Although I assume that most of the non-vegans who read my blog are familiar with things like tofu and chickpeas, it’s occurred to me that there may be a few questions surrounding some of the lesser-known vegan/health food ingredients. So with that, I’ve added a new section to my blog called What’s That?, and every now and then I’ll write about one of these ingredients, and link to it when my recipes call for it.
I’m going to start with Nutritional Yeast. Because it is used to imitate the taste of cheese, it is adored by most vegans despite the fact that many (lacto-ovo) vegetarians may not even be aware of it because they get their cheese-fix from dairy. It’s not something that you see used in a lot of commercial food products (to the chagrin of us vegans), so you kind of have to be “in-the-know” to have heard about it or used it. But it’s not that difficult to find and it’s even easier to use, so I really encourage you to try it if you haven’t already.
- It is a deactivated yeast and a fungus.
- It is produced by culturing the yeast with a mixture of sugarcane and beet molasses for a period of 7 days, then harvesting, washing, drying and packaging the yeast.
- The flakes are bright yellow in color.
- It is a complete protein, meaning it contains an adequate proportion of all nine essential amino acid that we need to function.
- It is a good source of protein and B vitamins. (If you’re vegan, you should seek-out a brand that is fortified with B-12.)
- It is low in fat and sodium and is free of sugar, dairy and gluten.
- It has a strong nutty/cheesy flavor that can be added to any dish to impart a cheesy taste.
- You can buy it at most natural food stores, or from online retailers. (I get mine from Aussie Health Products – they’re super nice people and no, I’m not being paid to say that!)
- It is sold as “savoury yeast flakes” in Australia and Brufax in New Zealand.
- Do NOT confuse it with Brewer’s Yeast, which is a by-product of the brewing industry. (MANY health food store employees have tried to sell me this in the past so be vigilant!)
- It is affectionaly called “Nooch” by those who love it (If you’ve ever seen that term, now you know what it is!)
- Grind with blanched almonds to mimic Parmesan – great sprinkled on pasta!
- Add a tablespoon or two to risotto, quiches, manicotti, stuffed mushrooms – anywhere you would normally use Parmesan or other cheese
- Sprinkle on popcorn
- Blend it with nuts to make “full-on” cheese items, known as “cheeze”, such as cheeze dip, cheeze sauce, and soft or hard cheeze
- This is a great alternative for those who are lactose-intolerant or trying to cut-back on dairy and/or fat.
- When trying nutritional yeast for the first time, you may want to start by sprinkling it on pasta and tomato sauce (to mimic parmesan) or in other savory dishes, like those mentioned above.
- I wouldn’t recommend going all-out and making a “cheeze sauce” your first time, as some first-timers might initially find the smell/taste a bit strong.
- In my experience, the longer you’ve been vegan, the more likely you are to think that this tastes like “real cheese”. However, if you’re not a long-term vegan, just think of it as a way to add savory complexity to your meal.
Here are a few of my favorite recipes using nutritional yeast:
|Homemade Vegan Cheese||Vegan Caesar Salad||Vegan Mac & Cheese|
Full list of all my nutritional yeast recipes
Good luck on your Nooch adventures! Feel free to ask me your questions below and I’ll do my best to answer them!
Ps. According to Wikipedia, some movie theaters offer nutritional yeast as a popcorn condiment. Have you ever seen this? I would die and go to heaven if I ever saw that!!