WTF: Nutritional Yeast

For our first WTF post, we gave you the scoop on BOOCH. Today, almost a year later, we’re serving up the deets on NOOCH. I recently discovered that “nooch” is the nickname for “nutritional yeast”, and I am quite tickled.

Anyway, what is nutritional yeast? Carrying through with the theme of many of our WTF posts, nutritional yeast is an ingredient that’s been taking the ‘gram by storm. I don’t know about you, but before I learned about it \ and tried it, it did not sound like something I should be eating (could we have come up with a more appealing name??). I thought it looked weird (tbh, like the food I used to feed my dorm room fish… #RIP), and surely did not understand how it seemed to be serving as a cheese replacement. You too? Read on to get familiar with the nooch. (But how many times is too many?)

*Writer pauses to make popcorn sprinkled with nooch.*

What is nutritional yeast?

Nutritional yeast has been a dominant ingredient in vegan dishes for years. It’s recent popularity can be attributed to the rising trendiness of plant-based diets/lifestyles.

Nutritional yeast is a form of inactive yeast, typically a strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It is yellow in color and nutty + cheesy in flavor—adding umami via condiment or ingredient in a recipe. Nooch comes in the form of flakes or powder, and you can generally find it at your local grocery store (we got ours at Acme). Due to its cheesy and creamy existence and lack of animal-derived ingredients, nutritional yeast is a common non-dairy substitute for dairy cheese.

How is nutritional yeast produced?

Nutritional yeast is the same species as the yeast used to make bread, beer, kombucha, etc., but the main difference is that those forms are active, and the form used to make nutritional yeast is deactivated. That means, this yeast cannot be used to make bread rise, and it cannot reproduce (good to know, since you’re consuming it…).

Nutritional yeast is made by growing the S. cerevisiae by feeding it molasses. Then, it is harvested, deactivated with heat, then washed, dried, and packaged.

Is nutritional yeast healthy?

Maybe this is just me, but for some yellow flakes in a bottle, nutritional yeast definitely has some unicorn-like health benefits (okay, I guess the name is justified).

The nutritional value of nooch varies based on the brand. Generally, a 1/4 cup serving provides: 60 calories, 5g of carbohydrates (4g fiber), and 9g of protein (whoa!). Furthermore, nutritional yeast is a complete protein, which means it contains all nine of the amino acids that the body cannot produce.

Nutritional yeast is also loaded with B vitamins, which are essential for normal functioning of many bodily processes such as metabolism, brain function, energy production, DNA synthesis, making blood cells, and hormone regulation. Note: yeast cannot produce B-12. Therefore, if your nutritional yeast proclaims to be a source of B-12, it has been fortified.

Nutritional yeast contains significant trace minerals and antioxidants, important for supporting a strong immune system + active metabolism and preventing cell damage (which can lead to disease), respectively.

How do I use nutritional yeast?

So, now that you know WTF nutritional yeast is, how do you use it? Well, the pastabilities are endless (see what I did there?)! As I mentioned earlier, because of it’s savory flavor, people typically use nutritional yeast as a condiment, as an ingredient in a recipe to replace dairy cheese, or just to add flavor, similar to how you’d use salt.

Here are some ideas for how to use nooch:

  • Sprinkle on popcorn
  • Use instead of Parmesan—on top of pasta, in a risotto, etc.
  • Use as a cheese replacement for a cheese sauce, dip, etc. (Can you say, “vegan mac and cheese” and “queso”?)
  • Add to eggs
  • Add to a soup
  • Plus, more!

We may have one more idea for how to use nooch… guess you’ll find out tomorrow!

This post is part of our WTF series—where we’ll break down some of the latest food, fitness, and health + wellness trends blowing up your Instagram feed.


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