you want to maintain the freshness and quality. To do this, store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, such as a pantry which can protect the yeast from moisture, heat, clumping, and flavor.

If you purchase nutritional yeast in bulk or in packages, transferring it to an airtight container can help preserve its quality. This is especially important when dealing with nutritional yeast flakes, as they have a milder flavor and smoother texture compared to granules.

If you prefer, you could also keep it in the refrigerator or freezer which may extend the shelf life of your nutritional yeast. Just make sure that the container is sealed well, preventing any moisture or odors from other foods from affecting the yeast.

I use these storage containers for my baking supplies and also my nutritional yeast:
Large Food Storage Containers 5.2L

Nutritional Yeast Vs Other Yeasts

You might come across different types, such as nutritional yeast, brewer’s yeast, and baker’s yeast. It’s important to know that each one has its own unique properties and uses:

Nutritional yeast is an inactivated form of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This deactivated yeast is typically grown on beet molasses as a primary grown dietary supplement, specifically for human consumption. Rich in B vitamins, especially vitamin B12, it comes in the form of flakes or granules. Its cheesy, umami flavor makes it a popular ingredient in various recipes, providing a dairy-free alternative for added flavor and nutrition.

Brewer’s yeast also comes from the Saccharomyces cerevisiae species. However, unlike nutritional yeast, it’s a byproduct of the beer brewing process. As the name suggests, it plays an essential role in fermentation and contributes to the beer’s distinct flavor. Though it shares some similarities with nutritional yeast, such as being rich in B vitamins, it has a bitter taste and may not be as suitable for direct consumption due to its strong flavor profile.

Baker’s yeast, on the other hand, is the active form of Saccharomyces cerevisiae used to leaven bread, causing the dough to rise during the baking process. It’s a live organism that ferments sugars in the dough, producing carbon dioxide that gives bread its airy texture.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the health benefits of nutritional yeast?

Nutritional yeast offers various health benefits. It is a rich source of vitamins, particularly B-complex vitamins, which play crucial roles in energy production and overall metabolism. Additionally, it is a good source of antioxidants that can help protect your cells from damage. Some studies also suggest that nutritional yeast may boost your immune system and help support healthy cholesterol levels.

Is nutritional yeast a good source of protein?

Yes, nutritional yeast is an excellent source of protein. It contains all nine essential amino acids, which makes it a complete protein. A single serving (roughly 2 tablespoons) provides around 8 grams of protein, making it particularly beneficial for vegans and vegetarians seeking alternative protein sources.

How is nutritional yeast made?

Nutritional yeast is made through a fermentation process. Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a strain of yeast, is typically grown on a molasses-based medium. The yeast cells multiply and consume the sugar in the molasses, producing various nutrients in the process. Once the fermentation is complete, the yeast is harvested, washed, and dried, resulting in an inactive form that retains its nutritional profile.

Can nutritional yeast be used to supplement vitamin B12?

Nutritional yeast can be an excellent source of vitamin B12, particularly for vegans and vegetarians who may have limited options for obtaining this essential nutrient. Some types of nutritional yeast are fortified with B12, making it an easy and tasty way to boost your B12 intake. However, be sure to check the label, as not all nutritional yeast products contain vitamin B12.

What’s the difference between fortified and unfortified nutritional yeast?

The main difference between fortified and unfortified nutritional yeast lies in their nutritional content. Fortified nutritional yeast contains added vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin B12, which may not be present in unfortified versions. Unfortified nutritional yeast naturally contains some B-vitamins and other nutrients, but the levels can vary depending on the growth medium and processing methods. It is essential to read the product label to determine whether a nutritional yeast product is fortified and to understand its nutritional content.

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