Nutritional yeast…nooch…hippie dust. They’re all names for the magical flakes that vegan and vegetarian chefs sprinkle onto their popcorn and sprinkle into dishes like this Extra Creamy Vegan Mac n’ Cheese. But, what is nutritional yeast and why can’t plant-based foodies live without it?

Nutritional yeast has a cheesy, nutty flavor, making it a great dairy-free substitute. It’s deactivated yeast, grown and harvested from molasses and cane sugar. Since it’s “deactivated,” nutritional yeast won’t help make bread rise, but it sure helps make one heck of a Tofu Scramble.

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Here are 5 reasons why nutritional yeast rocks:

 1. Cheesy Flavor

As mentioned above, nutritional yeast tastes pretty amazing. It helps make party appetizers like this cheesy Vegan Hot Corn Dip and this Vegan Pepper Jack Cashew Cheese. It’s also a great way to add creaminess to some air-popped popcorn. All this and more, sans dairy.

2. High in Protein

Nutritional yeast is loaded with protein, and a complete protein at that. Numbers vary, but 2 tablespoons of the magical hippie dust can provide 8 to 9 grams of protein. Sprinkle it on top of your pasta dishes in place of grated parmesan cheese. It’ll boost your protein intake, while giving you other benefits like Vitamin B-12.

3. High in Vitamin B-12

Natural sources of Vitamin B-12 usually come from animal products and byproducts. In addition to fortified breakfast cereals, some nutritional yeast products are fortified with Vitamin B-12. This makes nooch a big source of B-12 in the plant-based community.

Vitamin B-12 is essential for the human body because it helps create red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout our bodies. Without it, a person can become anemic. Thus, nutritional yeast gives vegans and vegetarians alike another source of this crucial vitamin. Best of all, you only need about 1 tablespoon to get your day’s worth of B-12.

4. Gluten-Free

In addition to being a vegan product, nutritional yeast is gluten-free. For those who have gluten sensitivities, this makes a great addition to many recipes. Check out some Rock Star Gluten-Free recipes and add a little nooch into your life, starting with this Gluten-Free Zucchini Pesto Pasta that’s begging for a little hippie dust.

5. Versatile

Now that we know what most people use nutritional yeast in, how about some little known ways of using this magical treat? Nooch can be used for more than vegan mac n’ cheese, it is used to thicken up sauces, like in this easy to make Mushroom Gravy. Nutritional yeast is so beneficial that some include it in homemade baby formulas, so that babies are ensured enough folic acid, B-12, and iron.

If it’s good enough to feed a baby, it’s sure good enough for many. Take a trip to your local health food store and take one of these bad boys home with you. Don’t be afraid to experiment and sprinkle a little bit of this magical hippie dust into all your recipes.

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 Image source: Vegan Hot Corn Dip

 

 

 

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