Nutritional yeast! Nooch! Let’s find out the answer to the question, what is nutritional yeast?, learn about nutritional yeast benefits, and check out some tasty nutritional yeast recipes. Head to the end of the post for a creamy cashew cheese sauce. 

A bowl of nutritional yeast flakes. Find out the answer to what is nutritional yeast, learn nutritional yeast benefits and recipes.

Nutritional yeast is one of those controversial ingredients. Like Brussels Sprouts, most people either love or hate it. When I first tried it in college after a vegetarian friend’s recommendation, I thought it was horrible. Now, though, I really enjoy it, especially after cutting back on dairy. 

What is Nutritional Yeast 

Also affectionally known as nooch, nutritional yeast is an inactive dried yeast that’s often fortified with vitamins, especially vitamin B-12. It looks a bit like fish food at first glance, however, it’s a tasty seasoning that has been specifically formulated to meet the nutritional needs of vegetarians and vegans.

With a “cheese-like” umami flavor that makes it a great substitute for any cheese, such as Parmesan, you’d sprinkle on soups, pastas, and other foods. It also works well blended into vegan cream sauces such as cashew cream based “queso” dip and Alfredo type sauces. 

Like some of our other featured ingredients: tempeh, tofu, lentils, chickpeas, and quinoa, nutritional yeast is a popular plant-based staple. 

Nutritional Yeast Benefits 

The nutritional information on a container of Bragg's nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast has benefits for vegetarians and vegans, since it's high in protein and a source of vitamin B-12.

Some people use nutritional yeast for the flavor, others use it for the nutritional benefits. I love it for both! Nutritional yeast is often a good source of B vitamins, including B-12, and provides 8 grams of protein per 1/4 cup (Bob’s Red Mill brand). It’s also often fortified with folic acid, which is beneficial for a healthy pregnancy

Exact vitamin and mineral content will vary from brand to brand depending on how and if it’s fortified. It’s important to check the label and talk with your doctor or nutritionist about if relying solely on B-12 from this product is safe for you, as this is an essential vitamin.  

Nutritional yeast is usually low-sodium, gluten free, and vegan, but may be contaminated by nuts or other allergens during processing, so always check the packaging. 

Where to Buy Nutritional Yeast

Three brands of nutritional yeast: Bob's Red Mill, Trader Joe's, and Bragg.

How times have changed! When I first went looking for this ingredient 15 years ago I had to go to the small local health food store. Now, you can find it in many mainstream grocery stores, as well as Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, Whole Foods, and through my Amazon Affiliate link here (this means I make a small commission when you shop through the link). I most often buy this staple at Trader Joe’s, as I find it’s the best price and I enjoy the flavor. 

  • Trader Joe’s  costs around $3 per bag. 
  • Bragg’s found at Whole Foods, Amazon, and others. I paid $6.49 for a container at our local Whole Foods. I’m a big fan of Bragg products, especially as they are a local family (in my hometown), as mentioned in our Apple Cider Vinegar Drink recipe! 
  • Bob’s Red Mill was just over $5 at our local Target. This is another brand I really enjoy. 

Common Questions

Is nutritional yeast gluten free? 

Yes, it should be. It’s important, however to double check for other ingredients and cross contamination if you have an allergy. Some brands, like Bob’s Red Mill, are “tested and confirmed” gluten free. 

Nutritional Yeast vs. Brewers Yeast? 

Both are derived from the same yeast species, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, but they are very different in terms of flavor, uses, and nutrition. Brewers yeast is a byproduct of brewing beer, and is often used as a dietary supplement (1). 

Is nutritional yeast vegan? 

Yes it is! In fact, it’s very popular in vegetarian and vegan diets, as it is high in protein and B vitamins. 

Are there any dangers in using this product? 

While healthy for most people, like all supplements, it should be used in moderation and may not be suitable for everyone. You may want to avoid it if you have a yeast sensitivity, IBD (2), or are sensitive to high-fiber foods. 

Are there any nutritional yeast substitutes? 

If you find you don’t enjoy the taste, look for other umami ingredients such as vegan Parmesan, truffle salt or oil as I use in my Vegan Ricotta, mushroom powder, soy sauce/liquid aminos, or miso paste. 

Nutritional Yeast Recipes

A bowl of creamy vegan cheese sauce made with cashews and nutritional yeast sits on a countertop next to cooked penne pasta. This vegan cashew cheese sauce is great for vegan mac and cheese.

I usually use this seasoning for sprinkling, rather than as a recipe ingredient. My best tip for making it taste good is to use it with a little bit of pink salt or sea salt. Some tasty ways to use nutritional yeast include: 

  • Wherever you’d sprinkle Parmesan 
  • Popcorn
  • Roasted Veggies 
  • Kale Chips
  • Tofu Scramble
  • Pasta 
  • Avocado toast 
  • Baked or roasted potatoes 
  • Plant-based mac & “cheese” 
  • Soups 
  • Vegan Cheese Sauce (recipe at the bottom!) 

Nutritional Yeast Recipes

Wondering how to use nutritional yeast? Look no further! Nutritional yeast can add tasty umami flavor to a variety of dishes and is a great substitute for cheese. It works for adding depth of flavor to soups, pastas, potatoes, kale chips, and even popcorn. Here are some recipes that use nutritional yeast as an ingredient or taste great with it sprinkled on top.

Yield: about 1 1/2 cups

Vegan Cheese Sauce

Prep Time 8 hours
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 8 hours 5 minutes

A creamy vegan cheese sauce made with raw cashews and nutritional yeast. This nutritional yeast cheese sauce is delicious on pasta as a vegan mac and cheese, or over baked potatoes and steamed vegetables. A great simple recipe for using nutritional yeast.

Vegan Cheese Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
  • 1/8-1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup of water, as needed
  • freshly cracked black pepper

Instructions

  1. Drain and rinse the soaked cashews.
  2. Add the cashews to a blender or food processor. Add the nutritional yeast (1/8 cup to start, or 1/4 cup if you love nutritional yeast flavor), garlic powder, lemon juice, salt, and half the water.
  3. Place the lid on the blender or food processor and turn on to blend. Slowly add water through the hole at the top until the sauce has reached your desired consistency. You may need even more than the 1/2 cup of water to thin.
  4. Taste and add more nutritional yeast, lemon, garlic powder, or salt to taste. Season with a good pinch of pepper.
  5. To serve, immediately pour over hot pasta or serve alongside steamed vegetables (baked potatoes or broccoli are great options).

Notes

If you're in a hurry, you can quick-soak the cashews by pouring boiling water over them and letting sit for 1 hour. To skip soaking all together, first finely grind the cashews in a blender (you'll need extra water with this method). We found the overnight soak resulted in the least amount of "nuttiness" in the sauce.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 225Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 278mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 4gSugar: 2gProtein: 12g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Nutritionix. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee accuracy. If your health depends on nutrition information, please calculate again with your favorite calculator.