What's Nutritional Yeast?

You've seen it in the health food store, but what, exactly, is nutritional yeast, and how do you use it?

Nutritional yeast is a source of great mystery for most people. Isn’t yeast what makes bread rise? And beer ferment? Yes, but nutritional yeast is quite different. It's non-active yeast that has been grown (usually on glucose or another simple sugar), deactivated by heat, then dried, pasteurized and eventually sold in your neighborhood health food store. You may see it commercially as flakes for a yellowish powder (looks like cornmeal). Some cook with it but it is also popular as a condiment. So what's the hype?

Nutritionally, nutritional yeast (sometimes called "food yeast") offers protein (complete, with essential amino acids) and B-complex vitamins. It's low in fat and sodium and free of sugar, dairy and gluten. So for those with allergies or special diets, nutritional yeast packs a unique flavor with some major dietary benefits. Vegetarians and vegans tend to like nutritional yeast for its protein. B vitamins can help regulate metabolism, but also work to maintain healthy skin, hair and muscle tone. As if the protein and B vitamins aren’t enough, nutritional yeast also offers fiber and zinc.

Don’t expect nutritional yeast to bear the same yeasty flavor as active or brewer’s yeast. Nutritional yeast has a strong flavor that some describe as nutty, creamy or cheesy. Because of its taste, it is a popular cheese substitute for vegans or anyone with diary allergies. Many enjoy nutritional yeast on popcorn and salads, in soups, casseroles, dips, and smoothies.  It works well in place of cheese in pasta dishes, potatoes and polenta.

So whether you’re curious about the one-of-a-kind flavor or interested in the health benefits it is worth giving it a try to satisfy your culinary curiosity.

Try these tasty recipes:
What are your favorite uses for nutritional yeast?
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