Though it may seem like a strange ingredient, nutritional yeast is a natural food that has been around for quite some time. Let’s first dive into the “what” it is (and isn’t) and then I’ll address the “how” to use it with some amazing nutritional yeast recipes.
What Is Nutritional Yeast? A Supplement and a Seasoning
Not to be confused with baker’s yeast (such as active dry yeast), brewer’s yeast, or yeast extract, nutritional yeast is a member of the fungi family that is grown on sugarcane or beet molasses and then deactivated. Since nutritional yeast is an inactive yeast, it doesn’t grow, froth, or leaven like baker’s yeast. Brewer’s yeast is also deactivated yeast, but it’s a byproduct of the brewing process, and has a very bitter and less appealing flavor than nutritional yeast. And while nutritional yeast is a dry ingredient with a subtle taste, yeast extract is a paste with a much stronger flavor. In other words, do not attempt to substitute any of these other types of yeast in nutritional yeast recipes!
Though it can grow in the wild, the nutritional yeast that we purchase in stores is produced under carefully controlled conditions and then it is harvested, washed, and heat dried to deactivate the yeast.
As the name implies, nutritional yeast is packed with some healthy goodness. It is typically fortified with B vitamins, including vitamin B12, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid. It’s also a sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, low-fat food that is a relatively good source of fiber, iron, and protein. And call it a happy coincidence, but nutritional yeast does double duty by providing vitamin B12 and cheesy flavor, a need and a desire of many who follow plant-based diets.
Though originally adored as a supplement, nutritional yeast recipes now abound thanks to this ingredient’s natural cheesy, savory, nutty and near umami flavor. Just a bit can cure cravings for the salty, pungent nemesis of dairy-free foodies. But it isn’t just about cheesiness. As you will taste in the nutritional yeast recipes below, this humble ingredient can do everything from adding the richness of egg yolks to providing depth to baked goods.
Note that nutritional yeast is available flaked or in powdered form, but I find the flakes to be easiest to measure, and they readily dissolve. Also, not all brands are fortified with B vitamins. To get the nutritional benefits and best flavor, I typically use Bob’s Red Mill Nutritional Yeast Flakes.
What If I Can’t Eat Yeast? Nutritional Yeast is “Deactivated”
Many who follow an anti-candida diet shun anything with the word “yeast” attached, but there has been no scientific evidence that nutritional yeast promotes the growth of candida in humans, particularly since it is a deactivated yeast. And though the savory flavor of nutritional yeast comes from glutamic acid, this is not the same as the commercial additive monosodium glutamate (MSG). Glutamic acid is a naturally-occurring amino acid found in many fruits, vegetables, and meats.
Many practitioners give their anti-candida patients the go ahead with nutritional yeast, but it is still best to consult your physician regarding any medical concern.
How Can You Use It? Enjoy These Nutritional Yeast Recipes!
Click the title or the image to head straight to any of these nutritional yeast recipes. You just might be surprised how many different ways this versatile ingredient can be used! Note that this is a sponsored post by Bob’s Red Mill, but I chose this feature as I have been using their nutritional yeast in my recipes for years.
Cinnamon Buckwheat Vegan French Toast (NEW!)
No eggs? No problem. Nutritional yeast adds the savory, rich goodness of egg yolks when used in small amounts. This recipe is so easy and versatile, and no one will be the wiser that it is egg-free and dairy-free!
Cheesy Chia Popcorn
A quick blend of nutritional yeast, chia seeds, salt, and spices yields a flavorful and nutritious popcorn topping that the whole family will love.
Grab-and-Gorge Garlic Kale Chips
Kale chips have become a snacking staple in so many households, and as many of you already know, nutritional yeast makes an amazing seasoning on these crunchy greens.
Southwestern-Style Dairy-Free Mac ‘n Cheese
For stove-top vegan mac ‘n cheese, nutritional yeast really is a wonderful secret weapon. It melts perfectly into the creamy sauce for a delicious better-than-boxed taste.
The gluten-free and vegan quinoa stuffing in these carved bell peppers gets a flavor boost from the subtle savoriness of nutritional yeast. Just a couple tablespoons needed for the whole recipe.
Warm, nourishing soup gets a light flavor and nutrition boost from nutritional yeast.
Vegan Tomato Queso Dip
Did you know that nutritional yeast creates an instant cheesy Mexican sauce when stirred into salsa? This dip takes it a step further for a full-bodied crockpot dip that can double as a rich sauce.
Dairy-Free Caramelized Onion Dip
Rather than making it cheesy, nutritional yeast acts as a savory underlying influence to enhance the caramelized onions and all-natural seasonings in this healthier vegan version of a classic dip.
Sharp Vegan Cheddar Cheese
Yes, you can make your own sliced cheese at home! This recipe isn’t for the faint of heart, but when your ready for some adventure, this is one to try.
Brazil Nut Parmezan + Easy Cheesy Sprinkle
One of the easiest and most useful ways to use nutritional yeast is in a quick nutty or seed blend that mimics the flavor and usefulness of Parmesan cheese. Enjoy these two nutritional yeast recipes or the “parma” ones provided in Go Dairy Free.
Vegan Parmesan Flakes
Why stop at powdered parmesan when you can easily create crispy shards of cheesy goodness to add crunch to salads, soups, and more!
Gluten-Free and Vegan Risotto
Just a touch of nutritional yeast perfects this parmesan-loving dish, adding the finishing touch it needs for both flavor and richness.
Butternut Squash and Sage Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Smoky White Pizza Sauce
Give cheese-free pizza a flavor boost by using nutritional yeast along with rich, salty, bold, and zesty ingredients in the sauce.
Easy Gluten-Free, Grain-Free Pizza Crust
Why stop with the toppings? A little nutritional yeast in savory baked breads, like pizza crust, intensifies their flavor.
Crispy Southwestern Quinoa and Chick’n Burritos
This restaurant-worthy dish uses a double dose of cheesiness – a little bit of Daiya plus nutritional yeast in the flavorful quinoa mixture that subs in for rice.
Tofu Benedict with Vegan Hollandaise Sauce and Homemade English Muffins
A hollandaise sauce without dairy and eggs? Indeed, and made possible by nutritional yeast and some creative creamy ingredients.
Dairy-Free Scalloped Potatoes
Perfect for the holidays and beyond, everyone will love this creamy vegan side, even those die hard dairy cheese fanatics.
Nutritional yeast does double duty in the rich, yet healthy brunch delight. When combined with the other ingredients, it offers both cheesiness and the savory luxury of egg yolks without an ounce of dairy or eggs.
Nutritional Yeast and Smoked Paprika Spice Blend
And for all of those other meals and snacks that could use a flavor boost, Kim’s “best ever” seasoning comes to the rescue. It’s simple and uses three of my all-time favorite ingredients: nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, and salt.
No Bake Vegan Cheesecake
And a BONUS dessert recipe! Tofu-based cheesecakes benefit from a little more nutritional yeast, but this nut-based one uses just a bit to give it that perfect cream cheese flavor.
This informational post and great round-up of nutritional yeast recipes is sponsored by Bob’s Red Mill, my favorite grain company! They produce nutritional yeast and dozens of other fabulous dairy-free ingredients for baking and beyond.
I’ve submitted this post to Allergy-Free Wednesdays!
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this doesn’t sound like Paleo at all. Many of the dishes had grains and wheat.
Hi Gerry, nutritional yeast is considered paleo, several of the recipes here are paleo-friendly, but no, this isn’t a paleo post. It’s a dairy-free post!
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Thank you so much for this post! The recipes look amazing! I can’t wait to try!!
Can I add nutritional yeast to the sourdough bread recipe to beef up the nutrients and flavor?
Hi Alice, I don’t see why not, as long as you add it rather than using it in place of any active yeast in your recipe. Nutritional yeast is inactive, and thus should only affect your recipe in flavor, not function.
I am a food combining vegan. I need recipes that have all raw natural ingredients. Do you have anything like this?
Yes, we do, but I couldn’t sift them out for you as it would take me just as long as you Jeff. Feel free to visit our recipe section. Here’s our vegan recipe index – http://www.godairyfree.org/vegan-recipe-index
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I don’t usually leave comments on posts but I just have to tell you that this one is amazing. Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful recipes.
What would make one sensitive to nutritional yeast? Every time I’ve eaten I’ve felt awful with the worst stomach cramps and gas.
I’m not certain. Do you have digestive issues with other types of yeast?
other things you are mis-combining with it!!!!
Cannot wait to try the vegan Parmesan flakes! And the potatoes look lovely, too!
I actually woke up this morning thinking about nutritional yeast. Odd. This post has come at just the right time because I *never* know what to do with nooch but always have some in the cupboard. Thanks Alisa.
That’s great! Glad I hit good timing with your cravings Monica 🙂
Wow Alisa, this is a great post. Sharing it around, I wish I had it years ago 🙂 There’s some fabulous recipes here too. I’m so intrigued by the french toast!
Thanks Maggie! I think your family would love it! I know you make your own bread, but Silver Hills Bakery Sprouted GF bread would probably be great with this (though a little delicate!).
Great post, Alisa. I love nooch! And I love that you mentioned it in relation to candida. I actually wasn’t allowed to eat it at the early stages, not because it causes fungus to grow, but because, as a yeast, it is similar in structure to other yeasts, and my immune system might be triggered by it because of its similarity to candida. So the veto is often more to prevent an inflammatory or allergic reaction, from what I understand. I do enjoy it occasionally now (and I mean I ENJOY it!). 🙂 Great recipe roundup as well–some new ideas to try!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Ricki! I’ve actually never heard this take on it from any of the practitioners I spoken wiht. Very interesting though – too bad there aren’t more studies done in this arena. I’m betting there will be some going forward though!