The name of this product may not be the most appetizing, but we promise that the taste certainly is: This type of yeast that’s normally sold in the form of flakes has, in the past decade, quickly become one of the go-to substitutes for cheese or a cheesy flavour in vegan, vegetarian, and dairy-free diets. Nutritional Yeast’s uniquely flavour is often described as being “umami”, the last flavour profile of the five basic tastes beyond the traditionally known ones of bitter, salty, sour, and sweet. This deactivated yeast product is usually yellow in colour (which makes it look even more cheese-like when used as a cheese substitute), although it has been sold under different names in certain countries, such as “savoury yeast flakes” or “Brufax”. While its nutritional benefits vary from brand to brand, it’s almost always an excellent source of B vitamins (save for B12). It also contains protein, and plenty of health-boosting amino acids.
How do you use it?
Nutritional yeast is easiest to use when it’s thought of as an alternative to Parmesan cheese flakes, although it can be used in a wide variety of ways. Sprinkle it into mashed potatoes, add it into tofu dishes, or stir it into stews for an added oomph in flavour – but it’s probably best used as a cheese substitute, such as in sauces, or in egg-based dishes. It’s also delicious when cooked into grits or polenta, blended into dumpling stuffing, mixed with almonds and other nuts in a food processor to give it a more Parmesan-like crumbly quality, or sprinkled over pasta (mac n’ cheese made with nutritional yeast is a must-try for healthy food lovers!) – and it can also make a great popcorn topping.
There are reportedly more than 500 varieties of yeast that exist in the world today, and nutritional yeast is quickly becoming more and more well-known thanks to the increasing popularity of vegan and vegetarian lifestyles. Also known as “nooch”, this gluten-free option is also popular for paleo diet followers, and can be grown from the same type of fungi such as medicinal mushrooms.