By Carrie Havranek
If you’re new to an ingredient, it can be daunting to figure out what to do with it — especially one as ubiquitously buzzy as nutritional yeast. But don’t give into your fear of the unknown! Here’s everything you need to know nutritional yeast, plus five easy, tasty recipes that will make you wonder why you waited so long to try it.
What Is Nutritional Yeast?
Dubbed “nooch” by its devotees, nutritional yeast is a species of yeast known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It happens to be the same yeast used to bake bread and brew beer — but don’t worry: During processing, the yeast cells are deactivated, so the final product is gluten-free.
Popularized by vegans for its cheesy, nutty taste, without the dairy-induced stomachaches, nutritional yeast comes in a powdered or flaked form from brands such as Bragg and Bob’s Red Mill, among others. In addition to its umami qualities, nutritional yeast is also packed with fiber, B vitamins, and trace minerals such as zinc, selenium, manganese and molybdenum, which help regulate gut health and immunity. And it’s a complete protein: All nine essential amino acids are present, and one tablespoon offers 2 grams of protein.
A perennial crowd pleaser, popcorn is also a blank slate. That’s where nutritional yeast comes in. Simply pop your corn, toss it in a container with salt and nooch, put the lid on and shake, shake, shake. Netflix and chill never tasted so good.
Combine nooch with good spices, garlic, almond milk, and cashews, and you’ve got probably the tastiest nondairy cheese experience you could ask for. Dip your tortilla chips in it, spread it over enchiladas, drizzle it over steamed veggies — use it anywhere you’d love melted cheese.
You knew this was coming, right? Where there’s melted cheese possibilities, there’s mac and cheese. It’s all about the sauce, which simmers together grated potatoes, cashews, garlic and onion powder, and then blitzes them to creamy perfection in a blender with, of course, nutritional yeast.
This takes your standard issue kale chips and bumps them up in the flavor and the nutrition department. Super-snackable, they’re also super-easy: just massage that kale with olive oil, and blitz the seasonings in a food processor. Toss it all together, put it in the oven, and a half hour later you’ve got a tasty, cheesy, crispy snack.
Broccoli and cheese are made for each other, but this cheese-less version is dead easy and insanely good. Toss florets with avocado oil, nooch, almond flour, sea salt, and paprika, then roast. You’ll also want to try this with potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, or mushrooms—or a combination thereof.