What is "nutritional yeast"?

>> Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I talk about nutritional yeast a lot - mainly because it seems like most people haven't heard of it.  If you're eating a vegan diet, nutritional yeast can be a wonderful and necessary source of B12.  If you're not vegan, it's still loaded with good-for-you stuff and adds a wonderful depth to vegetables and soups.  Read on to learn more about this unusual ingredient!

Have you heard of nutritional yeast? I hadn't until a couple of months ago when I reviewed a cookbook that used it as an ingredient. Now I find myself using it more and more. I love finding and learning about new foods, and thought I would share some of what I've learned about this odd ingredient with you.

So, what is nutritional yeast? Nutritional yeast is a deactivated form of the fungus (yes, yeast is a fungus) Saccharomyces cerevisiae that has been grown on a molasses-based medium. The molasses gives it more flavor than either brewer's or baker's yeast. The yeast is dried and sold as a powder or a flake. Nutritional yeast has a cheesy or nutty flavor - think cheesy umami flavor. It's often used by vegans for its cheesy flavor.

What's special about nutritional yeast? Nutritional yeast is loaded with protein (50% by weight!), B-vitamins, essential fatty acids, and folic acid. Some brands, but not all, are fortified with B-12. (The vitamin B-12 is produced by bacteria and then added to the yeast during the growing process. Not all companies do this, but Red Star apparently does.) The addition of B-12 makes nutritional yeast especially popular among vegans and vegetarians, as B-12 is an important nutrient that can be hard to get if you don't eat meat. It's also low in sodium, which is great when you're trying to impart a little extra flavor without loading up on sodium.

How do you use nutritional yeast? It's apparently a very popular topping for popcorn in some areas and because of its cheesy kind of flavor is often used in place of parmesan cheese in vegan diets. I've been sprinkling it onto vegetables like lima beans while I cook them. It adds a very subtle pleasant flavor to them. It could also be a salad topper. Its flavor is mild enough and pleasant enough that it really could be used on many different foods with good effect.

Where can you find nutritional yeast? You can order on-line or many health food stores sell it. Red Star is a very popular brand, and one of the brands that adds B-12 to the yeast. (If you're specifically consuming nutritional yeast for the B-12, read labels carefully! They aren't all fortified with B-12.) Nutritional yeast is sometimes sold as "savoury yeast flakes" or "vegetarian yeast."

Whatever you do, don't confuse nutritional yeast with brewer's yeast! I had two health food stores in my town tell me that they're the same thing - one even sold nutritional yeast (as vegetarian yeast) without knowing it. Brewer's yeast is a byproduct of the brewing industry and has a bitter flavor. It's the same deactivated yeast strain, but the growing medium is decidedly different resulting in decidedly different flavors.

Also don't use active, bread making yeast in place for nutritional yeast. Active yeasts are still alive and may continue to grow in your intestines resulting in you not getting all of the nutrients out of your food as you should.


Amy December 23, 2009 at 9:00 AM  

I've been meaning to try this on popcorn. I even bought some a few months ago, but still haven't tried it.

cathy December 23, 2009 at 9:04 AM  

Try adding it to your soups, Amy. It adds a great flavor to the broth!

Zucchini Breath December 23, 2009 at 11:10 AM  

Great information. I am tweeting this!

My Year Without December 24, 2009 at 6:40 AM  

Two of my favorite uses for "nut" yeast are:
-Adding it to French toast batter
-Sprinkling it (heavily!) on a piece of toast buttered with Earth Balance.

I love having a lot of it on hand because I end up throwing it in all sorts of recipes. It's great sprinkled on steamed veggies, added to quinoa and other grain dishes, etc.

It's great that you're writing about it!

Mark December 27, 2009 at 11:07 AM  

Very interesting....I will give it a try! I am looking for a sauce that I can use as a dip for shrimp. Obviously Cocktail sauce is out...suggestions?

Lori December 27, 2009 at 2:44 PM  

Such an informative post. Even with me a nutritionist and my husband specializing in yeast for work, we have yet to have a discussion about this. I haven't come across recipes using it and haven't sought out much info. So great to know about all these creative ways to use it and the additional health benefit. Thanks!

Also, I responded to your comment regarding the HFCS in the candied fruit I listed. Is there something in some of them that I'm missing as HFCS? I didn't see any in the candied cherries that I was referring to? Let me know, because maybe I need to be on the look out for something I'm not familiar with! Thanks!

juli233 January 17, 2010 at 8:26 PM  

a friend makes her popcorn and then instead of butter drizzles it with flax oil and sprinkles on salt and nutritional yeast. It is yummy! Kind of a nutty, salty flavor that works well with popcorn, I highly reccomend it!

Josh December 10, 2010 at 6:39 AM  

It's a nice and very ingenious way to make a recipe blog, especially when you have a lot of competence. I mean, how many blogs are with this same topic line? So, I think you're doing a great work, because I always see something good and easy to follow it.

generic viagra March 3, 2011 at 6:05 AM  

Two of my favorite uses for "nut" yeast are:
-Adding it to French toast batter

Sildenafil September 22, 2011 at 1:05 PM  

Thanks for sharing, I would like to share many more information about it in my next post.nutritional topics are so important to my because I am a fitness man

Sildenafil September 22, 2011 at 1:05 PM  

Thanks for sharing, I would like to share many more information about it in my next post.nutritional topics are so important to my because I am a fitness man

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