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All about NOOCH {Nutritional Yeast: My Secret Ingredient}

All about NOOCH {Nutritional Yeast: My Secret Ingredient}

Immune-boosting. Anti-viral. Digestive aid. Vitamin packed. Wheat free. Dairy-free. No Salt added. Gluten-free. Flavor-FULL. Praised by Vegans everywhere. What. On. Earth.? Enter: Nutritional Yeast. Or, as I (and most everyone else who eats it) like to call it, Nooch. Yes, the name is incredibly unappealing, I'm aware. Not to mention the mustard colored flakes look suspiciously like what you'd sprinkle for fish food, but folks- don't let that deter you from giving this magically delicious seasoning a chance.

I'm going to assume, based on six degrees of separation, you have a friend or know of a-friend-of-a-friend who is vegan. Because honestly, who doesn’t these days? And maybe you've heard them talking about eating some questionable sounding items, such as, you guessed it- nutritional yeast. And if you're anything like the people I've mentioned nooch to, you most likely scrunched up your face, got real judge-y and swore out loud you'd never be caught dead eating that. Forreal though, neither the word “nutritional” nor the word “yeast” leads to any sort of mouthwatering reaction, but honest to god it’s one of the few ingredients that I never let myself run out of... And not because of it's nutritional value, but because of its flavor! That is exactly why I wanted to do a blog post all about this little secret ingredient I add to EVERYTHING savory that I ingest.

What is it?

Nutritional yeast is simply an "inactive" yeast that is made from sugar cane and beet molasses and used as a food additive. It’s very similar to the active yeasts found in breads, but it has no leavening ability (raising agent). Note: nutritional yeast is not the same as brewer’s yeast, which is a product of the beer-making process and is very bitter. Please do not try to substitute 'active dry yeast' or 'baking yeast'. My aunt learned this the hard way by only half-listening to my suggestion that she try nooch as a cheese substitute. Long story short she bought 'active dry yeast' used for baking which resulted in a failure-of-epic-proportions (picture foaming frothy bitter pizza).

I first learned about nooch from my big sister, Delilah, who uses it on her out-of-this-world-delicious "cheesy kale chips". Shout out corner! I am SO thankful my "seastar" opened my eyes to the many diverse foods that I probably would have never been brave enough to try on my own. She is the reason I first tried Indian food (love at first bite), kimchi, sushi, bi bim bop, tofu, curry and so many other swoon-worthy foods... big sisters know best!

What does it taste like?

A lot of people love nutritional yeast for it’s semblance to parmesan cheese, thus it is most commonly known to be used as a cheese "substitute". Nutritional yeast has a flavor that is usually described as nutty, savory or “umami”. I personally think it has a hint of a "chicken broth" flavor. It's not the easiest flavor to describe but all I know is I could eat it plain by the spoonful. Just a tablespoon or two can add such a rich flavor to soups, salads, pizza, gravy and other dishes. Larger amounts can make sauces mimicking alfredo, pesto or nacho cheese. If you’re totally new to nutritional yeast, it’s better to try it a little at a time rather than to dive head first into a recipe requiring a lot of it. First, I recommend you:

  • Sprinkle it on popcorn (personal favorite)
  • Sprinkle it onto eggs or on buttered toast/english muffin
  • Sprinkle it onto your salad
  • Stir it into mashed potatoes
  • Add it to grits or polenta to make them "cheesy'
  • Sprinkle on any pasta or pizza dish
  • Create "almond parmesan" by blending nutritional yeast with raw almonds in a food processor
  • Toss vegetables in EVOO & Nooch and oven roast (see below)

Delicata squash tossed with garlic, salt, pepper & nutritional yeast and oven roasted

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One of my favorite additions to chili is nutritional yeast!  

One of my favorite additions to chili is nutritional yeast!  

Nutritional Benefits?

Here we go... this is where nutritional yeast packs a big punch. I'm sure you can guess from its name, it's packed with nutrition, particularly B-vitamins, folic acid, selenium, zinc, and protein. Not only is it low in fat, it contains zero salt, it's gluten-free (check specific brands for certification) and it contains no added sugars or preservatives. Nooch is rich in B vitamins, which are great for maintaining a good food metabolism, a healthy nervous system and to help your body regenerate red blood cells (great if you suffer from anemia). If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you may be missing out on these important nutrients but please note that not all nooch has B12 added, so check the label carefully before buying. While researching info for this post- I also learned that nutritional yeast is great for your dogs to eat! Rogue is currently devouring his dinner with a whole new appreciation. The vitamins in nooch are also known to provide beneficial protein and thiamine to your diet as well as promote healthy hair, skin and nails. I also read that the folate in nooch aids a Healthy Pregnancy and may prevent birth defects.

    Here is the nutritional breakdown for 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast: (keep in mind that this shows a fortified version and you can purchase nutritional yeast that has not been fortified as well)

    • 60 calories
    • 5 calories from fat (.5g Fat)
    • 5 grams carbohydrates
    • 4 grams fiber
    • 9 grams protein
    • 25mg sodium
    • 790% RDV of thiamine (vitamin B1)
    • 570% RDV of riboflavin (vitamin B2)
    • 300% RDV of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
    • 230% RDV of niacin (vitamin B3)
    • 290% RDV of vitamin B12
    • 270% RDV of folate (vitamin B9)
    • 20% RDV of zinc

    Since our bodies can only absorb so much of any one nutrient at a time, and since you need B vitamins dispersed throughout the day to help your body convert food to energy, it is recommended that you add just one teaspoon of nutritional yeast to foods at each meal which would provide 10 calories, 3/4 gram of fiber, 1.5 grams of a complete protein, 50- 100% of your daily value for all B vitamins plus some selenium and iron!

    Like I said earlier, the vitamin and mineral benefits are all well and good, but honestly I just use it because I love the flavor kick it adds! WHERE TO FIND IT? I usually buy it by the 1/2lb where they sell bulk food items in Earthfare or Whole Foods but I have also seen it at Publix (Bob's Red Mill Brand) as well as at Trader Joes (and this one definitely have B12 added).

    Here are a few of my favorite nooch-based recipes:

    Nooch Salad Dressing:

    • 1/3 cup of nutritional yeast
    • 1/3 cup water
    • 1 tablespoon minced garlic or 3 cloves freshly pressed
    • 1/4 cup EVOO or avocado oil
    • 1/3 cup of soy sauce/tamari/or liquid aminos/or coconut aminos
    • 1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar
    • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
    1. Add all ingredients to a dressing bottle & refrigerate
    2. Blend or shake to mix thoroughly before using

    Vegan Pesto

    • 2 cups packed fresh basil
    • 3/4 cup Nutritional yeast
    • 1/2 cup EVOO or avocado oil
    • 2 cloves garlic fresh pressed or 1 Tbs minced
    • 1/2 cup walnuts
    • Salt & pepper to taste

    1.  Blend all of the above in high-powered blender or food processor until smooth consistency
    2.  Toss with pasta, use as pizza sauce or use as a condiment for burgers or fries!

    Cheesy Kale Chips

    • 1 bunch, about 5 ounces, Kale (stems removed)
    • 2 tablespoons EVOO or avocado oil
    • 1/2 cup Nutritional Yeast
    • Salt, to taste
    • Pepper, to taste
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    2. Wash and dry the kale. Pat it dry with a paper towel.
    3. In a bowl, add the kale and olive oil. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with the nutritional yeast, salt and pepper and mix with your hands or a wooden spoon to evenly distribute.
    4. Place the kale on a large baking sheet, spreading evenly and making sure not to overcrowd or overlap the pieces.
    5. Bake on the center rack of the oven at 350 degrees F for 10 - 15 minutes or until crisp enough for your preference

    Thank you so much for reading, y'all! I tried to research and check my facts on all information I provided and I apologize in advance if I got anything incorrect... Bottom line: nutritional yeast is nutritious and delicious and you should try it out :) and let me know if you do!

    -Gabrielle

    Wanderlust: Austin, TX Edition

    Wanderlust: Austin, TX Edition

    Some call it love... I call it "Brinner"

    Some call it love... I call it "Brinner"