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Nutrition

Get excited about nutrition, and learn as you go with these information-packed resources on a wide variety of nutrition-centric topics! Our bistroMD experts review the importance of the macronutrients protein, fat, and carbohydrates, as well as how to make them work most efficiently for you.

What Is Nutritional Yeast and Is It Good For You?

Curious about nutritional yeast spotted at most food stores? Find out about this unique health food and how to use nutritional yeast in the kitchen.

What Is Nutritional Yeast and Is It Good For You?


Nutritional yeast, also referred to as nootch or nature's cheeto dust, is a savory, flavorful, flakey food addition. It pairs well with pasta, popcorn, salads, or roasted vegetables, just to name a few.

This popular food product, often used in vegan cooking, is full of nutrients and has a cheese-like taste. Learn how to use nutritional yeast and add it to any diet.

What Is Nutritional Yeast?

Nutritional yeast is made from the same yeast strain, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, that is commonly used in baked goods like bread. Nutritional yeast is heat deactivated and dried which produces the flake consistency. These flakes can then be added to various foods as desired.

Nutritional Yeast Nutrition

Nutritional yeast naturally sources protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Most nutritional yeasts are also fortified with B vitamins, especially B12 sourced in animal products, which is appealing to vegetarians and vegans. Nutritional yeast can be tolerated by most as it is free of common allergens such as gluten, soy, dairy, nuts, corn and egg. 

A two-tablespoon serving of nutritional yeast provides the following:

• 40 calories
• 3 grams (g) carbohydrate
• 2 g fiber
• 5 g protein
• 6% Daily Value (DV) iron
• 4% DV potassium
• 520% DV thiamin (vitamin B1)
• 480% DV riboflavin (vitamin B2)
• 220% DV niacin (vitamin B3)
• 420% DV vitamin B6
• 90% DV folate
• 630% DV vitamin B12 

Nutritional yeast can easily be considered good for you, as it is a good source of many nutrients while being low in calories. It can be an easy addition to any eating style, vegan or not.

How to Use Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast can be used like other spices and seasonings to go in or on top of foods such as:

• Toast
• Salads
• Soups
• Sandwiches
• Roasted veggies
• Pasta or rice dishes
• Popcorn
• Dips or spreads
• Egg dishes

Nutritional yeast can be sprinkled on any other cheesy dish, as nutritional yeast also has a cheese-like flavor. For example, nutritional yeast can be sprinkled on healthy cheesy quinoa or cheesy Brussels sprout casserole before serving.

Recipes That Use Nutritional Yeast

If new to using nutritional yeast or looking for unique ways to use it, here are some top nutritional yeast recipes to try.

Dairy-Free "Cheese" Sauce

Cashew cream sauce is often used in place of milk or heavy cream as a nutritious, plant-based cream sauce for soups, sauces, salad dressings or smoothies. It is surprisingly easy to make with just raw cashews and non-dairy milk of choice.

Cashew cream cheese sauce can be made by adding a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast when blending the cashews and non-dairy milk. This dairy-free cheese sauce can be a base for mac and cheese, nachos, or anywhere else you would use a cheese sauce. 

Nutritional Yeast Popcorn

Arguably one of nutritional yeast’s most popular uses is for topping popcorn. It gives the taste of cheesy like popcorn, but you get all the nutrient benefits from nutritional yeast. 

Nooch popcorn can be made in just a few minutes with popcorn kernels, oil, nutritional yeast and salt.

Vegan Pesto

Traditional pesto is not vegan, as it includes using parmesan cheese. Make pesto by eliminating the cheese, but you may miss the flavor this adds to pesto. Have the best of both worlds by making vegan pesto that is dairy-free but still has a cheese flavor from nutritional yeast.

"Cheesy" Roasted Vegetables

Enjoy cheesy roasted cauliflower that is paleo-friendly and vegan by simply roasting cauliflower with some olive oil, nutritional yeast, and other desired seasonings. This recipe works well for any other vegetables you want to roast.

Summary

Nutritional yeast is made by heating and drying regular yeast used for bread and other baked goods. It is a nutrient-dense food that provides protein, fiber, minerals, and B vitamins and acts as a versatile seasoning to add to many snacks and dishes for a subtle cheesy, earthy, and nutty flavor. 

The yeast is a popular choice for vegans, as fortified nutritional yeast provides vitamin B12. It can also be enjoyed by anyone on any diet, including dairy and gluten-free diets.

References:

Chaey C. Everything You Need to Know About Nutritional Yeast, Nature's Cheeto Dust. Bon Appétit. Published May 30, 2017. https://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/ingredients/article/nutritional-yeast-2

Hackett, J. What is Nutritional Yeast? The Spruce Eats. Published November 15, 2019. https://www.thespruceeats.com/what-is-nutritional-yeast-3376833.

Sydney Lappe's Photo
Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on May 13, 2021. Updated on July 13, 2021.

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