This Guilt-Free Faux Cheese Is a Hot New Vegan Trend

“Mmmm, I’ll take another scoop of macaroni and nutritional yeast, please.”

OK, it doesn’t sound nearly as appealing as “mac and cheese.” But, many vegans and clean eaters claim that the flaky, mustard-colored powder makes a surprisingly satisfying substitute for the gooey, fatty stuff. Maybe that’s why nutritional yeast–not to be confused with brewer’s yeast–is popping up in trendy restaurants from Seattle to San Francisco and New York. To make it sound better, a clever vegan started calling it nooch (playing off the front half of the word “nutritional”; We’ve also heard it referred to as “nature’s Cheeto dust.”). Now, with dozens new ways to get the most out of this flaky wonder, it’s moving beyond the cabinets of natural food lovers.

Photo by Meredith

Photo by Meredith

 

Where “Nooch” Comes From

It might help to know exactly what the heck nutritional yeast is, exactly. According to Fat Free Vegan, nutritional yeast is made from a single-celled organism that grows on molasses; it is then harvested, washed, and dried with heat to deactivate it so it doesn’t grow like a baking yeast does. Yeasts are members of the fungi family (so it’s vegan), and, like mushrooms, nutritional yeast has a savory, nutty quality that imparts richness to most dishes. OK, this is starting to make sense.

What Nutritional Yeast Can Do For You

As you probably guessed, nutritional yeast is packed with nutrients, including folic acid, selenium, protein, iron, and B vitamins. It’s also naturally low in fat and free of gluten. One tablespoon of nutritional yeast has only 20 calories, so, yes, it’s a lot easier on the waistline than real cheese.

How to Use It

A tablespoon or two of nutritional yeast adds richness and umami flavor to soup, gravy, or stew or cheesiness to scrambled eggs. Add nutritional yeast flakes and sea salt to almond meal and some dried herbs to make Vegan “Grated” Parmesan Cheese. It’s also perfect for sprinkling on popcorn or pita triangles before baking. Swirl The World’s Best Vegan Melted Cheese into your elbow pasta for a sensational macaroni and cheese. Or, to make delicious and healthy basic pesto, substitute nutritional yeast for the Parmesan and throw in some chia seeds.

Where to Find It

Bragg (in the nifty yellow package) is a trusted brand available at most grocery stores. You can also find nutritional yeast in health food stores (Red Star Vegetarian Formula is a good one) and in bulk at gourmet grocers, like Whole Foods. Cheese may have finally met its match.

 

More on Nutritional Yeast:

Six Unexpected Ways to Use Nutritional Yeast–Besides on Popcorn

How Nutritional Yeast Became the Secret Ingredient in Guacamole

Kale and Nutritional Yeast: What Happens when Health Foods Unite!