Nutritional Yeast: What the Heck Is This?

After visiting a few hands down so good, flat out amazing vegetarian/vegan restaurants while traveling (The Wild Cow, East Nashville, Tennessee // Green Point, Cusco, Peru // Green, San Antonio, Texas) I decided to do some digging into their voodoo flavor secrets. And a common trend I found was the use of nutritional yeast. I understand that neither the word “nutritional” nor “yeast” elicits a strong desire to eat it, but it’s cheesy and creamy without the dairy, nutty without the nuts, and it transforms any vegetarian dish into a healthy, savory masterpiece. Which begs the question, what is nutritional yeast?

What is nutritional yeast? Your next new obsession. It adds a savory, creamy, cheesy component to any dish, it's 100% vegan, and it's really good for you!

What is Nutritional Yeast?

Nutritional yeast is created by growing Saccharomyces cerevisiae on beet molasses (yeast + sugar). It’s then heated to deactivate the yeast, washed, and dried. This deactivation means that people who have a sensitivity to active yeast (like the kind found in bread) can consume nutritional yeast, as it does not contain Candida albicans.

It can be used as an ingredient (like in these Almond Tofu Nuggets) or as a condiment for things like popcorn, scrambled eggs/tofu, or mashed potatoes.

What is nutritional yeast? Your next new obsession. It adds a savory, creamy, cheesy component to any dish, it's 100% vegan, and it's really good for you!

Where to find nutritional yeast

Probably due to the incredibly unappetizing name, nutritional yeast goes by a few other names. In America you may hear it called “nooch” or “nuch”. Australians call it “savory yeast flakes”, the Kiwis call it “brufax”, and in Ethiopia it goes by “yeshi”.

You’re more apt to find this at a specialty health store or a more trendy supermarket. If you’re lucky you’ll find this in the baking section where they have all the variations of flours and oats. You may also find it in the health food section with the vegan supplements. If all else fails, you can get it online (here).

Nutritional yeast can come in an array of packaging, though mine came in what looks like a protein powder tub. But be careful not to confuse this with Brewer’s Yeast, which is often sold nearby, and has a bitter taste. And it is definitely not Active Dry Yeast or Instant Yeast, which are active strains meant for making things rise.

How to Store Nutritional Yeast

Store in an airtight container and place in a cabinet (or dark place). Stays good for about a year.

What is nutritional yeast? Your next new obsession. It adds a savory, creamy, cheesy component to any dish, it's 100% vegan, and it's really good for you!What is nutritional yeast? Your next new obsession. It adds a savory, creamy, cheesy component to any dish, it's 100% vegan, and it's really good for you!

Nutritional Yeast Nutrition Information

May differ by brand, but generally this is the nutrition information per 2 heaping tablespoons (16g). Most brands supplement the nutritional yeast with additional vitamins and minerals, which is why some of these Daily Values seem a bit exorbitant. These are all water-soluble, however, so risk of toxicity is extremely low because your body does not store them.

  • Calories: 45
  • Carbohydrates: 5g
  • Fiber: 4g, 16% Daily Value (DV)
  • Protein: 8g
  • Fat: 1g
  • 640% DV of Thiamin (Vitamin B1): A water-soluble vitamin that turns your food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose). People at risk for deficiency include those with Crohn’s Disease, alcoholics, and those undergoing kidney dialysis.
  • 570% DV of Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): A water-soluble vitamin that acts as a component of FAD to help your body break down macronutrients in the electron transport chain, creating usable energy.
  • 480% DV of Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): A water-soluble vitamin that works behind the scenes as a coenzyme in many important reactions within your body, including protein metabolism and red blood cell formation, among countless other functions.
  • 280% DV of Niacin (Vitamin B3): A water-soluble vitamin that is a precursor to NAD, a coenzyme important for breakdown of macronutrients into fuel. Niacin may also reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • 130% DV of Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin): A water-soluble vitamin important in brain and nervous system function as well as red blood cell formation. It is only found naturally in meat and animal products, but can be made industrially via bacterial fermentation.
  • 60% DV of Folate (Vitamin B9): A water-soluble vitamin that helps make DNA & RNA and metabolize amino acids.
  • 20% DV of Zinc: A mineral important in strengthening your immune system, healing wounds, and maintaining your sense of taste and smell.
  • A Complete Protein: Contains all 9 essential amino acids (the amino acids you need to obtain from food because your body cannot make them).
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Comments (15)

  1. I’d always wondered how this was made, but never really thought to google it. Thanks for the info!!

    1. Sarah says:

      You’re very welcome! Thanks so much for stopping by, KJ!

  2. Thanks for this super informative post! I put nutritional yeast on my popcorn with coconut oil as a healthy cheese alternative. I knew it was good for you, but your post gives me a much more comprehensive understanding as to why! I’m a new blogger focusing on simple ways to eat and live naturally over at http://www.widemeadow.com... come check it out. 🙂

    1. Sarah says:

      Ooh I bet that’s tasty! Thanks for stopping by, Bradleigh! I’ll be sure to check out your blog!

      1. Thanks Sarah. 🙂 I was actually thinking of posting my popcorn recipe it’s such an easy and healthy snack… do you mind if I include a link back to your post?

        1. Hi! I just wrote a post on 12 easy, healthy ways to dress up popcorn, and included a link to this post on nutritional yeast, as it’s my popcorn topping go-to! I’d really appreciate if you link back to it from your post too. Thanks! 🙂 http://www.widemeadow.com/quick-and-easy-popcorn-12-ways/

  3. Lexie says:

    Hi Sarah, I was snooping around your blogs & came across this post. Thanks 4 the info on nutritional yeast. I always wanted to know what it was & how to use it.

    1. Sarah says:

      You should try it out! It’s such a unique and tasty ingredient 🙂

  4. Lexie says:

    Hi Sarah, Thanks I’m going to buy some. what can I put it on, just not sure. Can it be used on almost any type food?

    1. Sarah says:

      You can use it to season popcorn (just sprinkled on top) or as a seasoning when you’re cooking (if you want some added nutty/eggy/richness). I just published a vegan breakfast taco recipe that I looove that uses nutritional yeast 😀

  5. Lexie says:

    Thanks again Sarah, I read your recipe 4 breakfast taco. Can U guess what I’m eating 4 breakfast tomorrow? Taco here I come! Thanks Sarah, I love breakfast the best of all meals & always looking 4 something different & thanks 2U I found a good breakfast to eat. UR the best!

    1. Sarah says:

      Thanks so much, Lexie! Happy I could help! (p.s. they also make a pretty great reason to have breakfast for dinner 😉 )

  6. Nicole says:

    Thanks Sarah, this such a good ingredient when you cook. I love it and no need to be vegan to use it, many recipes are so good with it. My kale chips are so delicious with it. It was interesting to understand where it come from. Nicole

    1. Sarah says:

      It’s such an undervalued ingredient for the everyday kitchen (not just vegan, you’re right!) I’ll have to try it on kale chips, sounds tasty!

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