Understanding Nutritional Yeast

We admit to being a little quieter than usual over the last few months, but it’s definitely not without reason. We’ve been rethinking the way we structure content for all of you and decided it was time to relook our intentions. With simple questions like; why did we start Give a Fork, and what made us want to share content were some of the underlining questions that we found ourselves asking. A major part of that reason was to educate people, to share our experiences and failures with you. To remove the stigma that going fully plant-based is the most difficult thing in the world – when it’s really not and to help create a community that feels supported and heard.

During the past two years, we’ve shared many recipes, with minor mentions of ingredients, their benefits and origins, but we think it’s time to dive a little deeper.

Going forward we’ll be sharing well-researched posts on some of the fundamental ingredients of any plant-based diet. If you have any ingredients you’d like us to do a little more research on DM us and let us know, we’ll try our best to help out.

This month we’re leading with Nutritional Yeast, an ingredient I don’t think we could live without.

What is Nutritional Yeast?

While we know a lot of you steer clear of nutritional yeast given the unappealing name, but this little plant-based gem is yellow gold. Derived from a single-celled organism, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, grown on beet molasses and sugar cane, harvested, washed and then dried with heat to deactivate its leavening properties. If you’re wondering if it’s the same kind of yeast used in beer and bread, you’re absolutely correct. Unlike “active yeast” or “brewing yeast” (which is what is used for beer and bread making) nutritional yeast is pasteurised or heated which renders it inactive making it a simple flavouring agent rather than a rising one.

What are the Benefits?

As with any ingredient, once off and on its own, it will have very little impact. Added consistently and paired with a healthy, balanced diet it could change everything. Nutritional yeast might get used in small quantities, but still packs quite the punch.

  • One tablespoon amounts to 2-4 grams of protein, depending on the brand. The best part, it’s a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids your body needs. Who needs an egg.
  • Naturally Gluten Free so it won’t interfere with your wheat intolerances and allergies.
  • Really high in trace minerals such as zinc, selenium, manganese and molybdenum (Usually found in milk, cheese, cereal grains, legumes and nuts) Getting enough trace minerals allows your body to carry out its daily bodily functions optimally. There is no bodily process on a cellular or systemic level that can operate without the correct amount of minerals, make it a priority to absorb as many as possible.
  • It’s full of B Vitamins, isn’t that what any vegan wants to hear. In a single tablespoon of nutritional yeast, you’ll get between 30-180% of your recommended daily intake (this, of course, depends on the brand)

What Does It Taste Like?

Like cheese. That’s the simple answer, the more complex answer is that it works incredibly well as a cheese flavour substitute. The combination of nutty, cheesy and general umami flavour profiles of nutritional yeast is what makes it so appealing. It adds a richness and depth to broths and provides a comforting cheese-like flavour to sauces and bakes. IT CONTAINS NO MSG. The salty, slightly nutty flavour comes from the glutamic acid, an amino that forms during the drying process, and while it’s found in many fruits and vegetables its not a commercial additive.

How do You Use Nutritional Yeast?

Because of it’s nutty, cheesy and salty flavour profile, nutritional yeasts uses are endless. If you’re new to the cheesy flakes we suggested adding a little at a time. Add a sprinkle to popcorn, stir it into mash potatoes, polenta, or bean mash, create a cheese sauce or even sprinkle it on pasta like you would parmesan. It even works wonderfully in desserts like a chocolate miso tart. Start simple and get experimental once you’ve acquainted yourself with the taste. You can also find recipes on our site where we’ve used nutritional yeast:

Where and How do you buy Nutritional Yeast?

Many health stores now stock nutritional yeast in bulk, which is how we suggest you purchase it. It can be found in either a powder or flakes, it all depends on your preference. Personally, I like the flakes, but if you choose powder remember you only need half the amount compared to the flakes.

You want to look for brands that have been fortified with B12, such as Braggs to get the most out of your ingredient choice. You want a brand thats Non-GMO, unsweetened and free of any artificial additives. Nutritional yeast can be stored for up to a year if stored in a dry, cool place – which is why we suggest buying in bulk. The following stores all stock Nutritional Yeast:

  • Wellness Warehouse
  • Faithful-to-Nature
  • Nude Food
    A plastic-free grocer, so make sure to either bring a jar along or purchase one there. Alternatively, you can make use of their brown paper bags.
  • You can also find Natures Choice Nutritional Yeast Flakes at most Pick n Pays and Spar stores.

*please don’t mistake nutritional yeast for brewers yeast, they’re not at all the same thing. Even if they come from similar origins the end products are completely different.

Nutritional yeast might sound a little scary at first, and its uses might seem strange but once you know it’s flavour and the versatility of the ingredient your options become infinite. We have a post coming soon that uses nutritional yeast as one of its prominent ingredients so much so that if sold in a store one might add it first on the ingredient list.