Nutritional yeast is the first in our new Superfood of the Month series! Look for great information, tips and recipes for a new superfood during the second week of each month.
Overview and Health Benefits:
There are three varieties of edible yeast – baker’s yeast, brewer’s yeast, and nutritional yeast. Baker’s yeast and brewer’s yeast are relatively well-known, due to their roles in helping baked goods rise and for brewing beer. Unlike the other two types, nutritional yeast is an inactive yeast, and is consumed for its nutritional value and flavor.
Most brands of nutritional yeast sold in health food stores are considered primary-grown. Primary-grown nutritional yeast is cultivated specifically for its nutritional components, rather than being the by-product of another process. This type of yeast is typically grown on a mixture of cane and beet sugar, then fermented, harvested, washed, pasteurized, and dried at high temperatures.
Due to this production method (i.e. because it is inactive), nutritional yeast is typically Candida-free, and is often safe for consumption by individuals who have sensitivities to other types of yeast. However, as always, if you have a food allergy, intolerance, or specific medical condition, be sure to do your homework about different brands and food sources!
Nutritional yeast is an excellent source of fiber, complete protein, and several B vitamins, and some brands are fortified with additional vitamin B12. While exact nutrition information will vary by brand, a 1/4 cup serving typically contains about 45 calories, less than half a gram of fat, 3 grams of fiber, and 6 grams of protein.
Incorporating Nutritional Yeast in your Diet:
In addition to its health benefits, using nutritional yeast is a great way to add flavor and creaminess to sauces, spreads and toppings. It also adds a salty/cheesy flavor and richness to casseroles and other entrees. Here are a few tips on making this healthy and tasty addition to your diet:
1 – As a Topping: Nutritional yeast makes an awesome vegan substitute for parmesan cheese. Try spinkling it on top of pizza, pasta, casseroles, and other dishes for added flavor and nutrition. It is also amazing tossed with air-popped popcorn (get the easy recipe below)!
Cheezy, Garlicky Air-Popped Popcorn
- 1/2 cup plain popcorn (pops up to about 4 cups when air-popped)
- Olive oil or other vegetable oil for spraying
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2-3 T nutritional yeast
- Combine nutritional yeast, salt and garlic powder in a small bowl.
- Pulsing the mixture briefly in a blender or coffee grinder is optional, but will make a finer powder that sticks to the popcorn a bit better.
- Pop the popcorn according to machine or package directions.
- Spray lightly with olive or other vegetable oil (the Misto works great!)
- Sprinkle with yeast mixture and toss to ensure even coating.
- Repeat spraying and sprinkling until you reach desired level of coating.
- Enjoy immediately or store in an air-tight container for up to a couple of days.
2 – “Cheezy” Sauces: Nutritional yeast is indispensable for making creamy, “cheezy” and flavorful sauces. It makes an excellent addition to pesto, alfredo and other cream sauces, and is the key ingredient for an amazing vegan mac and cheese!
3 – Other Recipe Ideas: The uses for nutritional yeast are practically endless! Cheezy roasted broccoli, kale chips and tofu scramble are a few of my favorite ways to use it. Look for these and other new recipes to be posted on OGP throughout the month of March!
Our contributors are already hip to the impressive health benefits, amazing flavor, and versatility of nutritional yeast! Check out some of these great recipes from our archives:
For more tips on using nutritional yeast, also see one of our most popular Guides - How to Veganize Some Common, Non-Vegan Recipes.
Nutritional yeast can be found in the bulk foods or supplement sections of many natural or health food stores. It is also widely available from online retailers.
Got a great nutritional yeast recipe? Share it with us!