If you are new to the vegan scene you might have branched out and bought yourself a cookbook or you’ve started looking at recipes online. If so, you may have come across an ingredient called ‘Nutritional Yeast’. Sound appetising? Probably not!! It’s also sometimes referred to as ‘nooch’. Trying to decipher or conjure up an image of what this mystery ingredient looks like will probably be futile.
What is it? It’s a natural food-an inactive yeast grown on molasses in controlled conditions. It’s harvested, washed and then dried to ‘de-activate’ it. Unlike the yeast you use for baking, it does not froth up or grow due to the drying/heating process. Do not substitute a recipe that calls for Nutritional Yeast with bakers yeast! They are entirely different and you will have a culinary disaster on your hands…or at least a messy one!
What does it look like? To be honest as per my picture, it looks like fish food. Yep, light, flaky fish food. The first time you open it up you’ll be thinking ‘what on earth?!’. Just to confirm though, it is 100% plant based and has no place in an aquarium! It also has quite a unique smell. Not unpleasant at all, just unlike anything I can liken it to.
What does it taste like? The yeast flakes have a really nutty, cheesy flavour. When added to your cooking, it takes on a creamy, cheesy flavour and is often used as a replacement for cheese in a recipe. It doesn’t have the texture of melted cheese-just a suggestion of the flavour.
How do I use it? It’s simply a flavour enhancer. If you aren’t following a recipe but are wondering what you can add it to, try adding it to a creamy vegetable soup, some mashed potatoes, a cheese/white sauce, some pasta. You just stir it in. It can also be used as a seasoning in it’s dry form. I’ve put it in a mortar and pestle and ground it to sprinkle on popcorn or blitzed it in the food processor with almonds to create vegan parmesan.
Where do I buy it? You will find it in all health food shops. It’s inexpensive and one tub should last you a decent amount of time. A 125g tub has a recommendation of 25 servings. You can also buy it from Amazon and other places online. Depending on where you are in the world, note that the product name varies. It’s also known as ‘Savoury Yeast Flakes’ and ‘Brufax’ (if you are searching online). If you live in Australia, you can find it in the health food aisle in the larger Coles or Woolworths supermarkets.
Why use it? Nutritional Yeast is rich in B vitamins, Folic Acid, Zinc and B12. It’s high in fibre and protein and most brands are gluten free (although do check the back. The Engevita brand in the UK has a separate gluten free version). It’s low in fat and sugar free. Do note that if you are trying to get a good source of B12 in your diet, this shouldn’t be your only measure. B12 is added to this product and is not part of the natural make up. Do check the brand you purchase to make sure it contains B12 as it’s an essential supplement on a vegan diet.