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Nutritional Yeast: The One Pantry Staple Your Cooking is Missing

Kathy Hester

Kathy Hester, creator of the blog Healthy Slow Cooking, is passionate about making healthy eating easy and delicious. Her vegan recipes are proven crowd pleasers. They are full of flavor, and the meat eaters in your family will love them, too. Her recipes have been featured in The Washington Post, The Oregonian and  Yoga Journal, just to name a few. She the author of a number of books, including the bestselling cookbook The Vegan Slow Cooker, and her latest, The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook for Your Instant Pot.

I remember when I first saw nutritional yeast as an ingredient in a recipe. I found the name more than a little off-putting, and I couldn’t imagine what this would add to my dish except for vitamins — maybe. But if you haven’t tasted it before — spoiler alert – it’s actually delicious!

Nutritional yeast — sometimes called Nooch— is now one of the most used ingredients in my (vegan) kitchen. I think of it as a magical ingredient because it’s as at home subbing in for chicken broth as it is cheese. In fact I always keep a jar of it right on my kitchen counter so that I can add a little whenever I need a savory flavor boost. But it’s not just for vegans or vegetarians — nutritional yeast works in any soup or stew, and is wonderful on popcorn too!

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, and creates a wonderfully nutty, tasty and versatile ingredient.

To preserve all the B vitamins, store in a dark glass or a ceramic container to keep it protected from the light. Since it’s a dry product, you want to lid tightly sealed to keep moisture out — as long as nutritional yeast stays dry, it can last for up to two years.

nutritional yeast in bowl

Photo: Kathy Hester

It’s Called Nutritional Because…

Just one tablespoon of nutritional yeast can contain*:

  • 180% Daily Value B1 (Thiamine)
  • 160% Daily Value B2 (Riboflavin)
  • 70% Daily Value B3 (Niacin)
  • 140% Daily Value B6 (Pyridoxine)
  • 40% Daily Value Folic Acid
  • 40% Daily Value B12
  • 3 grams protein
  • 1 gram fiber

*All values based on Bragg Nutritional Yeast Seasoning, available at Whole Foods Market and may change from brand to brand. Yeast itself does not produce B12, so if it’s listed on the label, it has been fortified with it.

B vitamins help support the immune and nervous systems and help us convert food into the store of energy that we depend on each day. Since there is no vegan food source of B12, nutritional yeast is one of the easiest ways to add it into a vegan diet.

Come on, Does It Really Taste Good?

Nutritional yeast tastes as delicious as it is nutritious. I’ve even got my meat-eating friends hooked on putting nutritional yeast on their popcorn and sneaking it into soups. It shows up in many vegan recipes to add an umami flavor. For the uninitiated — umami is one of the 5 flavors that we taste. Umami means “a pleasant, savory taste” and is often compared to a brothy or meaty flavor.

How is Nutritional Yeast Different from…?

Brewer’s Yeast is the byproduct of making beer and tastes very bitter. Make sure to check labels carefully so you don’t bring this home instead of the nutritional yeast.

Active Dry Yeast is for baking bread and is still alive. Never use this in place of nutritional yeast or you will have an unpleasant frothy mess.

Vegetable Bouillon Cubes often contain nutritional yeast or a yeast extract to make them taste delicious. This is especially true of vegetarian “chicken” bouillons.

Nutritional yeast on spoon

Photo: Kathy Hester

Where Can You Buy Nutritional Yeast?

You can find Nutritional Yeast in the bulk bin section. The beauty of buying it that way is that you can buy just 1/4 cup to try it out or more than a pound if you love it as much as I do. You can also find packaged nutritional yeast, like Bragg Nutritional Yeast Seasoning, in the spice aisle.

Special Diet Concerns for Nutritional Yeast

Most nutritional yeast is vegetarian, gluten-free and paleo-friendly. Some nutritional yeast can be grown on whey, so be sure to look for a dairy-free or vegan label on the package if you have an allergy.

How to Use Nutritional Yeast

Start with small amounts of nutritional yeast when modifying your favorite recipes. Stir a few tablespoons into a pot of soup, taste, and add more until it’s just right for you. You can also sprinkle over your popcorn or favorite pasta — just like you would Parmesan cheese.

Creamy Cashew Macaroni Recipe

I’m In - Give Me Recipes!

Discover even more expert tips and tricks, recipe ideas and video how-tos: Eat Real Food®

49 comments

Comments

Kathleen Franco Simmons says …

Is nutri-yeast gluten-free?

Bon says …

Is there a nutritional difference between active and inactive yeast? Thanks!

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)

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.

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!

Pati Clark says …

Is it gluten free?

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.

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/

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! :)

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!

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!

Christy says …

I love to put it on my Kale chips. I put in on before baking.

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

gailalison10 says …

Where would I find this in store?

Beth says …

I sprinkle this over my eggs and I use it on popcorn.

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 :)

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@GAIL ALISON - Typically you can find this in the Bulk department at your local store or on the baking aisle!

dyoga97 says …

I've made a cheese whiz using Nutritional Yeast. Off the top of my head you blend pimentos & yeast together.

Donna says …

How long does nutritional yeast last? Is it best stored in the freezer?

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.

Donna DeLucia says …

Is the nutritional yeast in your bulk foods section grown on GMO beets?

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.

Eva says …

Does the Wholefoods at Picadilly Circus stock Nutritional Yeast? If so what brand? Thanks!

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!

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?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JACKIE - The vendors in our bulk department will differ between stores. Check with your local store to find out the vendor, and they can check on the B12.

Cynthia says …

Who is the supplier, and what is the nutritional content in Whole Food's bulk Nutritional Yeast (B12, Folic Acid, etc.)?

Judy says …

Does Whole Foods bulk nutritional yeast have added folic acid in it?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@CYNTHIA - Our exact suppliers will differ between stores. Check with your local store directly to see who is their supplier.

Stephanie says …

I just bought the packaged whole foods brand nutritional yeast and now notice its labels "vegetarian" not vegan. Is it just because of it being produced on the same facility as non-vegan products, or am I missing something?

Gigi says …

Does your Nutritional Yeast contain folic acid?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JUDY & @GIGI - Our vendors will differ for bulk nutritional yeast so check with your local store to see if folic acid is added.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@STEPHANIE - While nutritional yeast will be vegan, you are correct in that it might be manufactured in a facility that also processes dairy products. Since the vendor will differ, check with your local store directly so they can inquire directly with their particular vendor.

Dorothy Slattery says …

What is the name of the yeast sold in bulk as nutritional yeast? Is it saccharomyces boulardii?

Jan Oki says …

Is there any information on lead levels in Whole Foods brand nutritional yeast?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@DOROTHY - The exact options will differ between stores. Check with your local store directly to find out what they have available in bulk.

Camille Demarais says …

Hello, Does this product contain lead? If so, how much per daily serving? Thanks.

Laszlo Horvath says …

Is it a fortified or unfortified nutritional yeast and what vitamins does it provide?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@LASZLO - It will differ between stores. Check with your local store so they can check with their vendor to answer these questions for you!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@CAMILLE - Our vendors will differ between stores so check with your local store to find out what vendors they sell and I would suggest reaching out to them directly.

carolyn says …

I bought your Nutritional Yeast. Someone told me I should not buy with Folate Is your Folate natural or synthetic. Dr. Fhrman says not to have N.Y.with Folate.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@CAROLYN - Our exact vendors will differ between stores. Check with your local store directly to see if the nutritional yeast they sell has folate.

Ben says …

I asked two assistants in the Fulham store for nutritional yeast and neither of them could find it.do you stock it in Fulham? Regards Ben McDui

Barbara says …

Is the bulk nutritional yeast at WF fortified with B12?

Leticia says …

What aisle can I find it in ? Need it for a recipe and I'll b rushing to get it after work .

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@LETICIA - Most stores will offer this in the bulk department. Check with your local store to find out exactly where they offer this.

Ellie says …

What is the brand name of brewers yeast the sample girl in portland maine placed on popcorn in the store last week? It was in a white plastic container. Thanks Ellie

Lisa Smithson says …

I am looking for a whole foods store in my area that sells Nutritional Yeast. I use it on my popcorn and have found that it helps when I'm feeling down or depressed. It amazes me that this has not been looked at for mental health applications.

laurie says …

Is the nutritional yeast you sell in the bulk containers by the pound gluten-free? Need to know within 48 hours. Thanks.