Vegans can sometimes appear intimidating. And so do the contents of their kitchen, the unheard ingredients in their cooking. They seem to hide a lot of tricks down their sleeves, just like wizards. And they can rightfully act all smug about it, because they probably know something that you don’t!
Nutritional yeast is one of those ingredients. It is something so personal and unique to plant-based eating culture, and not many outsiders know of it, unless they’ve already hopped on some kind of health wagon. It’s a perfect add-on for just about any dish, with a slight savory and cheesy flavor to it. Basically a vegan’s dream version of cheese.
So what exactly is it, where do you find it, how do you use it?
Let’s start right away with the insider information and call it Nooch. As Nutritional yeast doesn’t sound too sexy, apparently someone once called it like that on the internet and so the name caught on the internet (I wish it was me).
What is it? It is made from a single-celled organism, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, which is grown on molasses and then harvested, washed, and dried with heat to kill or “deactivate” it. Because it’s inactive, it doesn’t froth or grow like baking yeast does so it has no leavening ability, and it’s something that you can still include in a yeast-free diet (if you’re trying to tame candida for example).
What are the benefits? It boasts trace minerals and, being a complete, bioavailable source of protein, contains all 18 amino acids, but most importantly it is filled with B-complex vitamins (some brands including B12). B vitamins help converting food to energy, minimize depression, insomnia, nervousness, fatigue, trembling, loss of appetite, PMS, mood changes and irritability. B vitamins can also improve skin, nails and hair and improve memory. That sounds like a superfood to me!
All right, enough with the scientific talk.
So how does the average vegan foodie get to discover this stuff and never let it leave the kitchen?
It can be used in a variety of ways:
- You can use it on just about any savory food. As you experiment with it, you can use it as a condiment, sprinkling it on after you cook the dish, or on top of cold foods like salads. As you become familiar with the taste, you can start incorporating it into recipes. It’s especially tasty in asian recipes for a delightful “umami” flavour.
- Sprinkle on popcorn or roasted nuts. Homemade cheesy flavouring without the heart attack!
- Make faux cheese and cheesy sauces for pizza, pasta, and dipping veggies. I have a staple vegan pizza recipe I like to use it in, and I swear to the cheese god, it’s WAY better than your regular mozzarella topping. -please note that I am not vegan but it still applies, yes-!
- Make a “parmesan” topping by blending equal parts blanched almonds or walnuts and nutritional yeast until fine. Add salt to taste. Boom!
I might have gotten you convinced. In that case, you may be wondering where to get this magic ingredient.
You can find it in any organic shop. It’s called Hefeflocken in German and Levure Alimentaire in French (or levure de bière, but it’s not entirely similar in flavor and composition).
Are you going to give it a try?
Credits: Photos by Linda Dieschbourg.