Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Nutritional Yeast: The One Pantry Staple Your Cooking is Missing

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.

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.

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®