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What’s the Deal With Nutritional Yeast?

You’ve probably seen more recipes lately that have called for nutritional yeast. No, it’s not the same as the yeast you use to make pizza dough or bread. This trendy ingredient is a popular way to add a cheesy, nutty flavor to food without having to use actual cheese. (Call it "nooch" to sound like you've known about it forever.) Nutritional yeast is actually an inactive yeast that's grown on molasses or sugarcane. It gets heated and dried before getting crumbled into powder or flake form.

Benefits of Nutritional Yeast

Since nutritional yeast isn't an animal product, it's a favorite of vegans. It's also gluten-free in many cases, although you should check individual product labels (you can find nutritional yeast in the bulk bin at the grocery store, or packaged by brands like Bragg and Bob's Red Mill). It's low in calories and sodium. Best of all, it's nutritious. Seriously—nutritional yeast is a solid source of a number of B vitamins, depending on the brand.

How to Use It

Nutritional yeast functions both as a seasoning and a cheese substitute. Sprinkle it into any dish to add an extra hit of umami, or substitute it for cheese if you're trying to skip dairy. You can also make healthier versions of store-bought snacks with it, like swapping bagged cheese puffs for roasted broccoli dusted with nutritional yeast.

Want more ideas? Here are a few: 

  • Top a bowl of popcorn with it
  • Mix it into a bowl of savory oatmeal
  • Toss it with baked kale chips
  • "Grate" it over weeknight pasta
  • Add a hint of it to a salad
  • Stir it into a bowl of rice
  • Make a vegan mac and cheese
  • Use up that basil and make a vegan pesto
  • Bake it into crackers

How to Store It

Keep nutritional yeast in a cool, dry, dark place and it can stay good for up to two years. Putting it in the refrigerator or freezer will help prolong the shelf life of your nooch. The retail price of nutritional yeast is comparable to that of other seasonings you'd find in the spice aisle, so it won't set you back too far—and it should last you a while.

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