One of the hardest parts of being a new vegan (or even an old seasoned vegan) is trying to keep up with all the new products out there. I must have spent over $50 looking for the "right" vegan cheese my first year being a vegan and I have over 50 vegan/vegetarian cookbooks in my arsenal but not all the recipes are the greatest. I’m the first born so I’m used to being a Guinea Pig and now I’m your Vegan Guinea Pig. So here are my recommendations and critiques. Let me know what you think!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Vegan’s Guide to the Universe – Part 2: Nutritional Yeast

Chances are before you became vegan you never heard the words “nutritional yeast” muttered a day in your life and now it seems to be in every vegan cookbook you look up! So what is this stuff and why are vegans so crazy for it?

Nutritional Yeast is an inactive dry yeast filled with a healthy dose of vitamins and protein. It is coveted for its “cheesy” taste and if you haven’t already noticed nearly all vegan mac and cheese recipes call for it in varying amounts. But it is more than just a cheese-tasting substitute it adds a rich flavor and a creamy texture to a range of dishes. It’s perfect on popcorn (and yes, I’ve snuck it into the movie theatre on more than one occasion). It’s great in soups, casseroles, gravies, salads, steamed veggies, etc. Damn near anything you eat goes great with nutritional yeast. As an added bonus it is loaded with vitamins, minerals and 8 grams of protein for every 1 ½ tablespoon serving.

Nutritional Yeast is available in the bulk section of most health food stores and co-ops and is fairly inexpensive. 1 pound will run you somewhere between $5.99-$7.99 in the bulk. Typically I get a couple cups at a time which runs me about $2 or less. One important thing to make sure of when getting your nutritional yeast in bulk is that it is the Red Star brand. Red Star brand has the highest vitamin and mineral content and, in my humble opinion, the best flavor. Here’s the macro and micro nutrient content of Red Star Nutritional Yeast:

1 ½ tablespoon servings contains:
60 calories
1 gram of fat (1% daily value)
5 mg of sodium (0% daily value)
7g carbohydrates (2% daily value)
4 grams fiber (16% daily value)
8 grams protein (17% daily value)

9.6 mg Thiamine/B1 (640% daily value)
56 mg Niacin (280% daily value)
240 mcg Folic Acid (60% daily value)
22.4 mcg Selenium (32% daily value)
0.77mg Iron (4% daily value)
9.6 mg Riboflavin/B2 (565% daily value)
9.6 mg Vitamin B6 (480% daily value)
8 mcg Vitamin B12 (133% daily value)
3.2 mg Zinc (21% daily value)

Other vitamins and minerals less than 20% daily value: biotin, pantothenic acid, magnesium, copper, manganese, calcium, potassium

We’ve establish that nutritional yeast, despite it’s funny name, taste great and is really good for you now here are a couple recipes to get you acquainted with the taste of nutritional yeast.

Mack the Spork's Cheeze Sauce (Check out what other PPKers like to do with Nutritional Yeast or "nooch" on the PPK Forums)

2 cups water
1 cup nooch
4 oz. jar pimentos, drained
1/4 cup raw cashews
2 Tb cornstarch
1 Tb lemon juice
1/2 Tb mellow white miso
1 Tb dijon mustard
1 & 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Blend everything in a blender/food processor until completely smooth. Pour into a saucepan and whisk over medium heat until thickened. Add a dash of black pepper, and taste for salt/lemon.

Notes from Mack the Spork: It’s my modification of the “Nacho cheeze sauce” from Jennifer McCann’s blog (of Vegan Lunchbox – recipes are at Shmooed Food) which I think in turn is based off of something else. It’s so easy and sooooooo good. And it doesn't have that "feet" smell that some nooch sauces have. My pantry is filled with jars of pimientos and cashews because I live in fear of not being able to make this on the spot. I actually made some last night with just 1c water so it would be thicker, and a little extra nooch and cornstarch. Added thawed chopped broccoli, and stuffed it into a basic dough for cheezy broccoli pockets. Leftovers for luuuuuuncchh, blarrrrgghhhhhharghargggh *Homer Simpson drool noise*

Spicy Popcorn (courtesy of

4 cups Popcorn
1 to 2 tablespoon Olive or canola oil
¼ cup Red Star ® Vegetarian Support Formula™ nutritional yeast flakes
½ teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Chili powder
1 teaspoon Dried oregano leaves

Place the popcorn in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the oil and tossed well.

Place the nutritional yeast flakes, salt, chili and oregano in a small container. Cover tightly and shake well.

Sprinkle the nutritional yeast mixture over the popcorn, and toss until evenly distributed.

Guinea Pig Note: As far as cheese sauces go every vegan has their favorite and you can rarely find more than a handful who will all rave about the same recipe. I've only run across a couple I don't like and about a dozen I'm in love with. Do a google search and you'll find dozens and dozens of different variations of vegan mac and cheese trial and error will be the only way to determine which one you love the most!

One More Guinea Pig Note: Although nutritional yeast is an amazing addition to any recipe I recommend finding places where you can use it without having to expose it to the heat of cooking (as this destroys some of the vitamin B complex content).


  1. Are you sure about those numbers? 8 grams of protein in 1.5 tablespoon of yeast sounds an awful lot. How much yeast are you cramming into that poor tablespoon? ;-)

  2. I assure you edanator those stats are correct. Isn't it great? 8 grams of protein in just 1.5 tablespoons of nooch? It's a vegan's dream come true.

  3. And all that Vitamin B12!

    Haha I love your name. I had some veganrella at dinner tonight ;o).

  4. I love nutritional yeast!I put it on or in everything I possibly can. I can hardly remember the days before it.


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