Cart (0)

Add for free shipping Congratulations! You've got free shipping!

Your cart is empty

Subtotal $0.00

What is Nutritional Yeast: Answers to 9 Common Questions

What are nutritional yeast flakes? You might notice it in the ingredient list of your favorite snack or see it in a fun new recipe, but what exactly is that flaky yellow powder?

Nutritional yeast commonly comes up when discussing vegan diets or looking at vegetarian recipes. Health food fanatics know you can find it in most health food stores. Many people can’t imagine eating freshly popped popcorn without it. It's famous for its savory, cheesy flavor and nutritional benefits.

In this guide, we’ll answer the most common questions about this fun ingredient, from “What is nutritional yeast made from?” to “What does nutritional yeast taste like?” and beyond. So keep reading to learn more about this flavorful ingredient.

What are Nutritional Yeast Flakes? A Complete Guide

Nutritional yeast, often shortened to “nooch” by fans, is popping up at health food stores across the country and around the world. It first hit the shelves in 1950, got quite popular in the 1960s and 1970s, and these days it’s making a comeback as plant-based eating rises in popularity. But what's the big deal with this weird ingredient and why are people eating so much of it?

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about nutritional yeast, complete with informative answers.

1. What Is Nutritional Yeast Made From?

One of the key selling points for nutritional yeast is that it doesn't contain wheat or animal products. Instead, it’s made from brewer’s yeast or baker’s yeast, a single-cell fungus species known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast. This is the same type of yeast used in brewing, winemaking, and bread baking.

Don’t try using nutritional yeast for your next batch of bread, though. It won’t help your bread rise (or your beer ferment, if that’s more your speed). The difference between brewer’s yeast vs. nutritional yeast is that the beloved nooch is a deactivated form of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast.

Initially, live Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast is fed sugars and carbohydrates to help it grow in a fermentation vat. Then, it undergoes a process of heating and pasteurization before entering the drying phase. These processes break down the cell walls of the yeast, releasing glutamic acid and other amino acids – and it’s the glutamic acid that creates the classic cheesy nooch flavor.

Note: Glutamic acid is a naturally occurring glutamate found in foods like cheese, mushrooms, and tomatoes. It creates the sensation of umami, and a manufactured version of glutamate is also the "G" in MSG.

Once the nutritional yeast is dry, it is toasted to create a deeper, nuttier flavor. From there, it’s pressed into flakes or ground into a fine powder, packaged, and sold. The yellow color is natural, created by the yeast, and the finished product requires zero added ingredients.

2. What Does Nutritional Yeast Taste Like?

The classic nutritional yeast taste is cheesy, but there’s more to it than that. It features a unique savory flavor that closely resembles cheese, but it also tastes somewhat salty and lightly sweet (though it does not contain salt or sugar). And many people also say that nutritional yeast tastes mildly nutty.

Together, the notes of nutritional yeast form the umami experience. Umami, or savory, is the fifth flavor, after sour, sweet, salty, and bitter. Umami is often described as having a meaty taste and adds depth to most dishes, and what is nutritional yeast if not a way to make our favorite foods tastier?

3. What Are the Best Nutritional Yeast Recipes?

You’re on board with eating nooch, but how do you add it to your diet? You don't need specific nutritional yeast recipes to enjoy this tasty topping. Try using it in dishes such as:

Whenever a pinch of salt or cheese is appropriate, you're usually safe to add some nooch. For example, you can also stir it into soups, sprinkle it on salads, use it to thicken pasta sauce, or add it to roasted veggies.

Dishes like nutritional yeast cheese sauce and nutritional yeast popcorn are good choices if you want to try specific nutritional yeast recipes. Popcorn with nutritional yeast is particularly trendy, and you may never want to eat popcorn any other way again.

4. What Are The Health Benefits of Nutritional Yeast?

Yes, nutritional yeast offers potential health benefits, as you might imagine from the name. We’ve highlighted some potential nutritional yeast benefits below:

  • High Protein: Nutritional yeast adds complete protein to your diet, supporting cellular function and muscle growth while helping you feel satisfied from your meal.
  • High Fiber: Nutritional yeast adds fiber to your diet, supporting benefits like better digestion and improved satiety.
  • Low Sodium: While it tastes salty, nutritional yeast is low in sodium and can be helpful if you're trying to cut back on salt.
  • Vitamin-Rich: Even unfortified nutritional yeast is rich in B vitamins, which support cellular energy production.

Adding protein, fiber, and vitamins to your diet while cutting back on sodium is an excellent way to support your health. Talk to your doctor or a certified nutritionist to learn more.

5. Does Nutritional Yeast Go Bad?

Nutritional yeast can last for up to two years when kept in a cool, dark place. This helps preserve the vitamins and flavor. You should also protect nutritional yeast from exposure to moisture by keeping it in a tightly sealed container. When buying bulk nutritional yeast, purchase only as much as you expect to use in two years.

6. Is Nutritional Yeast Gluten-Free?

Yes, nutritional yeast is gluten-free and safe for those with celiac disease. You don't need to avoid nutritional yeast if you're eating a gluten-free diet. It is also kosher, vegan, and non-GMO. If you have celiac disease, look for a gluten-free brand with no risk of contamination. For example, NuNaturals Nutritional Yeast is certified gluten-free, non-GMO, and vegan.

7. Fortified Nutritional Yeast vs. Unfortified Nutritional Yeast

The two types of nutritional yeast include fortified and unfortified. Fortified nutritional yeast includes an extra step during the manufacturing process. During this step, the yeast is fortified with vitamins such as:

  • Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1)
  • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
  • Niacin (Vitamin B3)
  • Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)
  • Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6)
  • Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)
  • Vitamin B12

The specific vitamins used should be listed on the ingredient label.

Unfortified nutritional yeast already contains the amino acids needed to make a complete protein (approx. 4 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons of nooch) as well as vitamins and minerals such as:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Potassium
  • Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
  • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
  • Niacin (Vitamin B3)
  • Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)
  • Biotin (Vitamin B7)
  • Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)
  • Vitamin B12
  • Choline

Many vegans and vegetarians opt for fortified nutritional yeast to boost their B vitamin intake. At NuNaturals, we carry Fortified Nutritional Yeast and Non-Fortified Nutritional Yeast, so you can choose.

8. Can Dogs Eat Nutritional Yeast?

Sure, it's okay for humans, but can dogs eat nutritional yeast? Yes, most veterinarians consider nutritional yeast safe for dogs. But is nutritional yeast good for dogs? Also yes.

Using nutritional yeast for dogs helps add protein and B vitamins to their diet. This is helpful for dogs with a vitamin B deficiency, which can be caused by improper nutrient absorption. Plus, nutritional yeast dog food toppings work to improve the flavor of the food for picky eaters and older dogs.

Note: If you like making healthy treats for your furry friend, try adding a teaspoon or two or nooch to punch up the flavor a bit.

9. What’s the Best Nutritional Yeast Substitute?

If you can’t find nutritional yeast at the grocery store, you can use flavorful alternatives which might be in your pantry to capture an umami taste. Here are some easy options:

  • Bouillon cubes or stock
  • Chickpea flour seasoned with paprika and dried onion flakes
  • Dark soy sauce
  • Dried mushrooms
  • Miso paste
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Yeast extract (e.g., Marmite or Vegemite)

While none of these will taste exactly like nutritional yeast, they’ll add an umami flavor to your dish.

Are You Ready To Try Eating Nutritional Yeast?

So, you've answered the big "What is nutritional yeast?" question, and it's time to decide if you’d like to try it. Whether you’re in it for the health benefits, the flavor, or both, nutritional yeast is affordable and readily available, so we say go for it!

Nutritional yeast offers a fun and tasty way to add extra nutrients to your food, and even your canine companion can enjoy it. Plus, eating plant-based food is better for the environment, so you can feel good about your choice any time you choose to replace cheese with nooch.

If you’re ready to buy, head over to the NuNaturals shop and check out our selection of nutritional yeast. Our nutritional yeast is gluten-free, vegan, keto, non-GMO verified, so you can rest assured that you’re getting quality products every time.

Products used in this article: