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What the heck is nutritional yeast for?

Hi all,

I recently added some nutritional yeast to a vegetarian gravy on the suggestion of some other hounds, but I'll be damned if I know what the heck (other than veg gravy) this stuff is good for. I'd be totally into experimenting around if I had any guiding principles about what it's general purpose was.

So... what's it for?

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  1. It's very high in B vitamins. And iron, I believe.

    1. Nutritional supplement. B vitamin deficiency during pregnancy is a major cause of birth defects.

      Sort of like cod liver oil. Not so much for cooking.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Louise

        actually, it's not only a nutritional aid but a flavor enhancer and is used in recipes and dishes and as a popcorn seasoning, and I think the stuff is INSANELY TASTY

      2. If it is the light flaky kind, not the heavy grainy kind, back in Madison they put it on popcorn. Even at the movies they had a shaker with yeast for the popcorn.

        1. It was promoted by 1960s-70s diet book author Adelle Davis, who theorized that Americans didn't get enough vitamins or protein. To correct those imaginary deficiencies, she suggested that people supplement with lots of nutritional yeast, blackstrap molasses, wheat germ, dry milk powder, and raw liver.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Gah. Blackstrap molasses and liver. Double gah.

            Well, thanks for shedding light on the subject. The flavor it added to the veg gravy was nice -- gave it some depth -- and after tasting it plain (this is indeed the light and flaky kind of nutritional yeast) I can see that it might be a good popcorn accompaniment. I suppose I'll keep it on hand for the nights when our veg friends come for dinner. ;)

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              They weren't imaginary. We cured a serious infection on my index finger through nutritional yeast and other Adelle Davis hints.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Actually Adelle Davis touted Brewer's yeast which a bit of different animal all together.

              2. I raised my kids in the 80's and among the crowd we ran with Engivita (sp?) nutritional yeast was the ingredient du jour. We mostly sprinkled it on popcorn but it also had a nasty habit of showing up in macaroni and cheese and tossed with cooked veggies. I am sure that if I hunt through the inner recesses of my cupboard there will be a jar of it still lurking. Gah. Probably next to the carob powder (shudder).

                1 Reply
                1. re: Nyleve

                  Yes, I remember it on popcorn along with soy sauce and olive oil. Not bad.

                2. I currently use it as a systematic to discourage fleas on my dog and cats. I'm not sure how effective it is but I'll try anything at this point.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: rainey

                    My cat has a serious addiction to nutritional yeast. My old roommate used to keep a bag of it in the cupboard and my cat would open the cupboard when nobody was around, chew the bag open and go to town. We couldn't figure out what was going on until we caught him with it all over his face. Eventually we started keeping the yeast in a jar above the counter. He also loves pistachios and their shells, so maybe it's the saltiness?

                    Other than that, I've mainly seen it sprinkled on popcorn.

                  2. vegans/vegetarians use it sprinkled everywhere as well. our local whole foods have it in the salad bar to sprinkle over. i went through a phase where i put it on anything i wanted to add a savory, deeper note to.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: thejulia

                      yes, it's a great seasoning with sort of a salty flavor. last holiday season, i made the golden gravy from "the real food daily cookbook" which calls for nutritional yeast and it was a hit (and none of the omnis knew it was vegan).

                      link to the cookbook:
                      http://www.powells.com/biblio/2-15800...

                    2. Here's a recipe for ya. I don't recommend it, personally, but it's a recipe :) Posting because some folks like it, apparently, as did the person who gave it to me, but I thought it was kind of oogy. I have some of the yeast left over, so I might try sprinkling some on veggies and popcorn. Thanks for the idea!

                      NUTRITIONAL YEAST "CHEESE" SAUCE

                      1/2 c Nutritional yeast flakes
                      1/2 c Flour
                      2 ts Salt
                      2 c Water
                      1/4 c Margarine
                      1/2 ts Garlic powder


                      Mix dry ingredients in a saucepan; add water and cook over medium heat, whisking, until it thickens and bubbles. Cook 1 minute. Remove from heat and add margarine. A dash of red food coloring or a dash of saffron will give it a more traditional color. Mix with cooked macaroni and bake at 375 for 15 minutes.

                      1. It's used a lot as a cheese substitute for vegans. Other than that, it's a seasoning that adds depth and "umami" to foods, a bit like miso.

                        1. I know that some pizza places put in into their crusts for flavor.

                          1. Several fans I've known say it will give you "trippy dreams". The few times I've had it, I admit my dreams were a little unusual, but it may just be the power of suggestion

                            1. Nutritional Yeast is AWESOME! Try this:

                              I got this Dry Bulk Cheese recipe on VegWeb. Very tasty & handy to keep on hand:

                              Dragonfly's Dry Bulk Uncheese Mix:
                              3 cups raw, organic cashew pieces
                              2 cups either Red Star or Vegetarian Support, nutritional yeast
                              3 Tblsp seasoning salt
                              3 Tblsp garlic powder (NOT garlic salt)
                              3 Tblsp of onion powder (NOT onion salt)
                              8 Tblsp of arrowroot powder. Can use cornstarch, but it is not stringy like arrowroot.

                              Directions:
                              Using a VERY dry blender, blend the nuts till they are very fine. Then, blend in batches of about 1 cup and then mix in a dry container.
                              You can keep this tightly covered in the frig for about 6 weeks. To make up, add one heaping 1/2 cup of mix to 1 cup of water and stir over heat till thickened.
                              Use less water and add salsa for queso dip. Pour over hot veggies and/or pasta. Spread on vegan bread and toast for grilled uncheeses.
                              Serves: many!
                              Preparation time: 15 minutes

                              Then I switched it up a bit and thought this might be tasty too:

                              Smokey Uncheese:
                              3 cups water
                              1 package (6oz) Agar Flakes
                              2 cups Dragonfly's Uncheese Mix
                              1 or 2 tbsp liquid smoke (I like mine really smokey)

                              Directions:
                              Bring 3 cups water and agar flakes to a boil, stirring often. Remove from heat and Add the 2 cups uncheese mix and liquid smoke. Stir well until smooth. Pour into oiled loaf pan and refrigerate. Within an hour you should have sliceable yummy smokey cheese!

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: Regular Joni

                                No offense Joni, I'm sure it's very nutritious and all but I think I'd rather fast than eat something called "cheese" that involves blended cashews, yeast and arrowroot powder.

                                1. re: Chowpatty

                                  I'm a big fan of nutritional yeast -- as a popcorn topping, a mix-in to sauces and general flavour-enhancer -- but I agree: no fake cheese, please. (By this I mean, feel free to eat it, I'll just leave more for you.)

                                  1. re: piccola

                                    I recently rediscovered this scrumptious substance and I don't use it as a cheese substitute or as a substitute for anything, but as an ingredient/seasoning/flavor enhancer in its own right

                                  2. re: Chowpatty

                                    ...but eating the curdled lacteal secretion from the mammary glands of a cow is A-OK.

                                      1. re: evanparsons

                                        Phrasing it like that isn't a turn off. Sorry. Curdled = cultured = nummy. I thank the heavens for cheese, beer, injera, kefir, fish sauce, miso, tempeh, tofu and WINE! One person's yuck is another's yum. Let's not make this a place to frown on each other's dietary diversity.

                                        1. re: Vetter

                                          Cast your eyes upthread to Chowpatty's post, the one about preferring to fast rather than eat a raw food cheese approximation. Note how it frowns on dietary diversity. I read evanparsons' post as an appropriate response to that.

                                    1. re: Regular Joni

                                      This is absolutely the best cheese sub. I used it for mac n uncheese when I was transitioning and my children enjoyed it. (noodles, uncheese to cover and a teaspoon or so mustard-vegweb recipe)

                                      I also used it for mushroom veggie burgers. 1 cup sliced mushrooms simmered in a bit of oil, a couple of tablespoons of uncheese, a bit of soymilk, then top your burger. OK I admit this in not exactly choc full nutritional variety and density, but for a beginner the children and I thought it was wonderful....

                                    2. I first discovered nutritional yeast when my dog was extremely ill and I was looking for anything to help. It is high in B vitamins so I got it. Unfortunately my dog died and now I have all this healthy stuff lying around, so I'm now using it. I use the yeast in my yogurt and oatmeal along with milled flax seed and raw wheat germ. It is delicious in both. I'm so new to it though that I didn't know it is supposed to taste like cheese or that it is good on popcorn. Now I'm anxious to try it in other ways.

                                      1. Nutritional yeast contains the highest natural form of the entire B-vitamin complex. It also contains nearly 50% protein. This stuff is WONDERFUL for combatting stress whether from illness, lack of sleep, overwork etc. It is excellent for nursing mothers -- increases their milk supply as well as their energy. In my house we always take it if we are coming down with a cold or something. It is easily taken mixed in juice. Start out with small amounts as it can make one gassy at first. Increase slowly. I take a couple of heaping tablespoons with only good effect. I recommended it to my daughter-in-law when she had her babies (three in a row, all breast fed) and she says it makes all the difference in her health and energy. She also finds it helps the kids avoid colds and sore throats.

                                        1. hi litchick, et al.

                                          I have been using nutritional yeast for years... my elderly mom craves it as does my child and my pets... so it has to be good for something. Actually it has huge amounts of B complex vitamins and is a great source of amino acids. B vitamins are depleted by stress and are also healthy for our neurological pathways. That's why some people feel energized by after ingesting them.
                                          I am not vegan so I use nutritional yeast in combination with other ingredients. It is good on popcorn with butter. I put it in things that I also use parmesian or other cheeses with. I put it in mac and cheese as an extra ingredient, and use it cream soups or in dishes like stroganoff or stir fry. Alone on pasta it would be yucky!
                                          Two tablespoons is a serving, that's all you need. It is also supposed to boost one's immune system, but I think that's from the B complex vitamins. It's also good in vegan dishes like tofu, coat tofu in nutritional yeast and fry it or use it in tofu salad.
                                          Happy cooking!

                                          1. Hey litchick: We explain it all in this article - http://www.chow.com/stories/10545 , so check it out!

                                            1. I just made a huge batch of pesto and replaced the parm cheese with a great combo of nut. yeast and chopped blanchd almonds! Wow! I think it's better than the real thing!

                                              1. it's very yummy on popcorn!

                                                1. I was told by a guy who was guru to a band of hippie vegans that nutritional yeast is the ONLY non-animal source for vitamin A, which is why it's so important for vegans to use it. Apparently any other source, pills included, are based on some animal's liver. When said hippie band settled on a farm, nutritional yeast was one of the first things they set up production for.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                                    There are many, many souces of beta carotene -- the precursor to Vitamin A -- from vegetable sources, most notably carrots.

                                                    Vitamin A is stored primarily in the liver, and you can overdo it. Beta crotene is stored pretty much all over,and you'll know you've maxed out when your skin turns orange. And it really does; it happens to people that drink too much carrot juice!

                                                    1. re: Richard 16

                                                      You are right, and I was wrong. Must've been another of those Senior Moments - the vitamin in question was actually B12.

                                                  2. the grit vegetarian restaurant cookbook has some great uses for nutritional yeast. i like it on popcorn with cayenne pepper.

                                                    1. The pinnacle of nutritional yeast (nooch or newt for short) flavor is approached by combining it with soy sauce and olive oil or butter on some kind of mild tasting starch like pasta or brown rice. It's the ultimate in umami-comfort food flavor. Yes, some say it smells like old gym socks, but that flavor cannot be beat.

                                                      1. Besides the "nutritional" part, nutritional yeast is also a great source of savoriness (umami) like you find in soy sauce, boullion, parmesan cheese, and steak sauce. What all those foods have in common is that they're loaded with free amino acids (especially glutamate) that come from fermented, digested, or well-cooked protein.

                                                        Glutamate can make pretty much anything taste good, which is unfortunately why hydrolyzed protein or bacterial fermentation extracts (like MSG) are added to so many crappy foods.

                                                        1. I love, love love nutritional yeast. It is great added to any soup at the end( doesn't like to be boiled) or with soy sauce or Bragg liquid aminos and olive oil makes the best salad dressing ever.I always have a jar of it next to my salt and pepper on my counter.

                                                          1. Tastes good, provides "umami" to vegetarian dishes. What's not to like?

                                                            1. I used to eat it as a vegetarian for the B vitamins, but honestly I never really developed a taste for it. I rarely use it at all anymore and I don't miss it - there's nothing (popcorn, soup, salad dressing) I would have used it for that I wouldn't prefer to use miso in at this point.

                                                              1. Are there certain types of brand of this product that are more beneficial than others? Or is it all pretty much the same?

                                                                1. My husbands boss gave us a container of "yeast", about 6 cups full, with a scooper that I would guess is about 1 tablespoon worth. He said to mix it into juice and use once a day to boost the immune system. We are not vegetarians, BTW, but I have not been well for a couple months. My question is that this stuff is not flaky. It looks like brown granules, almost like instant coffee. I tasted a bit, without juice, and it wasn't very pleasant. Do you think this is the same thing? I can't imagine putting it on popcorn, and I'm not sure what to do with it.

                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                  1. re: danhole

                                                                    Yep - that's it! nice boss, huh? Actually, it does taste better as an accent to other ingredients IMO.

                                                                    1. re: alwayscooking

                                                                      Thanks for the confirmation. His boss is always passing along stuff like this to us. He is older, although we aren't exactly young, but we are on the thin side and he isn't. I think his philosophy is that if your belly isn't big, you are not healthy. LOL! But since I have been so sick I am at the end of my rope and willing to try anything. My problem is that I don'/t have much of an appetite, so I will try it in the juice first. If if doesn't dissolve, maybe in some potatoes, or cottage cheese. Breaded food, or fried, just doesn't appeal to me at this point.

                                                                      1. re: alwayscooking

                                                                        No, that's not nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is yellow flakes or powder. More on the fluffy side, not granular and not brown.

                                                                        http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000...

                                                                        This is the stuff to get. Here's a good recipe containing it: http://tinyurl.com/GeeWhizSpread
                                                                        http://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Unchee...

                                                                        For folks who want to hold down on the fat and cholesterol . . .

                                                                      2. re: danhole

                                                                        I'm pretty sure you got brewer's yeast, which isn't the same thing. It's good for you, but I never heard of anyone liking the taste.

                                                                      3. I mix it in with some panko or cornflake crumbs and use it as a breading for baked zucchini or eggplant slices. I've had cornmeal/nutritional yeast crusted brussel sprouts (not fried) in a restaurant but I never made it myself.

                                                                        1. Nothing. It makes people feel like they're doing something useful or healthy.

                                                                          Good news is, it won't hurt you. Bad news is, it won't help, either.

                                                                          If you want some of the nutrients in yeast, go have a piece of bread, or drink a bottle of unfiltered beer or wine every now and again.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: greglor

                                                                            It is delicious, a vegan staple, and great on everything from toast to black beans to salad. Try it!

                                                                          2. Aside from its nutritional value, nutritional yeast (the delicate light yellow flakes) is used to give a pungent, meaty or cheesy flavor to foods. There are also moist, pasty products sold in small jars that is made with the same ingredient and used to impart a meaty flavor to vegetarian gravies and other veggie foods. The brand names for these pasty products are "Marmex" and "Vegemite". Look up the word, "Umami" on Wikipedia and you will get a definition of the flavor profile for nutritional yeast.

                                                                            1. Nutritional yeast is totally yummy. I have chickens and eat alot of eggs. For a quick scramble, I sprinkle some good oil into a fry pan, stir in maybe 1/4 C nut. yeast, break in the eggs, do a quick scramble and scoop it out when the egg is just cooked. You can't believe how delicious this is. It is a great umami food.
                                                                              When my kids were babies, I would give them a little NY mixed up with water, and they would dip every Cheerio in the NY mix and eat it.
                                                                              It is great on popcorn. It is wonderful on cooked vegies. Good on toast with butter. Makes a wonderful gravy/sauce.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: dsc6

                                                                                I like to use nutritional yeast in eggs also.. I add some to an omelet and wrap the whole thing in a whole wheat tortilla for breakfast.

                                                                                Last week I made roasted asparagus- tossed the asparagus in olive oil then in a mixture of nutritional yeast, zaatar, salt, and pepper. It came out delicious.

                                                                              2. Its great sprinkled on popcorn.

                                                                                1. Isn't it an ingredient in Marmite/Vegemite? Very umami. I love the stuff. My aussie friend taught me to eat it spread on Ryvita crisp bread with margarine.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: pdxgastro

                                                                                    The main ingredient in Marmite is BREWERS yeast. Very different from nutritional yeast, in looks and in flavor.
                                                                                    I'm going to try nutritional yeast with soy sauce and olive oil on pasta.
                                                                                    I also feed it to my chickens.

                                                                                  2. I have this recipe for something called "Yumm Sauce" which I have yet to make because I haven't been able to find nutritional (or brewer's) yeast.

                                                                                    Yumm Sauce:
                                                                                    1/2 cup oil
                                                                                    1/2 cup almonds
                                                                                    1/3 cup brewers yeast
                                                                                    1/3 cup garbonzo beans - drained
                                                                                    1/4 cup soybeans or silken tofu
                                                                                    1/2 cup water
                                                                                    1/2 cup lemon juice
                                                                                    2 garlic cloves
                                                                                    1/2 tsp salt
                                                                                    1 tsp curry powder

                                                                                    Blend nuts, beans and oil in food processor. Then blend in yeast and liquids one at a time. Puree until smooth.

                                                                                    I don't know if it's any good or not but thought it would be worth trying as a stir-fry sauce for my near-vegetarian son.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                                      It's a great sauce! I've had it at Yumm Cafe in Eugene, OR, with something for many dietary restrictions. http://www.cafeyumm.com/menu.html I regret not buying some sauce when I was there. Next time we get down there, I'll have to get some.

                                                                                    2. http://www.peoplespharmacy.com/2010/1...

                                                                                      I don't know if nutritional yeast is the same as Brewer's yeast, but this People's Pharmacy article warns that getting too much B6 vitamin can cause nerve damage.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: pdxgastro

                                                                                        Whatever the source of that woman's vitamin B6 problem, it was not Brewer's yeast tablets (which is what she said she was taking 5 of per day).

                                                                                        Most Brewer's yeast tablets contain no B6 at all. I did find one brand that contained 50 mcg per tablet, or about 3% of the RDA.

                                                                                        In order to get 100 mg of B6 per day from brewer's yeast tablets she would have had to be taking 2000 of those tablets per day.

                                                                                        As for brewer's yeast being "high" in B6 - well, sort of. 1 T of Brewer's yeast dietary supplement powder contains between .3 and .4 mg. So in order to hit the upper limit of 100 mg per day, you would need to eat 250 to 333 T per day for quite some time before it could build up in your blood that way. That's 15.5 to 20 cups of the stuff per day.

                                                                                        In addition, B6 is a WATER SOLUBLE vitamin. That means it does NOT build up in fat tissues the way Vitamin A does. It is extremely difficult to overdose on water soluble vitamins because they are easily filtered out in the kidneys and excreted.

                                                                                        Whatever is going on with this woman and her blood levels of B6, it has nothing to do with Brewer's yeast tablets, and absolutely nothing to do with brewer's yeast itself which she wasn't even taking.

                                                                                      2. This sounds like a good question for one of the nutritionists at work.

                                                                                        1. From one of the certified nutritionists at The Kitchen Hotline:
                                                                                          Yes, it can be used as a micro & macro-nutrient supplement source.

                                                                                          However, for a safer, better quality nutritional yeast, the source of it can be derived from a non-active, non-brewing, non-Candida albicans yeast-producing strain. The strain, as usual, is derived from Saccharomyces cerevisiae BUT is different from the more commonly used active less nutrient-containing beer brewing source).

                                                                                          Yeast powder or flakes can be used as a nutritional supplement for predominantly supplying to the body 'naturally produced' B complex vitamins, protein, biactive GTF chromium, bioactive selenium, among other vitamins & minerals.

                                                                                          A good quality, cost effective, more nutrient dense & safer, non-active, example is:
                                                                                          NOW Foods: Nutritional Yeast Powder ( non-active Saccharomyces cerevisiae version) 10oz. (284 g)

                                                                                          It is actually a decent way to obtain whole food grown vitamins & minerals - at a lower cost than some of the highest quality & complete, high-end whole food grown supplements, such as: The Vitamin Code line or New Chapter line of raw, live, whole food-grown nutrients.

                                                                                          1. it makes a great salad dressing, totally addictive. This salad is crazy good: http://www.canada.com/globaltv/bc/sto...

                                                                                            btw you can reduce the oil substantially.

                                                                                            1. It is either an umami booster or the worst cheese substitute on the face of the planet. Actually, both. Fine for flavor boost but vile in any fake cheese capacity.

                                                                                              In my experience, it is mostly used to terrorize families at preschool potlucks.