Honestly, how many of you have heard of nutritional yeast?
If you follow a vegan lifestyle then this ingredient may already be in your radar. Just a sprinkle is enough to perk up any dish and its benefits are abundant. So what exactly is nutritional yeast and how should you use it? Let's find out.
What is nutritional yeast?
Basically, nutritional yeast is dried brewer's yeast. What is its purpose? Well, it isn't intended to be used in baking or making pastries, instead it is used as a food substitute (often to replace cheese in vegan recipes).
The main difference between yeast used in baking (known as active, dry yeast) and nutritional/brewer’s yeast is that in the latter, the yeast cultures are deactivated, containing only dead cells. Active yeast cannot be eaten without causing gastrointestinal issues, but nutritional yeast and brewer’s yeast can both be consumed from the jar. Brewer’s yeast is rather bitter though, while nutritional yeast has pleasant 'nutty' and 'cheesy' flavours, making it appropriate for use as a topping on snacks, or as flavouring in sauces or soups. Since nutritional yeast mimics non-vegan flavours like cheese, it lets the vegan diet retain those flavours while also providing a healthier alternative free of animal byproducts.
It is sold in flakes and readily available in the bulk section of natural food stores. Oftentimes, it is also found in the natural food section of regular supermarkets. Of course, it is also sold online (so you have no excuse not to use it!).
The benefits of nutritional yeast
Nutritional yeast is low in calories (about 250 calories per 100 grams) and contains many carbohydrates, protein and fibre, and just traces of fat. Its beneficial properties have been known since the time of the Egyptians: it is rich in B vitamins and its consumption has positive effects on the intestinal bacterial flora on the skin, nails and hair (it is also said to increase milk production in new moms).
However, be careful not to over consume nutritional yeast - each jar contains maximum recommended doses - because it might cause intolerance to yeast.
Image courtesy Fettle Vegan
How to use nutritional yeast
Using nutritional yeast is very simple. You can spread the 'grated' flakes over pasta or vegetables just as you would cheese - the taste is very similar. It's great used in raw foods - such as nut cheeses - because subjecting it to baking would make it lose its nutritional properties. Or try it in savoury recipes like vegan Tofurky and risotto with pears.