Nutritional yeast has been around for decades, and this non-dairy solution to the savory, nutty flavor of cheese is making a resurgence as more consumers drop dairy due to allergies or as part of a vegan lifestyle.
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It’s a plant-friendly product that is derived from the same microorganisms as brewer’s and baker’s yeast. Popular brands available in health food markets, online and even in many mainstream grocery stores include Bob’s Red Mill, Bragg, Red Star and NOW Foods nutritional yeast.
I’ve recently added nutritional yeast to my pantry as I continue to learn new ways to prepare foods while I make an effort to minimize, and in some cases, eliminate dairy.
Nutritional Yeast Nuggets
1. Rooted in fungi. Nutritional yeast is grown from fungi. It’s not yeast at all, but rather sourced from mushrooms, which are well documented for their anti-inflammatory properties.
2. Not to be confused. Nutritional yeast is inactive yeast and will leave your baked goods flatter than pancakes. It’s made from sugar cane and beet molasses. It’s not the same as the active dry yeast used in baking.
3. Protein packed. Nutritional yeast is packed with muscle-building protein (9 grams per 2 tablespoon serving) and amino acids, is fat free, gluten free and loaded with essential nutrients, including vitamin B (6 and 12), niacin, selenium, zinc, potassium and thiamine.
4. Superfood standout. As far as superfoods go, nutritional yeast is right up there on the list. Its immune-boosting properties include glutathione and beta glucans that science has shown can support immune system health.
5. Immune system support. The beta-glucan fiber in yeast may prevent immune system decline that leads to upper respiratory infections in athletes, according to research published in 2009 in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine.
6. AKA. Nicknames for nutritional yeast include the very cool terms hippie dust, nooch and yeshi. Next time the kids are over for dinner, ask if they would like a little hippie dust sprinkled on their food and see what kind of looks you get.
7. Cheese pleaser. Jonesing for a cheesy flavor and can’t do dairy? Nutritional yeast may be the solution. Sprinkle on popcorn, vegetables, pasta and pizza for a flavor kick similar to parmesan. My favorite lately has been to sprinkle it nutritional yeast on kale chips fresh from the oven. That crunchy, cheesy flavor hits the spot when a savory, salty urge strikes.
8. Microorganism moniker. Nutritional yeast is derived from the microorganism Saccharomyces cerevisiae (as are brewer’s and active dry varieties). It’s then pasteurized and deactivated through a heat process. Saccharomyces cerevisiae is the most common type of yeast used in food and nutraceutical manufacturing.
9. Flask facts. Yeast “seedlings” are grown in flasks and sterile fermentation tanks.
10. Quality control. Not all products are the same. Check the packaging or with the manufacturer to ensure the product you are buying is GMO-free and has no added MSG.
I have totally fallen head-over-heals for this savory addition to my pantry, sprinkling it generously on eggs, over salads and tossing in with sauteed veggies. Give it a try. You may also find nutritional yeast becomes a staple in your pantry.