I realize that Nutritional Yeast sounds anything but appetizing, but it has become a staple in my kitchen.
I first became familiar with it when my vegan daughter-in-law was pregnant and wanted to boost protein intake every way possible. Nutritional yeast is a versatile food that works with nearly any type of diet or eating style. It is naturally low in sodium and calories, as well as being fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, and vegan.
Let’s begin with what it is:
Nutritional Yeast is a deactivated yeast related to brewer’s yeast. While Nutritional, Brewer’s, and Baker’s yeasts all begin with the same species of yeast, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, they are three distinct and different products. Baker’s yeast is alive and is used to make bread and baked goods rise. Brewer’s yeast is used to brew beer and the cells leftover from that process are sold as a nutritional supplement, which has a rather bitter taste. Nutritional yeast is grown specifically to be used as a food product. The yeast cells are no longer alive so it will not cause yeast overgrowth problems.
It is grown on a sugar-rich food source, (yeasts feed on sugar) most often molasses, then harvested, heated, dried, and crumbled, which deactivates the yeast, and creates a wonderfully nutty, tasty, and versatile ingredient.
You will find two types of nutritional yeast, unfortified and fortified.
While unfortified contains moderate amounts of B vitamins, the fortified yeast contains more. If you are using this product for nutritional purposes, as my daughter-in-law was, I would suggest using fortified. If it is just to be a flavorful addition to your meals, unfortified is fine and still very nutritious.
Here are some of the main nutritional benefits for ¼ cup fortified nutritional yeast:
- 60 calories.
- 5 calories from fat.
- 5 grams carbohydrates.
- 4 grams fiber.
- 9 grams protein (a complete protein containing all 9 essential amino acids).
- 5 grams fat.
- 25 milligrams sodium.
- 790% DV of thiamine.
- 570% DV of riboflavin.
- 300% DV of vitamin B6.
- 230% DV of niacin.
- 290% DV of vitamin B12 (especially critical for vegans).
- 270% DV of folate.
- 20% DV of zinc.
It also contains antioxidants like glutathione and selenomethionine that fight free radical and heavy metal damage. Exact nutritional values vary between brands, so always read labels to find the variety that meets your specific needs. Typically, you would only use a few tablespoons a day, but you can see that even using that small amount is highly nutritious.
I use both the flaked and powdered versions. The flavor of nutritional yeast has been described as cheesy, nutty, savory, and “umami.” A tablespoon or two adds richness to soups, gravies, and other dishes.
Some of My Favorite Ways to use Nutritional Yeast are:
- Sprinkled on popcorn. Absolutely finger-licking delicious!
- Stirred into mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower. I add it to my cauliflower “tots” recipe.
- On garlic bread, it makes a wonderful Parmesan cheese substitute.
- Added to the cooking water for “cheesy grits” or polenta without cheese.
- Sprinkled on any pasta, bean, or vegetable dish.
- Stirred into soups, especially split pea or onion soup, and stews, especially veggie stews, or chili
- I use a few tablespoons in the quinoa-egg bites I make for my husband to boost nutrition and cheesy flavor.
- If you eat egg white omelets, add some to make them taste cheesier and more like whole eggs.
Nutritional yeast is not just for the vegan kitchen!
It’s a delicious, nutrition-boosting ingredient we can all enjoy and benefit from.