Nutritional yeast, also known as “nooch” in the seasoned vegan community, is one of the most important and versatile ingredients I keep on hand. Before becoming vegan, I had never even heard of it. I quickly learned, since many recipes in my cookbooks called for it. But what really is this magical yeast?
Its name can be a bit of a turn off because, well, who wants to eat yeast? How can yeast be cheesy? Why does it look like fish food? Believe me, I thought all these things when first trying it. Nutritional yeast is Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast in an inactive form. Because it is inactive, it will not froth up or cause your homemade bread to rise, so please do not use it interchangeably!
Why is this good for vegans?
Most commercial nutritional yeast has been fortified with b12, which is an important and necessary vitamin for everyone, but it can be more difficult for vegans to obtain. Using nooch in recipes can help provide the adequate amount of b12. Besides b12, it is jam packed with lots of other greatness like selenium, zinc, folic acid, and protein. Not all brands contain b12, so make sure the brand you choose contains it, if that is something you are interested in!
Another plus for the vegan community is the unique flavor of nutritional yeast. It has been described most often as cheesy and nutty, and I would have to agree with both. At first I did not think that these little flakes could possibly be used as a substitute for cheese, but I was quickly proven wrong. One of my favorite ways to use nooch is in a vegan cheddar cheese sauce to pour over nachos. If you are just getting interested in the product there are a few other novice ways to use it. I really recommend popping some hot air popcorn, melting a little vegan butter to pour over, and then sprinkling some nutritional yeast and a little bit of garlic salt; it is one of my favorite snacks! Another quick and easy way to use it is to sprinkle a little on top of pasta. (This seems to be the best way to get my toddler some extra vitamins before she loses focus and throws her food on the floor.)
The taste of nutritional yeast on its own is not bad. It isn’t something that you will be trying to mask the flavor of. It can really spruce up a lot of dishes and add an element you didn’t know you were missing! I’m thinking the full nacho recipe will be the first recipe I post next week, so be sure to pick up your nutritional yeast! You will be calling it “nooch” in no time!