Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Get to Know Nutritional Yeast

By Alice K. Thompson, January 9, 2016  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Alice K. Thompson

So First, What is Nutritional Yeast?

Nutritional Yeast is a deactivated yeast related to brewer’s yeast, which is used as a fermentation agent in beer making. The yeast is grown on a food source — some brands use molasses — then harvested, heated, dried and crumbled. This process deactivates the yeast, so it cannot be used in baking as a leavening agent, and creates a wonderfully nutty, tasty and versatile ingredient.  

Nutritional yeast still isn’t as well-known as it should be, but I think it’s time to change that: It’s a great ingredient to start incorporating in your everyday cooking and eating, whether you’re actively going vegan or just exploring new foods. These crisp golden flakes have a nutty aroma and famously cheesy flavor, making it a go-to vegan substitute for Parmesan cheese. But it’s not just a one trick pony. This type of yeast is a potent source of umami, the savory element that hits our palates with deep, satisfying flavor, and I use it often to heighten the appeal of foods and dishes that could use a little excitement.

Cheezy Kale Chips

Cheezy Kale Chips Recipe

What’s “Nutritional” About It?

Nutritional yeast flakes are packed with a number of vitamins and minerals, many of which are of particular interest to vegetarians and vegans. It’s also got significant amounts of protein and fiber. And, in case you’re wondering, it’s gluten-free, although as always you should check individual labels to make sure that they’re certified as such.

Cashew Nut Cheese

Cashew Nut Cheese Recipe

How Do You Use Nutritional Yeast?

Using nutritional yeast is easy. You can start by keeping it on the counter to sprinkle over soups, salads, pasta, pizza, popcorn or just about anything you might boost up with a condiment like parmesan or seasoned salt. If you’re ready for more, here are a some fun, satisfying recipes that highlight its great flavor and unique cooking qualities.

  • Nutritional yeast helps makes these Cheezy Kale Chips crisp and wonderfully savory while being completely without cheese.
  • Mixed with nuts and blended until super-smooth, the yeast gives Cashew Nut Cheese deep flavor and brings some non-dairy creaminess to the spread.
  • Cashews and nutritional yeast also star in this Creamy Cashew Macaroni, full of comfort-food flavor while maintaining a wonderfully vegan nutritional profile.
  • Adding yeast to the mix for these Southwest Veggie Burgers gives them hearty meat-free flavor while also acting as a binder to hold the patties together for easy cooking.
  • Yeast stands in for parmesan cheese in this popular Vegan Pesto, packed with flavor and great with pasta or as a topping for everything from toast to eggs to grilled vegetables.
  • Sprinkled on top of casseroles like this Baked Penne in Spicy Rose Sauce, the yeast crisps and browns like bread crumbs for nutty flavor and an irresistible crunchy topping.
  • Mix yeast into gravies like this heavenly Vegan Mushroom Gravy for rich, meaty results that’ll tantalize vegans and omnivores alike.

Got your own nutritional yeast favorite? Tell us about it!

Updated January 27, 2016




Kathleen Franco Simmons says ...
Is nutri-yeast gluten-free?
07/17/2014 10:10:33 AM CDT
Bon says ...
Is there a nutritional difference between active and inactive yeast? Thanks!
07/17/2014 11:52:38 AM CDT
Aumi says ...
I've been sprinkling it over my fresh popped popcorn since I was little :) It also makes a yummy crust for garlic bread! (Crushed garlic, salt, earth's balance spread, them sprinkle with nutritional yeast before a quick broil)
07/17/2014 8:19:34 PM CDT
Cathy Little says ...
Thank you for this information. I have tried nutritional yeast on popcorn to give it a cheesy flavor and it's wonderful. I will definately be trying some of these other ways.
07/18/2014 6:10:57 AM CDT
Joe Pudwill says ...
I love to add nutritional yeast to a rice a bake! Boil up 2 cups of rice, mix about 6 tbs of nutritional yeast with soy milk, mix all that together, salt and pepper to taste, throw it in a pan, cover it with broccoli and spinach than bake for about 30 mins at 400 degrees, YUMMY!
07/18/2014 2:58:22 PM CDT
Pati Clark says ...
Is it gluten free?
07/18/2014 9:36:01 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@KATHLEEN & @PATI - Nutritional yeast is naturally gluten free but I would suggest checking on the package to make sure that wheat products aren't manufactured in the same facility.
07/21/2014 3:18:53 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@BON - I found a great article that describes the differences. http://www.livestrong.com/article/537679-nutritional-yeast-vs-active-dry/
07/21/2014 4:42:32 PM CDT
Margie says ...
I bought some but have yet to use it since I wasn't sure how to. But this was very helpful and spot on. Thanks so much! :)
07/24/2014 12:47:54 PM CDT
Sherry Soleski says ...
Nutritional yeast is also grown on sugar beets, which are in the top 10 genetically modified foods. Make sure the nutritional yeast you buy is not GMO!
07/24/2014 1:12:08 PM CDT
Perri says ...
I actually sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of notch on my huge lunch salads every day. Once it mixes in with the dressing, it creates a great creamy cheesy taste!
07/24/2014 1:23:16 PM CDT
Christy says ...
I love to put it on my Kale chips. I put in on before baking.
07/24/2014 2:55:34 PM CDT
Lily says ...
Something's not said on here is that nutritional yeast needs to be bright yellow to get the full benefit, it needs to stored in the dark & heat distroys the b vitamins, I try to not cook the bright stuff, but if I have a dull yellow batch I use that for cooking, it still retains it's protien when cooked
07/24/2014 5:55:53 PM CDT
gailalison10 says ...
Where would I find this in store?
07/24/2014 6:00:23 PM CDT
Beth says ...
I sprinkle this over my eggs and I use it on popcorn.
07/24/2014 9:41:20 PM CDT
Helen S. Manning says ...
My favorite is commonly found in my local Whole Foods Salad Bar, called "Garlicky Kale". The other ingredients are also Tahini, garlic, liquid amino acids, nutritional yeast, lemon juice...not sure what else, as I cannot locate the actual recipe. Also, several of my friends from the UIK slather a film of nutritional yeast on muffins or toast every day for breakfast. The brand name is "Marmite", and this is carried by my local Whole Foods as well :)
07/25/2014 10:51:52 AM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@GAIL ALISON - Typically you can find this in the Bulk department at your local store or on the baking aisle!
07/25/2014 2:25:44 PM CDT
dyoga97 says ...
I've made a cheese whiz using Nutritional Yeast. Off the top of my head you blend pimentos & yeast together.
07/26/2014 8:41:13 PM CDT
Donna says ...
How long does nutritional yeast last? Is it best stored in the freezer?
08/30/2014 12:02:36 PM CDT
jack says ...
Nutritional yeast is brand new to me. I googled recipes for cashew tortillas and it is an ingredient used in them. Will pick some up next visit to Whole Foods and try it.
08/30/2014 8:59:18 PM CDT
Donna DeLucia says ...
Is the nutritional yeast in your bulk foods section grown on GMO beets?
09/07/2014 2:17:33 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@DONNA - The food source that it is grown on will differ. Check with the local store to find out the vendor so they can check for you.
09/09/2014 11:39:20 AM CDT
Eva says ...
Does the Wholefoods at Picadilly Circus stock Nutritional Yeast? If so what brand? Thanks!
09/26/2014 6:36:13 AM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@EVA - Our exact products differ between stores. The Piccadilly location should have a nutritional yeast option but the vendors will vary. Check with the Piccadilly location directly at +44 (0)207 406 3100 to find out!
09/26/2014 2:34:52 PM CDT
Jackie says ...
Can you tell me if the nutritional yeast sold in Whole Foods bulk sections is fortified with B12 the way that the name brand yeasts are?
10/03/2014 2:27:02 PM CDT