When I first heard about dairy-free nutritional yeast, which adds a cheesy flavor to food, I thought it was too good to be true. I searched high and low down the vitamin and supplements aisles – not an easy feat when you don’t know what you’re looking for (and with a 3-year old in tow). Vitamin and supplements aisle? Yes, you heard right, nutritional yeast is actually a health food supplement popular with the vegetarian and vegan communities. It contains protein, essential amino acids and many B-complex vitamins. It’s often fortified with vitamin B12, which is a vitamin only available through animal sources. Found also in the bulk bins at natural food stores, some brands are labelled gluten-free (make sure and verify for yourself).
What is yeast?
It is a single celled microorganism classified as fungi. Its many uses include winemaking, beer brewing and baking as well as food (nutritional yeast). Learn about yeast from the Explore Yeast website. (Full disclosure: The company behind Explore Yeast is LeSaffre, the world’s largest provider of baking yeast and yeast extracts.)
What is dairy-free nutritional yeast?
Nutritional yeast is usually grown on cane or beet molasses. Once fermentation is done, the yeast is harvested, washed and dried using heat, which deactivates or kills it (thus removing any of its leavening ability). Once dried, it may be crumbled into flake or powdered form. If you’re a visual learner, this diagram on the Red Star Yeast website may be helpful.
Why do I like nutritional yeast?
Nutritional yeast adds a cheesy, nutty flavor as well as a creamy texture to dairy-free dishes. It’s easy to use in either flake or powdered form. Oftentimes, my dairy-allergic daughter requests a grilled cheese sandwich or quesadilla so I’ll sprinkle some nutritional yeast on top of her Daiya cheese. I’m happy to do it not only for the flavor, but because it contains much more nutrition than Daiya cheese has on its own. My only gripe is that I wish it contained calcium too!
As I’m not a nutritionist and it is a health food supplement, I use it in moderation. Below are some recipes (including one by me!) that incorporate nutritional yeast for the cheesy taste.
Cheesy Baked Cauliflower Poppers via Delighted Momma
The Best Cheesy Uncheese Sauce via Gluten-Free Goddess
9 Delicious Ways to Use Nutritional Yeast via The Kind Life
Dairy-Free, Egg-Free Oven-Baked Zucchini Dollars via Plate It Safe
Have you ever used nutritional yeast? What was your experience? What is your favorite brand?
Eat safe, shop safe!