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Pantry Staple: Nutritional Yeast

02 June

bulk nutritional yeast

Is it edible?  Is it from outer-space?  Is it a science experiment?  Is it an ALIEN science experiment?!

This jar of crumbly yellow flakes that don’t look particularly appetizing might be the strangest ingredient on our shelves, and the one we get the most questions about.  But looks aside, nutritional yeast is one of our favorite pantry staples.

Before we sing its praises, let’s get one thing clear:

Nutritional yeast is a DEACTIVATED yeast, meaning it’s NOT alive, so it won’t grow or contribute to the growth of yeast in your body.  Nutritional yeast is NOT the same as bakers’ or brewers’ yeasts, or yeast extract {ie: Marmite or Vegemite}.

Nutritional yeast is a strain of yeast, most commonly Saccharomyces cerevisiae, that is grown in a sugary base {usually derived from beets or molasses}, harvested, deactivated, washed and dried.  Hence it’s powdery, flaky nature.

 WHAT DOES NUTRITIONAL YEAST DO?

One answer to that question is in the name.  Here’s a list of nutrients in nutritional yeast:

protein {yes, it’s a complete protein}

selenium

potassium

iron

zinc

all of the B vitamins {except B12, though some brands are fortified with it}

But nutritional yeast is also fun to cook with, and here’s why:

Nutritional yeast contains glutamic acid, which is a naturally occurring amino acid in yeast cells {as well as other vegetables, fungi and meats}.  Glutamic acid helps activate our best tastebuds:  umami.

Loosely translated, “umami” means “delicious”, and it’s what makes certain foods magical in their YUM factor {think about what Parmesan cheese, cooked mushrooms, coconut aminoes, fish sauce & bone broth add to dishes}.

Nutritional yeast also dissolves easily.

These two awesome qualities combine to make nutritional yeast a perfect taste-booster to sprinkle on or in just about anything: mashed vegetables, soups, sauces, popcorn, hummus, scrambled eggs, salad dressings, quiche, and so on.

It’s best in savory foods due to its nutty, umami, almost-salty flavor, though some folks throw a tablespoon or two into their smoothies for added nourishment.

We’ve heard lots of people say that nutritional yeast tastes “cheesey”, but that’s not really true unless you haven’t eaten cheese in a long time and don’t fully remember the taste of it {we mention this because expecting a full substitute of something as wonderful as cheese only sets you up for serious disappointment}.

HOWEVER, if you don’t eat dairy, nutritional yeast can be an amazing addition to your pantry because of its umami flavor, which is also a common flavor in hard cheeses; this is why most vegan “cheeze” recipes use it.  When salt is added to nutritional yeast it really hits that “deliciousness” note, plus it comes together as a nice sauce if you’re making dairy-free nachos or mac-‘n-cheese.

SPEAKING OF, LET’S GET TO THE RECIPES ALREADY!

If you’re new to nutritional yeast we’ve posted three easy ways to get extra nourishment and deliciousness into your mouth.  Try them and report back below {please}!

And if nutritional yeast is already a staple in your kitchen, what’s your favorite way to use it?  OR, what do you call it?  We’ve heard nut yeast, hippie dust and nooch {because the name “nutritional yeast” isn’t un-appetizing enough, right?}  Any other nicknames out there?

UMAMI!

Liz

Creamy Saucegluten free, dairy free mac & cheese

Ingredients

½ cup nutritional yeast

1 cup milk of your choice (or water, in a pinch)

2 Tb chickpea flour (or any flour you have handy)

1 tsp sea salt, or more or less, to taste

1 tsp dijon mustard, optional

1 Tb fat of your choice (pasture butter, ghee, olive oil, coconut oil, etc)

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, with the burner off, mix together the nutritional yeast, flour and sea salt.
  2. Whisk in milk, and turn burner on medium heat.  Stir regularly; as the mixture heats up, it will thicken.
  3. When your sauce is heated through and thick, stir in oil or butter and Dijon mustard, if using.  Adjust seasonings to taste.
  4. This sauce can be used to top veggies, nachos, pasta, or anything that could use a little extra creaminess + nourishment!

Fried Zucchini Rounds

Ingredients

1 lb zucchini (or yellow squash), cut into rounds

¼ cup nutritional yeast (flakes or powder)

½ tsp sea salt

½ tsp dried oregano

½ tsp dried basil

2 Tb coconut oil

Directions

  1. Mix nutritional yeast, sea salt, oregano and basil together in a shallow dish or plate.
  2. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Press both sides of each zucchini round into the nutritional yeast mixture, the natural dampness should allow it to stick, if not, wet each round with water or your choice of milk first.
  4. Place breaded zucchini pieces in skillet, and cook for 5 minutes, or until golden brown, then flip to cook the other side.
  5. Remove to a plate, and cook any zucchini pieces that didn’t fit the first time, repeating until all zucchinis are cooked.
  6. These are great dipped in homemade mayo, or topped with mashed avocado.

Popcorn!

Ingredients

½ cup popcorn kernels

2 Tb coconut oil or pasture butter

1 tsp sea salt, or more or less to taste

1-2 Tb nutritional yeast

Directions

1. Put coconut oil or butter and popcorn in a heavy-bottomed, medium pan, put on the lid, and turn the burner on medium-high.

2. When the oil is melted, give the pan a shake to coat the kernels in oil.

3. Shake the pan occasionally as the kernels pop, and vent the lid every few minutes, so your ‘corn doesn’t get soggy.

4. When the popping slows to only a few “pop”s, remove pan from the heat, and remove lid.

5. Sprinkle sea salt and nutritional yeast over the popcorn, and enjoy!

 

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Liz Flint-Somerville, Nutritional Consultant

Liz was a partner in Grub for 3 amazing years and helped author many of our most beloved recipes and posts. She is now dedicating her time to caring for her family, writing poetry, and continuing to cook delicious Real Foods.

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4 Responses to “Pantry Staple: Nutritional Yeast”

  1. Aunt Mooshka June 4, 2014 at 6:33 pm #

    Thanks, Liz! I’ve been curious about the nutritional yeast sold at our co-op but never knew anyone who actually used it. I love the idea of making a sauce out of it. 🙂

    • Liz Flint-Somerville June 5, 2014 at 11:31 am #

      You’re welcome!

      I started out making the sauce, but find that I sprinkle it into just about everything now (well, except for my smoothies).

      Now you just have to decide what to call it at home (“nutritional yeast” is kind of long to write on your bulk jars)!

  2. Jeanette June 14, 2014 at 11:18 am #

    Looking for a way to purchase your jello making red can of gelatin The only thing I can find to purchase is your page of kefir items. Please direct me to the page that has the purchasing information for the red can gelatin.
    Thanks Jeanette.

    • Ryanna June 16, 2014 at 5:08 pm #

      Hi Jeanette!

      We don’t sell the gelatin, we purchase ours directly from the manufacturer, Great Lakes Gelatin. Their website is here: http://www.greatlakesgelatin.com/

      Thank you for posting this comment, we will make this information more clear in our gelatin post!

      Best,
      Ryanna

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