What is nutritional yeast?
Nutritional yeast has delicious savory notes that can pack extra flavor into a range of dishes. Although it’s most popular with people who follow a vegan or dairy-free diet, there’s no reason why you can’t try it even if you do consume dairy.
Anyone new to the world of nutritional yeast can find it a little confusing. You might want to know what the benefits of nutritional yeast are and how to cook with it. Luckily, this information is easy to find and, once you’ve got your head around it, nutritional yeast isn’t as enigmatic as it seems
Can nutritional yeast make my bread rise?
If you’ve used yeast for baking, you might be wondering if nutritional yeast gives similar results. Nutritional yeast is a deactivated form of yeast, so you can’t add it to your bread dough and expect any kind of rise. It’s different from baker’s yeast and brewer’s yeast, so you definitely shouldn’t attempt to use it interchangeably in any recipes that call for those types of yeast.
Nutrients in nutritional yeast
Nutritional yeast contains a range of nutrients. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast contains 5 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber (6% of your daily value). Plus, it contains large amounts of various B vitamins, including 563% of your daily value of vitamin B12 and 381% of your daily value of vitamin B6. You’ll also find decent quantities of various minerals in nutritional yeast, including selenium, zinc and manganese.
However, it’s worth noting that these values are for fortified nutritional yeast. Non-fortified nutritional yeast still contains all the protein and fiber and is naturally rich in certain vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B6, B5 and magnesium, but it doesn’t contain the full range of B vitamins in fortified nutritional yeast. It’s especially important for vegans to choose fortified nutritional yeast because it contains vitamin B12, which isn’t naturally available in any plant-based food.
Benefits of consuming nutritional yeast
In addition to the general benefits of consuming the vitamins and minerals in nutritional yeast, research suggests that the beta-glucan fiber in nutritional yeast can boost the immune system. One study found a correlation between ingesting beta-glucan fiber from yeast and higher levels of immune cells circulating in the bloodstream two hours after exercise, suggesting that the participants’ immune systems recovered more quickly from the stress caused by strenuous activity. Although this study used beta-glucan fiber from baker’s yeast, the same fiber is found in nutritional yeast.
What does nutritional yeast taste like?
Nutritional yeast is commonly used in recipes as a cheese substitute but, while it does have some slightly cheesy notes, you’ll likely be disappointed if you expect it to taste just like cheese. It has a deeply savory umami flavor that’s slightly nutty and a little cheesy.
Easy ways to enjoy nutritional yeast
While you can use nutritional yeast in various elaborate recipes, you’ll also find a range of simple ways to add it to your diet. First off, consider using nutritional yeast anywhere you might usually sprinkle some parmesan or other cheese, such as on top of pasta dishes, risotto or salads.
It’s also delicious spread on toast with a non-dairy alternative to butter. Just add a small grind of sea salt and black pepper, and you have yourself a tasty breakfast or light lunch that’s packed with the nutrients from nutritional yeast. Vegans looking for a more hearty breakfast option can add a few tablespoons to 1/3 cup of nutritional yeast to their favorite tofu scramble recipe.
If you like savory popcorn, try tossing freshly popped corn with small flake nutritional yeast and a pinch of salt. Get creative, and you’ll soon come up with plenty of quick and easy ways to add extra nutritional yeast to your usual recipes and snacks.
Nutritional yeast recipes
These are a couple of recipes featuring nutritional yeast that you can try. If you’re new to the vegan diet or are trying to eat more vegan food, you might want to consider buying a vegan cookbook.
Cheesy pasta sauce
2 tablespoons non-dairy butter alternative or refined coconut oil
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
A few grinds of black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Melt the non-dairy butter or coconut oil over medium-low heat.
- Add the flour and mix to form a roux.
- Gradually add the non-dairy milk, stirring or whisking vigorously to get rid of any lumps that form.
- Add the nutritional yeast, salt, pepper and garlic powder and mix until integrated with the sauce.
- Your sauce is now ready to mix with cooked pasta.
Vegan basil pesto
- Place the basil and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse several times until roughly chopped. To save money, you can substitute the pine nuts with walnuts and half the basil with baby spinach leaves.
- Next, add the nutritional yeast and minced garlic and pulse the food processor a few more times to combine.
- Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula at this point, if necessary.
- With the food processor running on low, slowly pour the oil in until you achieve the desired consistency.
- Season with salt and black pepper, adding more to taste if needed.
Best nutritional yeast
This tasty nutritional yeast is produced in the USA and packaged in California. The company also makes a non-fortified version, but we’d recommend buying the fortified flakes for their additional B vitamin content.
Sold by Amazon
A small 4.5-ounce container that’s great for people who want to try nutritional yeast before committing to a large purchase, though you’ll soon be back for more. It’s non-GMO and certified gluten-free and kosher.
Sold by Amazon
If you prefer small flake nutritional yeast over large flakes, this is an excellent option for you. It comes in a large 1-pound bulk bag, so it will keep you going for a while.
Sold by Amazon
Anyone who’s on the large flake team should consider this nutritional yeast. You get 1 pound of yeast flakes that arrive stored in a jar that’s easy to reseal for freshness.
Sold by Amazon
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.