Nutritional Yeast: What It Is, How It’s Made, and How to Use It?
nutritional yeast 101

All About Nutritional Yeast: Benefits, Uses, and Production

Everything you need to know about nutritional yeast covered in our detailed article here.

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In the world of health foods and dietary supplements, nutritional yeast has emerged as a versatile and nutrient-dense ingredient that’s capturing the attention of vegans, vegetarians, and health enthusiasts alike. But what exactly is nutritional yeast, and why has it become such a staple in modern diets?

This golden-yellow powder or flake not only enhances the taste of your dishes but also packs a powerful nutritional punch. Let’s learn more about this ingredient, from its production to the different ways you can include this superfood in your everyday meals.

Yeast is a type of fungus that plays a vital role in various biological and culinary processes. It exists as single-celled microorganisms and comes in many different species, each with unique characteristics and uses. The most commonly known yeast is Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is widely used in baking, brewing, and winemaking due to its fermentation capabilities.

Here is a breakdown on the types of yeast and what role each plays when deployed in the food industry: 

Types of Yeast  Role
Baker’s Yeast  Used in baking to leaven bread and other baked goods.
Brewer’s Yeast  Employed in the production of beer and alcoholic beverages. 
Nutritional Yeast  Used as a dietary supplement and a flavor enhancer, known for its nutty, cheesy taste.

 

In addition to the above, we also have wine yeast and wild yeast. Yeast is a fascinating and versatile organism that significantly impacts our food and drink production, nutrition, and scientific research. Its ability to transform ingredients through fermentation and its rich nutrient profile make it an indispensable part of our daily lives.

What is Nutritional Yeast?

Nutritional yeast, often informally referred to as “nooch,” is a deactivated yeast derived from Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Unlike the active yeast used in baking and brewing, this yeast doesn’t froth or ferment. Instead, it offers a unique combination of nutrients, including a robust profile of B vitamins, protein, and essential minerals, all wrapped up in a savory, cheese-like flavor that makes it a culinary favorite.

From sprinkling over popcorn to stirring into sauces, the uses of this yeast are as diverse as its benefits. Rich in antioxidants, protein, and fiber, it supports immune function, promotes healthy digestion, and provides essential nutrients that are often hard to come by, especially in plant-based diets.

How is Nutritional Yeast Produced?

The production of nutritional yeast involves several steps:

1. Cultivation

The yeast is grown on a nutrient-rich medium, typically consisting of glucose, derived from either sugarcane or beet molasses.

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2. Fermentation

During this stage, the yeast cells ferment the sugars, multiplying and producing a variety of nutrients, including B vitamins, proteins, and minerals.

3. Harvesting

Once the fermentation process is complete, the yeast is harvested, usually through a process of centrifugation. What centrifugation does is it spins the mixture at high speed so that the yeast cells separate from the liquid. 

4. Deactivation

The yeast is then pasteurized, which deactivates it. This means the yeast will not ferment further, making it suitable for consumption as a food product.

5. Drying

The deactivated yeast is dried at low temperatures to preserve its nutritional content. It is then flaked or powdered for packaging.

12 Delicious Ways to Use Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast has a delightful cheesy and nutty flavor. This characteristic makes it a versatile ingredient to enhance the taste of many dishes. Here are 12 creative ways to incorporate it into your meals:

1. Dust Over Popcorn  

  • Enhance your movie night snack by sprinkling nutritional yeast on freshly popped popcorn. It adds a savory, cheesy flavor without the need for butter or cheese.
popcorns

2. Craft Vegan Cheese Sauce

  • Create a creamy, dairy-free cheese sauce by blending nutritional yeast with cashews, garlic, lemon juice, and a bit of water. Perfect for pouring over pasta, nachos, or vegetables.

3. Savory Oats Bowl 

  • Give your morning oats a savory twist by adding nutritional yeast along with spinach, avocado, and a pinch of salt. It’s a great way to start your day with a boost of nutrients.

4. As Toppings on Pasta

  • Nutritional yeast is an excellent vegan-friendly replacement for Parmesan cheese. You can use this as pasta topping as it provides a similar umami flavor and a boost of vitamins.
pasta

5. Mashed Potatoes

  • Mix nutritional yeast into mashed potatoes for a cheesy flavor without the dairy. It adds depth and richness to this classic comfort food.

6. For Dressing Salads 

  • Whisk nutritional yeast into your favorite salad dressing recipes. It works well in vinaigrettes and creamy dressings alike, adding a nutrient boost and extra flavor.
salads

7. Vegan Pesto

  • Add almonds, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and nutritional yeast to make a delicious vegan pesto. Use it as a vegetable dip, sandwich spread, or pasta sauce, the choice is yours! 

8. Scrambled Tofu

  • Create a protein-packed breakfast by adding nutritional yeast to scrambled tofu. Mix it in with turmeric, black salt (kala namak), and vegetables for a flavorful dish.

9. Roasted Vegetables

  • You can also sprinkle nutritional yeast over roasted vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, or Brussels sprouts before baking. What this does is it creates a crispy, cheesy layer and enhances the flavor.

10. Soups and Stews

  • Adding nutritional yeast to soups and stews provides a rich, savory depth. It works well with creamy soups like potato, mushroom, and butternut squash.

11. Homemade Crackers (image)

  • Incorporate nutritional yeast into cracker dough for a cheesy, crunchy snack. Plus, it is also a great way to add extra nutrients to homemade snacks.
crackers

12. Stuffed Peppers

  • Mix nutritional yeast into the filling for stuffed peppers. It pairs well with quinoa, black beans, corn, and spices, adding a delightful cheesy flavor.
bell peppers

Bonus Recipes

  • Smoothies

    For an extra nutrient boost, add a tablespoon of nutritional yeast to your morning smoothie. It blends well with most fruit and vegetable combinations.

  • Breading

    Mix nutritional yeast with breadcrumbs to create a flavorful coating for baked tofu, chicken, or vegetables.

By incorporating nutritional yeast into these diverse recipes, you can enjoy its savory taste and numerous health benefits in a variety of meals throughout the day. 

Related Read: 

Demystifying Dextrose: Understanding the Sweet Science Behind It

Benefits of Nutritional Yeast

Here are some of the benefits associated with nutritional yeast: 

a. Rich in B Vitamins

It is a great source of B vitamins, including B12. This plays a major role in energy production, brain function, and red blood cell formation.

b. Protein Source 

The nine essential amino acids found in this yeast, which makes it a complete protein source. This is beneficial particularly if you follow a plant-based diet. 

c. Fiber Rich 

The fiber content in this yeast supports digestive health and helps maintain regular bowel movements.

d. Boosts Immune System

Nutritional yeast contains beta-glucans, which have been shown to enhance immune function.

e. Properties of Antioxidants

It contains high concentrations of antioxidants including selenomethionine and glutathione, which help shield cells from harm caused by free radicals.

f. Supports Healthy Skin, Hair, and Nails

The B vitamins and other nutrients in nutritional yeast contribute to the health of skin, hair, and nails.

g. Low in Calories and Fat

This yeast is a low-calorie, low-fat food, making it a healthy addition to various dishes without significantly increasing calorie intake.

h. Flavor Enhancer 

Its savory, cheese-like flavor makes it a popular addition to a variety of dishes, offering a nutritious alternative to cheese.

Side Effects of Nutritional Yeast

In addition to the above benefits it is also important to be wary about the potential side effects of consuming this yeast. This section covers the potential side effects: 

  1. Digestive Issues: Larger consumptions of this yeast may induce bloating, gas, or other digestive discomforts for certain individuals due to its high fiber content.
  2. Allergic Reactions: Although rare, some individuals may be allergic to nutritional yeast, experiencing symptoms such as itching, rash, or swelling.
  3. Migraines: Nutritional yeast contains tyramine, which can trigger migraines in susceptible individuals.
  4. Flushing and Redness: Some people might experience flushing or redness of the skin due to the niacin (vitamin B3) content in nutritional yeast.
  5. High in Purines: It contains purines, which can break down into uric acid and may be a concern for individuals with gout or prone to kidney stones.
  6. Yeast Sensitivity: Those with yeast sensitivities or intolerances might experience symptoms like headaches, dizziness, or gastrointestinal upset.
  7. Skin Irritation: In some cases, applying nutritional yeast topically as a cosmetic ingredient might cause skin irritation or dermatitis.
  8. Excessive Intake Risks: Consuming extremely large amounts of this yeast could lead to an imbalance of certain nutrients or gastrointestinal issues due to its high fiber and nutrient content.

Conclusion

This yeast is a versatile, nutrient-dense ingredient that provides numerous health benefits. Whether used to enhance the flavor of foods or for nutrient intake, it is a beneficial supplement for overall health and well-being. 

We hope our informative article helped you gain insights into what nutritional yeast is, how it is produced, and how it can be incorporated into your everyday meals.

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