Mention nutritional yeast to the average person, and they probably don’t know what you’re talking about. What did you just say? Is it for baking? Do people brew beer with it?
Mention nutritional yeast to a vegan, and you’ll likely get a different reaction. Their face will light up, and they’ll waste no time in telling you how they dump it on everything they cook.
I know this because I am one of those vegans, and I put it on basically everything I eat. And that’s not an exaggeration. I, too, light up when I talk about it, and if I ever meet another vegan, nutritional yeast is an immediate point of bonding.
Nutritional yeast, or nooch, is a type of deactivated yeast. It contains vitamin B12, which is a big draw for a lot of plant eaters. Some fortified nut milks, cereals and granola bars have this elusive nutrient, but we cannot get B12 from many places (animal products contain vitamin B12).
Nutrition isn’t the only draw, however. Nooch adds a nutty and cheesy flavor to any recipe. This means it can make my attempts at a cashew-based mac and cheese a little closer to the “real” thing.
Nooch makes an appearance in almost all of my daily meals. From avocado toast at breakfast to pesto pasta in the evening, nutritional yeast is there to help flavor my favorites.
And its use doesn’t end with savory dishes. I even found a recipe for cinnamon rolls from one of my favorite bloggers where she uses a bit of nooch. Safe to say the vegan world is obsessed with this thing.
You don’t have to be a vegan to use it, though. I sometimes consider myself “The Nutritional Yeast Fairy,” because I’m far from stingy when it comes to sharing with others. Even my coworker who hunts and my personal trainer who eats meat at every meal have been recipients of this magical yellow dust. I always tell them, “I don’t care if you put this on a steak. You have to try it.”
You can get it at your local health food store (packaged or in bulk for a low-waste option) or online. Or maybe you even have access to a Nutritional Yeast Fairy of your own.
Whether you’re an herbivore or omnivore, here are my favorite ways to use nutritional yeast in everyday life.
1. Atop avocado toast
Cue the jokes about millennials and avocado toast. But in all seriousness, avocado toast is one of my favorite breakfasts. Smash avocado on sprouted grain bread, and top with salt, nooch and paprika. This rich and savory breakfast will power you throughout the morning.
2. To thicken soups and scrambles
Whether they’re vegan or not, people always ask me for my favorite plant-based recipes. Unfortunately I don’t have much to share with them. I mostly just dump a bunch of vegetables in a pan and hope for the best. That’s why nooch is a great way to add flavor and to thicken soups and sauces. For the breakfast version of a veggie dump, aka a tofu scramble, I toss together onions, garlic, broken up tofu and whatever vegetables I have. Once the ingredients have been cooking for a bit, it’s time to add the nooch. Start with a few tablespoons of nooch — but you can even add ¼ or ½ cup — and you’ll add a little pizzazz and thickness to any dish.
Air popped popcorn is a healthy staple snack for me. And since popcorn kernels are shelf-stable, I almost always have some on hand. When I’m in the mood for a quick bite, I’ll microwave some popcorn in a covered bowl. Once most of the kernels are popped, I’ll spritz with oil or a squeeze of lime, and then dust (or dump, let’s be honest) a combination of Old Bay and nooch on top. Who needs butter and salt when you have this spicy, tangy, “cheesy” popcorn?
I always thought pesto was such a fancy addition to a meal until I started making it to use up my groceries, and now it’s something I eat almost weekly. I almost always have some type of green (typically spinach) and walnuts in my house. So this definitely isn’t gourmet basil-pine nut pesto with fresh parmesan cheese. It’s the vegan weeknight grocery dump of whatever is in the fridge. And naturally, nooch is a mandatory ingredient and a great substitute for parmesan. After mixing my greens, walnuts, oil, nooch, garlic, lemon, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender, I put it on top of some edamame spaghetti that I get from the health food store. But it’s also wonderful atop your favorite pasta, zucchini noodles (aka zoodles) or crusty bread from the farmers market.
5. “Cheesy” broccoli or kale
This might not be as pleasing to all the omnivores out there, but it’s one of my favorite dishes. Steam a little kale, broccoli or other hardy green of your choosing, and get heavy-handed with that nutritional yeast. The moisture from steaming (or oil if you want to saute) will mix with the nooch for a cheesy sauce that coats every nook and cranny of these green veggies. Add your favorite dried spices for an extra pack of flavor. It’s a healthy, savory dish that comes together quickly for an ideal weeknight meal or side.