This post is a part of our ongoing Ask the Dietitian series where the Munchery Dietitian, Kate Schlag, MPH, RD, answers your questions about health and nutrition. To participate, simply tag Munchery on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and post your question with the hashtag #AskKate.
What is Nutritional Yeast?
Nutritional yeast is a type of inactive, cultured strain of yeast used as a savory food seasoning. Most often found in the bulk bins at your local health foods store, it’s yellow and flaky and contributes a cheesy, nutty, umami flavor to foods. Nicknamed “nature’s cheeto dust” by Bon Appétit, it’s a favorite among vegans and vegetarians because it gives foods a cheesy flavor without the help of dairy.
Nutritional information varies by brand, but a tablespoon carries about 20 calories and three grams of vegan protein (including all nine essential amino acids). It’s also rich in B vitamins, including thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), and folic acid. Most notably, fortified nutritional yeast is an excellent source of vitamin B12, a vitamin responsible for nervous system functioning, DNA synthesis, and red blood cell formation. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products, so vegetarians and vegans are at risk of B12 deficiency—because many brands of nutritional yeast are fortified with B12, it’s a great option for supplementing your diet with B12.
How to Use Nutritional Yeast
Due to its cheesy, nutty flavor and sprinkle-ability, you can use nutritional yeast anywhere you’d normally use cheese:
- Sprinkle it over pasta, rice, or risotto; in soup and stews; over salads; over casseroles or enchiladas
- “Bread” tofu with it—sprinkle pressed tofu with nutritional yeast and spices (curry powder goes well with it) and pan-fry it
- Drizzle olive oil or coconut oil over popcorn and toss with nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper
- For a healthier take on Cheetos, toss chickpeas with olive oil, salt, and nutritional yeast, then roast at 400°F for about 30 minutes
- Whip up a vegan pesto, using it instead of Parmesan cheese
- Add it to a scramble; use tofu instead of eggs for a 100% vegan breakfast