Whether you're a vegan or a natural food junkie, you're likely familiar with the stigmas that come from eating certain foods. Anyone that's ever tried to get a family member to do a wheatgrass shot, eat a bowl of wheat germ, or down a spoonful of spirulina knows what I'm talking about. And there's another undeserving victim of the health food stereotyping: nutritional yeast.
Admittedly, nutritional yeast is a pretty unappetizing name, despite the fact it boasts its nutritional benefits right there front and center. But like Shakespeare said, what's in a name, anyway?
A deactivated type of yeast, nutritional yeast is an excellent source of B vitamins, proteins, all nine amino acids, selenium, and potassium. In its raw form, nutritional yeast is a golden flaky powder. It is incredibly versatile and is often considered a staple in vegan and vegetarian cooking. Want to give it a try? Here are some suggestions from a die-hard nut-yeast junkie:
- Soups: This is a great way to start. Add a couple of spoonfuls into your soup recipes for a creamy flavor and texture.
- Seitan recipe: If you've been making your own wheat meat—a.k.a. seitan—you know how much better it is than the store-bought stuff. Add a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast to your homemade seitan for extra protein and extra flavor.
- Pizza: Those processed faux cheeses rarely ever truly melt anyway. Give them the boot and layer up your pie with nutritional yeast once it's out of the oven. The heat will slightly melt the cheese and the flavor can't be beat.
- Popcorn: One of the best popcorn toppings ever. Just sprinkle it on and enjoy. Goes great with spices, too. Try paprika, garlic salt, hot pepper flakes, and a good mineral salt.
- Gravy: Homemade vegan gravy gets a flavor boost with the addition of nutritional yeast. Its savory umami flavor is perfect in gravy recipes.
- The best mac 'n cheese ever: ¼ cup nutritional yeast, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and a bit of that hot water from cooking your noodles—added to your consistency preference. It's simply divine! Add in a bit of paprika and cayenne if you like a kick, otherwise, just some salt will do.
- Cheesy dip: Take that mac 'n cheese recipe and reduce the water content until it's as thick as you like. Add cumin and cayenne for a Mexican-inspired queso dip or spread.
- Tofu scramble: While I don't recommend eating too much soy—or ever eating non-organic soy products—every once in a while there's nothing like scrambled tofu for breakfast. Reminds me of my vegan line cook days at the East End Food Co-op in Pittsburgh. The tofu scramble was my absolute favorite. After sautéing your veggies (peppers, carrots, mushrooms recommended) and tofu in a bit of oil, add about ¼ cup of nutritional yeast flakes along with a teaspoon of turmeric for that gorgeous yellow color (and great flavor). Add additional seasoning like fresh marjoram or oregano leaves, cayenne, or crushed red chili flakes. Enjoy!