nEwe nutritional yeast? He can forgive you for giving him a cold shoulder. For starters, it’s unstable and – let’s admit it – looks lackluster. This yellowish brown color doesn’t help either. But there is more to this essential botanical ingredient than meets the eye.
Author and recipe developer Harriet Pearl doesn’t need to be persuaded by the magic of nutritional yeast. She’s been a fan of it since discovering it at her local health food store in 2012. Nutritional yeast (affectionately known as nooch) has become a pantry staple, which regularly appears in her vegan recipes. Birrell’s Whole and Natural Harry books have provided scores to this flavor booster.
Obviously, others are starting to sit back and pay attention, too. In July, the Cambridge Dictionary saw fit to add the word nooch to its lists; US financial news service Bloomberg released a statement indicating that the global value of the nutritional yeast market will more than double to reach $999.5 million by 2032; And on Etsy, you can buy handmade ceramic jars specifically designed for storing nooch.
Jack Stewart, chef of new bistro Blume in Boonah, Queensland, first encountered nutritional yeast at popular Brunswick Heads restaurant, which used toasted chips in a cabbage and collard salad dressing.
“It’s still an ingredient that a lot of people don’t know about—some see it as a healthy underground food—but a lot of chefs use it,” Stewart says.
Nutritional yeast flakes appear on Bloom’s current menu adorning sebago potatoes, a dish that Stewart describes as pure comfort food.
“Nutritional yeast has a Parmesan flavor almost like umami to me. It is very tasty and makes the dish very rich and delicious.”
But what exactly is it and how is it created? Nutritional yeast is grown specifically as a food product. It is a cured, dried and inactive yeast usually derived from yeast yeastYeast is traditionally used in fermentation. It grows on glucose, sometimes molasses or cane sugar, and is dried and pasteurized. Unlike baker’s yeast, it cannot be used as a raising agent, and it is also different from a nutritional supplement – dried brewer’s yeast – which has a bitter taste.
Birrell’s approach to nooch is something that is constantly evolving. First, I considered it a ready substitute for Parmesan cheese for dishes like tomato zucchini bread. She’s now more adventurous, working the delicious chips into anything from vegan Parmesan to non-dairy “cheese.”
She even uses nooch to balance umami in desserts—like in pancakes and icing she cuts on a vegan carrot cake. It has become something you use almost every day now.
Nicole Dinan, a certified practicing dietitian, only came to nooch recently. Dinan has been resilient for most of her life, and has been hearing about this misunderstood ingredient from vegan customers for years. But she only started trying it in 2020 when she spotted it in a bulk food store.
“It was a pleasant surprise to me. I didn’t think it would be as good as it is,” says Dinan. “I am a fan of Parmesan cheese and it gave me a specific Parmesan flavor. It has a very rich flavour.
She now sprinkles nooch chips as a cheese substitute on lentil bolognese, uses it on salads, and as a flavor enhancer in soups and mashed potatoes.
And despite what you might read on some corners of the health internet, Dynan says nutritional yeast is inactive, so it can’t overgrow yeast. However, she cautioned, there is some evidence to suggest that people with Crohn’s disease should avoid nutritional yeast and nutritional yeast, as they sometimes lead to abnormal immune responses in the guts of susceptible individuals.
For most of us, Dinan says, a nooch is a worthwhile addition. It is low in calories, gluten and lactose free, a source of fiber and fat free and is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids.
Dinan says the most popular brands of nutritional yeast are fortified with vitamins and minerals during the manufacturing process. These include B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, B12) and trace minerals such as selenium, zinc, iron and manganese. “
And while the cost of nooch varies greatly depending on the brand, and where you buy it, the cost can be comparable, or less, per gram of Parmesan.
“We try to encourage Australians to cut back on red meat and processed meat because we eat a lot of it,” says Dinan. “Nutrition yeast is a good alternative product.”
Here are some delicious ways to use it:
Try a lighter version of potato layer bread, using delicious yeast chips and vegetable broth in place of cheese and cream. Cover the base of a deep, heat-resistant dish with a dab of olive oil and shake the nooch chips. Then add the thinly sliced potatoes (mandolin is preferred) and continue layering the potatoes, yeast, and oil until your plate is about half full. Make a double-strength vegetable broth using a good-quality vegetable broth cube, then pour it until it holds together under the last layer of potatoes. Sprinkle more nooch and plenty of ground black pepper on top. Cook the potatoes until soft and golden in a preheated 200°C oven.
Make a delicious fried egg topping for a rice bowl, or to use as a sandwich filling, by sprinkling a mixture of curry powder, chili flakes, salt and nooch on an egg while frying. Flip it and let the heat toast the spices and nosh for another minute or so.
Whisk up the vegan cheese sauce using margarine and flour to make the roux, let the roux cook, then whisk in your favorite vegan milk until any lumps are gone, and add the nosh flakes to taste the cheese.
Make a dressing with cheese and nuts for salads. Just stir the noush flakes into the tahini, then add water to reduce them to your desired consistency. Add lemon juice and salt to taste. This also works well with burgers instead of processed cheese.
Harriet Pearl’s Vegan Parmesan
This recipe is extracted from Edit The Whole, published by Hardy Grant.
Make 1 cup
140 gm raw cashews or selected nuts/seeds
35 grams nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
Add all ingredients to your food processor. Whisk until you get a consistency like almond meal. Enjoy pizza, pasta, salads, and wraps – or as a tasty addition to avoid toast and fuel dishes.
Store in a glass container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or freeze to store for longer periods.
Jack Stewart Kepfeller confit fries with roasted yeast and garlic mayonnaise
Cooking the potatoes the confit way increases the flavour. Roasting yeast flakes brings out their innateness. If you’re buying mayonnaise instead of making it with confit oil, just use a fork to crush the confit garlic before eating it.
To prepare the fried potatoes
500 gm kipfeller potatoesCleaned of all dirt
1 head of garlicAnd the cut in half
Thyme sprig and rosemary
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 liter grape seed oil
salt to taste
To prepare garlic mayonnaise
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon of mustard
½ liter confit oil (from potatoes)
garlic confit (from potatoes)
mayonnaise (good quality and buy it from the store, optional)
nutritional yeast crumbs
200g yeast flakes, Gently roast it in a frying pan until it turns light brown
To cook the potatoes, put them in a deep saucepan, cover with oil and add all the other ingredients. Gently cook on the stovetop until potatoes and garlic soften – about an hour. Using a perforated spoon, carefully remove it, then cut the potatoes into slices. Season with salt, pepper and sherry vinegar.
Add a good amount of mayonnaise over the potato slices, then cover with the cooled and toasted yeast flakes.