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Everything You Need to Know About "Nooch"

Although it is not a “new” product, nutritional yeast is still relatively unknown to most but is gaining traction among foodies because of its versatility, umami flavor, and impressive nutritional profile.

Nutritional yeast, affectionately called “nooch” among those who love this pantry ingredient, is a kitchen staple in most vegan homes. But even if you aren’t vegan, you should give this ingredient a whirl. Vegans often feel like they’re missing out on that savory component of foods such as meat and cheeses, but nooch provides that savory flavor most of us omnivores get from animal products. Nutritional yeast is often used to top popcorn and pasta, but the possibilities are endless!

What Is It, Exactly?

Nutritional yeast (nooch) is a deactivated yeast that grows on sugar cane or beet molasses. It is similar to brewer’s yeast, which is the main ingredient used during fermentation in the beer-making process. The yeast is harvested from its food source (cane sugar or molasses) and is then heated and dried. This process renders the yeast inactive, meaning it won’t bubble or grow. It can be found sold in flake or powder form and melts very well, much like cheese would.

How Does It Taste?

The taste can be described as cheesy, nutty, and savory or umami. Trust me, even if you are a meat eater, this vegan pantry staple will win you over once you try it.

Nutrition Powerhouse

How can so many beneficial nutrients be packed into just a tablespoon? A single tablespoon provides you with the following:

Calories: 20

Fat: 0 grams

Carbohydrates: 2 grams

Fiber: 1 gram

Protein: 3 grams

180% Daily Value Thiamine (Vitamin B1)

160% Daily Value Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)

70% Daily Value Niacin (Vitamin B3)

40% Daily Value Folic Acid

30% Daily Value Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)

140% Daily Value Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6)

40% Daily Value Cobalamin (Vitamin B12)

The vitamin B12 in nutritional yeast is added (fortified) because yeast does not naturally contain it. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products, making nutritional yeast a great addition to a well-rounded vegan or vegetarian diet.

Nutrition yeast is also gluten-free, certified Kosher, salt-free, sugar-free, and cholesterol-free.

So Many Uses

Use nutritional yeast in any way you would use Parmesan cheese — sprinkle a little on top of your favorite whole-grain pasta dish, add a dusting to your pizza to amp up the flavor and nutritional profile, or shake a little into a filling bowl of savory soup.

*Sprinkle on top of roasted vegetables, salads, and your favorite rice dishes.

*Shake over popcorn for a pop of flavor and boost of nutrition (butter is high in fat and calories and doesn’t offer all those vitamins nooch does).

*Dredge your chicken breast or fish fillets with nutritional yeast rather than boring old breadcrumbs.

*Make a savory vegan mushroom gravy or “alfredo-like” pasta sauce or dipping sauce for bread.

*Substitute for cheese called for in dips and spreads.

*Add into burger patties, mac and cheese, or casseroles for extra creaminess.

How Do I Get My Hands On Some?

As nutritional yeast gains popularity, it will likely be found in more mainstream grocery stores, especially sold pre-packaged in the spice aisle under the brand name Bragg’s Nutritional Yeast Seasoning. Health food stores, such as Whole Foods, also sell nutritional yeast in their bulk foods section where you can purchase as little or as much as you’d like. This might be a good place to start if you are a little apprehensive about trying it, especially considering the name is not all that appealing.

To keep it fresh and lock in all those beneficial B vitamins, store nutrition yeast in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Storing it in dark glass or ceramic containers can help block out sunlight. Stored correctly, it should last you about two years.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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