There’s something that just doesn’t sit right about “nutritional yeast.” Vegans have attempted to reclaim the words by giving it a nickname—nooch—but somehow that sounds off-center as well. At VegNews, we call it magic dust (so do three-year-olds, but sometimes kids know what they’re talking about). If you’re new to nooch, don’t be put off by the name. Its powers and uses are infinite—turn boring veggies into cheesy snacks, make a velvety cheese sauce for pasta, and give cheesecake its signature savory note with a can of nooch in hand. Here are 17 ways to use nutritional yeast—the most wonderful food with the worst-sounding name.
What is nutritional yeast?
For the sake of all your future baked goods, do not confuse nutritional yeast with baker’s yeast. Nutritional yeast is not a leavening agent, and it cannot be used as a substitute for baker’s yeast.
Nooch and traditional yeast are derived from the same source, however. Each starts with living saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast which is fed a carbohydrate in order to ferment in a vat. Nutritional yeast undergoes further processing. It is heated, pasteurized, and dried, effectively killing any active ingredient. It’s then pressed into flakes and packaged, ready for use. =
When searching for nutritional yeast at the store, look for a bag or jar containing yellow flakes. Excuse the analogy, but these flakes look very similar to fish food. Thankfully, the similarities stop there. Nooch has a mild, slightly parmesan-esque smell and a pleasing, umami taste. Please, don’t feed it to your fish.
What are the benefits of nutritional yeast?
Nooch may not be an exotic berry sourced from the Amazon, but its nutritional profile undeniably qualifies it as a superfood. It’s one of the very few vegan sources of vitamin B12, though technically, it’s fortified and does not naturally contain this nutrient. Nutritional yeast is also considered a complete protein, just like animal-based protein.
A single two-tablespoon serving contains 30 calories, a negligible quarter gram of fat, 2.5 grams of fiber, four grams of protein, and over 100 percent of the daily recommended thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, and vitamins B 6 and B12.
Nooch is a nutritional powerhouse—Bob’s Red Mill even describes it as a “vegetarian dietary supplement”—though we just think of it as a delicious and affordable condiment. If you’re looking to get more protein in your diet without increasing fat or calories, adding a few tablespoons of nooch to your meals is an effective way to do so.
What does nutritional yeast taste like?
Nutritional yeast has a cheesy, slightly nutty, and overall savory umami taste. It’s not overpowering like some umami flavor bombs; think of it like parmesan. The flavor is very distinct and you know it’s there, but you don’t necessarily have to go light with it as you would with let’s say, truffle oil or vegan fish sauce. Nutritional yeast is a powerful complementary ingredient that plays well in a number of applications. It can impart a cheesy but not overwhelmingly cheddar flavor to tofu ricotta, or it can add subtle depth and complexity to a vegan cheesecake. When used in a multi-component recipe, nooch adds that je ne sais quoi element that keeps your taste buds engaged and thoroughly delighted.
16 vegan ways to use nutritional yeast
Kylie and Ashely Knies
1 Cheese sauce
There are literally thousands of vegan mac and cheese recipes online and in cookbooks, but the one unifying ingredient is nutritional yeast. It adds both color and cheesy flavor to this staple sauce, and while you can mix it up with other ingredients such as cashews, tofu, potatoes, and spices, the nooch is non-negotiable.
Try it in a recipe: Real Deal Vegan Mac and Cheese by Kylie and Ashely Knies
The Happy Pear
2Vegan omelets and frittatas
What is a frittata if not an open-faced omelet? No matter what you call it, it needs some nooch. Typically made with tofu or chickpea flour, nutritional yeast adds a more prominent yellow color as well as an umami flavor to this vegan egg batter. Once cooked to a perfectly fluffy consistency with just the right amount of browned edges, top your omelet with more nooch.
Try it in a recipe: Ultimate Vegan Omelet by The Happy Pear
The Curious Chickpea
Egg-based hollandaise sauce can be tricky to master—one has to get the emulsification just right or the sauce will “break” and become an unsalvagable curdled mess. Fortunately, this isn’t an issue with the vegan version. Even an inexperienced home cook can blend up a few ingredients and whisk over a stove until the mixture thickens. Serve it over a tofu-topped English muffin for a scrumptious vegan benny or go basic and dip toast into this silky smooth sauce.
Try it in a recipe: Vegan Hollandaise by The Curious Chickpea
We get that the cheese in cheesecake comes from cream cheese, but to truly impersonate a New York-style slice, you have to add some nooch. Just a sprinkle will provide that much-needed savory tang to balance out the sweet. Bonus: it’s fun to watch people’s expressions after they’ve helped themselves to another slice and you tell them it’s vegan.
Try it in a recipe: Baked Vegan Cheesecake (Nut-Free!) by Okonomi Kitchen
5 Queso dip and nacho cheese
If you can make a decent mac and cheese sauce, you can make queso. The nooch is necessary for that cheesy flavor. You can even use it to make queso blanco—the right amount won’t turn the whole dip orange.
Try it in a recipe: Na-Cho Average Cheese Dip by Vegan Rhino
Similar to omelets and frittatas, you need nooch to make a quality quiche. Rule of thumb: if you’re replicating eggs, nooch is necessary.
Try it in a recipe: Easy Vegan Quiche 2 Ways by Mississippi Vegan
For finger-licking-good popcorn at home, sprinkle your popped kernels with a generous helping of nutritional yeast. Pro tip: adding melted vegan butter to popcorn before sprinkling on the nooch will help it adhere better. No recipe needed here, just add nooch to taste.
8 Broccoli or potato cheddar soup
On the right night, there are few foods more comforting than a silky smooth potato cheddar soup. Yes, melting in vegan cheese shreds definitely provides a cheesy element, but nutritional yeast disperses more evenly and brings all the flavors together. This also works for broccoli soup or any other cheddar-based soup varietal.
Try it in a recipe: Vegan Baked Potato Soup by Vegan Huggs
9 Tofu or chickpea scramble
Love and Lemons
10 French toast
Let’s break this down. What is a traditional french toast batter made from? Eggs. How do you make vegan eggs? Well, a lot of ways, but nooch is one of them. Don’t fear the savory, even in sweet dishes.
Try it in a recipe: Vegan French Toast by Love and Lemons
Here we have yet another egg application. The base of a classic custard is made by whisking egg yolks into boiled milk or cream. Vegan versions rely on cornstarch, plant milk, and often tofu to replicate this creamy dessert, but a little nooch is always vital in creating that yolky color and slightly savory balance.
Try it in a recipe: Vegan Custard by Hot for Food
Loving It Vegan
12 Caesar dressing
Nutritional yeast plays two roles in vegan caesar dressing—it stands in for the egg and the umami notes typically created with anchovies. We prefer our salad without blended fish, thank you very much.
Try it in a recipe: Vegan Caesar Dressing by Loving It Vegan
Chocolate Covered Katie
13 Alfredo sauce
Just a pinch is all you need for a luxurious vegan alfredo. The nooch won’t mess up the color, but it will impart a depth of flavor in this decadent sauce. In lieu of pasta, try gently simmering collard greens or chard in this sauce for a decadent vegetable side dish.
Try it in a recipe: Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce by Chocolate Covered Katie
14 Tableside parmesan
It is uncanny how just a few ingredients can mimic the contents of that green shaker of parmesan cheese. Simply blitz up seeds or cashews with nooch, salt, and garlic powder, and you’ve got the perfect pizza and pasta topper. But don’t stop there. We keep a mason jar of this on hand and sprinkle it on everything from roasted veggies to crunchy-topped casseroles and vegetable gratins.
Try it in a recipe: Vegan Parmesan Cheese by Minimalist Baker
15 Kale chips
Without nutritional yeast, kale chips are just dried kale. A generous coating of nooch provides both flavor and wonderfully craggy bits of cheesy texture to an otherwise bland vegetable chip.
Try it in a recipe: Cheesy Kale Chips (Raw and Vegan) by Andrea Taylor
16 Straight up sprinkled on everything
No recipe is required for this one. While we draw the line at spooning it straight from the container, we liberally sprinkle nutritional yeast on just about everything. Some may argue it’s better than salt. A few of our favorite foods that always receive a dusting of nooch include steamed kale, salad, pizza, pasta, baked potatoes, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, tomato soup, and chili. That’s a very abbreviated list, but we’ll spare you the encyclopedia. Go forth, and nooch it up!