Nutritional yeast (aka “nooch”) is a mystery to me. I’ve been using it for years and I’ve researched about its origin quite thoroughly, but somehow, I still don’t get it. Meanwhile, I carry on, luxuriating in the taste it adds to many a meal as well as its apparent nutritional properties.
When something this good and this useful exists, I simply can’t get enough. If you want to know how to take your dishes from zero to hero, just turn to nutritional yeast!
Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast that is sold in flake form. It is produced through culturing a yeast in a nutrient medium for a few days, using glucose, sugar or beet molasses to help grow it, and then deactivating it with heat. It is then harvested, washed, dried and packaged. Still don’t get it? Me neither. I find it very hard to visualize the process and fathom all the chemical reactions therein, but it sounds quite simple and straight-forward enough.
The result is a flaky condiment that offers a cheesy overtone to some of my favorite dishes. Because it is deactivated, it won’t ferment in your tummy or make you bloated. Instead, it will offer you B-vitamins and an excellent source of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, B12 and folic acid. It also packs in fiber and protein. Just 1 1/2 tablespoons offers your 8 grams of protein and 4 grams of dietary fiber, all in just 60 calories of flakes. If you are vegan or vegetarian, or simply looking to avoid dairy in general, nutritional comes in handy. For me, it is godsend good. The best part is that you don’t need to use more than 2 tablespoons at a time – it spreads itself thin, both in taste and nutrition.
Of course, it’s application is limited given its texture. It’s no block of cheese and is by no means able to star in a dish. Instead, it’s meant to offer a cheesy taste to the main player. For example, if you’ve made a bean dip or chili and don’t want to melt in cheddar cheese, add a tablespoon or two of nutritional yeast instead. Due to its texture and sensitivity, when it comes in contact with a liquid and heat, it breaks down and gives a bit of thickness, disappearing in the dish and leaving behind flavor, not flaky chunks. You can look at nutritional yeast in the way you do store-bought fine-grated Parmesan, in fact. I also like to add nutritional yeast to salads, soups, and creams.
Here are three of my favorite ways to use nutritional yeast:
1. Cheesy Popcorn
Your popcorn is freshly popped and all you need is something to boost the snacking experience. Sprinkle nutritional yeast along with garlic powder over hot popcorn. Mix until evenly coated. Enjoy the cheesy popcorn delight, but without the cheese.
2. Creamy “Cheese”
This is perhaps how I use nutritional yeast the most – as an ingredient in vegan cheese. I take a cooked vegetable, bean or legume base, such as cauliflower, broccoli, white beans, chickpeas or lentils, and I mix in a few other ingredients to cut any dominant flavor. Nutritional yeast adds the last necessary cheesy flavor. Check out my recipe for Vegan White Cheese Party Dip. It’s a winning appetizer among my friends.
3. Mac & Cheese
Need I say more? Macaroni and cheese can be delicious and vegan at the same time. Nutritional yeast really brings this recipe home. The version I make mixes noodles into a sweet potato mash that is accented by nutritional yeast, creating both a orange color and a cheddar-like flavor. Print out a written-out version of this recipe.
Related on EcoSalon
Image Credit: mlinksva