What is nutritional yeast?
When I was growing up I spent many-a-night watching movies with a big bowl of buttery popcorn topped with this yellow, flaky product called nutritional yeast (ps. I grew up in Eugene, OR in a very health food-minded household). My mom also sprinkled it on our cat’s food, who was crazy about it. Now I use it as a condiment, added to anything and everything that happens to be on my plate; I’ve even started using it to make casseroles, sauces, and dressings. But besides being versatile and yummy (and a cat supplement), what exactly IS IT?
Developed as a non-active yeast (i.e. it doesn’t cause bread to rise) and created specifically as a nutritional supplement, nutritional yeast is rich in protein and B vitamins. This is not to be confused with brewers yeast, which is a bi-product of breweries and distilleries and doesn’t have the same nutritional value.
Nutritional yeast is grown in mineral-enriched cane and beet molasses and then pasteurized to kill the active yeast. At that time, all the necessary vitamins, namely B-vitamins and calcium, are added to the mixture before it is dried and packaged.
Nutritional benefits: rich in amino acids and B-vitamins
Here’s a quickie lesson on nutrition:
1) Amino acids: not produced by the body so we must get them from our food. We need these amino acids to form protein, which the body uses for growth and maintenance. Nutritional yeast has two grams of protein per tablespoon, even more than meat.
2) B-vitamins: vital for our physical and mental health; they collectively help with stress reduction, fatigue, high cholesterol, brain health, and heart health.
Isn’t B-12 only found in meat and animal products?
Well, you would be right (which is why I was confused too), because it turns out nutritional yeast is fortified with B-12. We do indeed get this essential vitamin, which gives us healthy blood vessels, brains, hearts, and DNA!
Because it is a complete protein (it has 18 essential amino acids) and is rich in B-vitamins, vegetarians and vegans have feasted on this product since 1975 when it was created.
More information found at the Nutritional Yeast Guide
- Pumpkin and White Bean Soup from The Food Network.
- Often used as a vegan cheese substitute: and there is a good reason why. Nutritional yeast has lots of glutamates, which is what gives cheesy and rich foods their savoriness.
- Macaroni and “cheese” casserole
- The miso gravy in this Coconut Curry recipe is bomb
- You can add it to popcorn, dust some on a bowl of steamed veggies and your favorite grain, or add them to scrambled eggs…
Bon Appétit and now you know why!