February 29, 2024

For those following a plant-based lifestyle, nutritional yeast, or “nooch,” as the stans call it, is a must-have pantry staple. With its savory and nutty taste, the ingredient breathes new life into recipes like creamy mac and “cheese,” packed burritos, or hearty chowders.

But just because many vegan home cooks adore the seasoning, it doesn’t mean you have to be dairy-free to enjoy it. In fact, nutritional yeast can be a great addition for any palate.

Still, we get it: This fish-food-resembling seasoning may throw you a bit if you’ve never used it before. We bet you have questions—but don’t worry, we’ve got the answers. For all those who are new to nooch, read on for everything you need to know about it, like what it is exactly, whether or not it’s actually good for you, and how to mix it into meals. Then get started cooking with this delicious flavor-booster!

What is nutritional yeast?

First of all, to clear up any confusion: Nutritional yeast is a deactivated form of yeast, which means it won’t make a loaf of bread rise the way its active counterpart would. It’s cultured from the same type of yeast that leavens bread, but the manufacturing process kills the live organism.

Nooch is instead meant to be used as a cooking ingredient, seasoning, or condiment. The wellness food store bulk-bin staple has a golden yellow color and is available in small and large flakes.

Nutritional yeast is probably best known for being the magic ingredient in all those “cheesy” vegan and dairy-free recipes you’ve seen floating around. The flavor isn’t identical to something like Pecorino or cheddar, of course. Nutritional yeast has its own distinctive and delicious flavor—a little cheesiness, a little nuttiness, a little umami.

What are nutritional yeast benefits?

As its name indicates, nutritional yeast is in fact packed with nutrients. An average 15-gram serving (about three tablespoons or one quarter-cup, depending on the flake size and brand) provides eight grams of protein and three or four grams of fiber, according to the USDA.

Nutritional yeast also contains vitamins and minerals like iron, potassium, thiamin (vitamin B1), and riboflavin (B2). Plus many (if not most) nutritional yeast products on the market are fortified with a variety of B vitamins, including additional B1 and B2, plus niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), folate (B9), and vitamins B6 and B12. (B6 and B12 are mostly found in animal products, and therefore hard to come by on a vegan diet—yet another reason nooch is pretty popular among that crowd.)

Another potential benefit of nutritional yeast is that it’s a helpful cheese substitute for anyone who’s trying to avoid dairy (whether due to an allergy, intolerance, or preference). And you don’t have to store it in the fridge!

How to use nutritional yeast

When it comes to subbing in for cheese, nooch may not be identical, but it can really do the trick—especially when used in combination with other ingredients that add creaminess (like cashew sauce), tang (like lemon juice), or bite (like garlic) to better imitate the flavor profile of your fave cheeses. Trust us, you won’t miss the real deal one bit.

Nutritional yeast works as more than a cheese replacement, though. Even if you’re not dairy-free or vegan, nooch is totally worth keeping in your pantry because it honestly tastes good in just about anything. A couple of tablespoons can quickly add a much-needed savory boost to whatever you’re eating, like a sauce or soup. And you don’t actually have to cook nutritional yeast to enjoy it. You can just sprinkle it (generously) straight from the container over your food, wherever you might use grated Parmesan or a finishing salt—like salads, fries, pasta—and dig right in.

If you’re psyched to start using nooch in the kitchen, let these 33 nutritional yeast recipes show you all that the star ingredient is capable of. Some are all about the nooch, and others are great examples of how easy it is to swap in nutritional yeast for cheese. Many of the recipes are indeed vegan and dairy-free, if that’s something you’re interested in—but they’re worth trying even if you’re not, because they’re just damn good.

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