A friend told me recently that as soon as she sees the words “nutritional yeast” in the ingredients list for a recipe she just. stops. reading. Oh, the sadness in my soul upon hearing this! Not that I’m using swaths of nutritional yeast every chance I get, mind you, but it certainly does the trick for many savory vegan dishes by adding a creamier texture, depth of flavor, and important nutrients. It’s a win-win.
So what in the world is nutritional yeast (or “nooch” as most vegans lovingly call it)? I realize the word yeast conjures up images we would rather not discuss in a public forum, but this is a different, deactivated yeast that is grown on molasses, then harvested and dried (who knew?). We vegans like to use nooch to make “cheesy” recipes like “mac and cheese” or pesto, and I have heard that nooch is fabulous sprinkled on popcorn or pizza dough straight out the oven. Nutritional yeast flakes — which you can pick up in the health food or bulk section of most grocery stores — are one of the only non-meat sources of vitamin B12 (and you know you need more of that goodness, my friends) as well as a great source of magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, and other vitamins and minerals that cannot be pronounced or spelled at this point in the evening. Oh, and not to get all crazy with the resume, but nooch also contains 18 amino acids, folic acid, and a healthy dose of protein, all whilst being low in fat, cholesterol and calories. Bam!
So now that you know about nooch (and are hopefully a bit less fearful when you hear its name), you’re wondering what to do with the bag of flakes you’re going to be shoveling out of the bulk bins tomorrow, right? Right. Don’t start off making nutritional yeast pancakes, tempting as that may sound. I recommend using nooch in a pasta sauce on noodles (I’m going to try this variation tomorrow night– http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2007/10/easy-macaroni-and-cheeze.html), in a vegan pesto (see my earlier blog post on “Presto Vegan Pesto!”), or adding a few tablespoons to mashed potatoes (or potato soup) to add a salty flavor and smoothness sans sour cream or added sodium. What could be better?
Take a walk on the wild side — get out there and scoop some nooch! 🙂