What is Nutritional Yeast?
Published Apr 09, 2022, Updated Jun 12, 2023
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Everything you need to know about nutritional yeast (aka nooch), a versatile condiment often added to vegan foods to create a cheesy and savory flavor.
Every time I use nutritional yeast in a recipe I get asked questions about it so I figured I needed a full post breaking down exactly what it is and how to use it!
If you’re new to nutritional yeast, you’re in the right spot.
What is Nutritional Yeast?
Also known as “nooch,” nutritional yeast is a supplement or food product that is grown on molasses. It comes in flakes, granules or powder. It’s low in calories and sodium, gluten-free, sugar-free, fat-free and vegan so it’s great for those with dietary restrictions.
Nutritional yeast is an unactivated version of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Not to be confused with brewer’s yeast and baker’s yeast, which are also Saccharomyces cerevisiae however they are active and are used to make beer and bread, respectively.
What Does Nutritional Yeast Taste Like?
Although nutritional yeast is dairy-free, it has a unique savory flavor that tastes cheesy. It’s also yellow in color, which makes it feel even more cheese-like! You’ll see nutritional yeast used in vegan dishes to add cheese flavor, but it’s also helps to thicken dressings, sauces and soups.
Where to Buy Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast is sold in most grocery stores these days and you’ll find in the spice aisle. If for some reason you can’t find it at your local store, you can always order it online. I usually buy look for Bragg’s or Bob’s Red Mill nutritional yeast.
Nutritional yeast is loaded with nutrients and antioxidants – hence the name nutritional yeast! It’s a great source of plant-based protein, as well as, trace minerals and B vitamins including B12. (source)
- Protein – with all 9 of the essential amino acids, nutritional yeast is a complete protein. Many plant-based protein aren’t complete proteins so this is significant. Just 2 Tablespoons of nutritional yeast has 8 grams of protein.
- Vitamin B12 – vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is essential for the production of of red blood cells and nerve health. It’s largely found in animal products so if you follow a vegan or plant-based diet, you may not be getting enough. Nutritional yeast doesn’t naturally contain B12, but when fortified (which most nutritional yeasts are) it offers over 300% of the recommended daily value in just 2 teaspoons! You can see why it’s an easy choice for many vegans.
- Other B Vitamins – you’ll also find vitamin B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine) and B9 (folate).
- Minerals – Fortified nutritional yeast also includes zinc, selenium, manganese and molybdenum.
Nutritional Yeast Substitutes
The cheesy, umami flavor of nutritional yeast is hard to replicate, but if for some reason you need to substitute it in a recipe (perhaps you’ve run out of nutritional yeast or you’re allergic to yeast) you can try some different things. This helpful article offers a variety of nutritional yeast substitutes including white miso paste, soy sauce or liquid aminos, brewer’s yeast, cashews and/or dried porcini mushrooms.
Yes! Yeasts are considered vegan because they do not have a central nervous system and are unable to experience pain or suffering.
Saccharomyces Cerevisiae is grown on molasses, harvested and then dried using heat.
Anyone can use it! It’s a great source of protein and B vitamins for vegans, but everyone can enjoy the benefits.
How to Use Nutritional Yeast
- popcorn – sprinkle nutritional yeast over popcorn to impart a cheesy flavor and boost popcorn nutrients!
- pasta – make a vegan “cheesy” pasta or vegan mac and cheese with a nutritional yeast-based cheese sauce.
- veggies – sprinkle over roasted or air fryer vegetables for extra flavor. Try it with air fryer asparagus, air fryer broccoli or air fryer cauliflower.
- eggs – I love a little nooch sprinkled over my eggs for some added nutrition and umami flavor! I also use it to add flavor to this dairy-free quiche.
- tofu – use in a tofu scramble to make vegan “cheesy eggs”!
- cheese – make vegan parmesan cheese to sprinkle over, well… everything!
- dressing – I love adding nutritional yeast to salad dressings. I use it in my nutritional yeast dressing, this garlic tahini dressing and my golden turmeric tahini dressing.
Want more ideas? See all of my nutritional yeast recipes.
Other Guides to Check Out
- What Is Tempeh (and How to Cook It)
- What is Jackfruit?
- What is Jicama + 12 Jicama Recipes
- What is Collagen and Should You be Taking It?
Try These Popular Vegan Recipes
Be sure to check out all the vegan recipes on EBF!
Nutritional Yeast Dressing
- Combine all dressing ingredients except olive oil into a blender. Blend until smooth and slowly add in the olive oil, with the blender on a low setting.
- I prefer making this dressing in a blender because it gets extra smooth and creamy, but if don’t have a blender you can easily make it by whisking all the ingredients together as well. Just make sure you mince your garlic really well.
- Oil-free dressing: You can use water in place of the oil. The dressing won’t be as creamy, but still delicious.
- Soy sauce/tamari: If you’re looking for a soy-free option you can use coconut aminos instead.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.