I'm nuts for nutritional yeast!
Of the many things I stock up on from the bulk bins, I can safely say nutritional yeast would be on our pantry essentials list. Don’t let the name fool you into thinking it’s some tasteless future food. What nutritional yeast lacks in the “appetizing name department”, it makes up for with its rich, unique flavor and abundant nutrients. Healthy and delicious? Don’t mind if I do.
So what is this nutritional yeast, or “nooch” as the kids these days are calling it? These golden flakes are actually a single-celled organism from the fungi family, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, that is grown on molasses. Once grown, the flakes are then harvested, washed, and heat dried to deactivate the yeast. Unlike active dry yeast used in baking, nooch has no leavening properties so won’t froth or allow bread to rise. Its primary function as a yeast is to make things taste amazing.
The thing I love most about nooch is it packs a serious nutritional punch. While numbers can vary between brands, it’s pretty safe to say most nutritional yeast contains essential vitamins, nutrients and complete protein (protein that contains all 9 amino acids and that doesn’t need to be combined with something else to be made complete). For example, 2 tablespoons of the Red Star branch of nutritional yeast contains: less than a gram of fat, 8 grams of protein, 640% daily recommended value (DV) of thiamin (B1), 565% DV of riboflavin (B2), 280% DV of niacin, 480% of vitamin B6, 60% DV of folic acid, and 133% DV of vitamin B12 (the B12 of which is a natural byproduct of the growth process therefore vegan). Woah. All that in 2 teensy tablespoons! Just be sure to check the label when buying as not all brands have the same nutrient values.
Scientific "mumbo-jumbo" aside, nooch is down right delicious. In our house, we put it on anything and everything to add a rich, savory flavor. Our favorites are popcorn, steamed vegetables (especially broccoli) and pasta. It’s also used in many recipes to add a cheesy or eggy flavor without the actual cheese or eggs, thus cutting back on fat and calories. Vegan mac’n’cheese (like the amazing recipe from Chef Chloe), tofu scramble, vegan chicken salad, and eggless quiche. I’ve never had a dish with nutritional yeast that I wasn’t nuts for. As a mother to an oftentimes picky eater who would much rather run around and play then sit down and eat, I love knowing that I can get my kiddo to take in most of her daily protein and many vital nutrients but just putting a bowl of “cheesy” popcorn in front of her!
For those wanting to test the nooch waters, may I suggest making a batch of “cheesy” popcorn yourself to see what all the fuss is about. I personally prefer to make it stove top and here’s my prefered method. Warm up 3 Tbsp. of canola oil and 3 kernels of popping corn in a covered pot on medium-low heat. When the three kernels have popped, add 1/3 cup of corn kernels, put the lid back on at an angle so that the pot isn’t completely covered and remove it from the burner for 30 seconds. Put it back on the burner and shake the pot every few seconds so that the popcorn doesn’t burn. After all the kernels have popped, put your freshly made popcorn into a large bowl, add salt to taste and generously sprinkle with nutritional yeast. Then enjoy! Just know going into it, you likely won’t be able to stop yourself from eating the entire bowl.