Thursday, June 28, 2012

What is Nutritional Yeast?

You've may have noticed that I reference Nutritional Yeast in a lot of my recipes: Hoff's Buttery RiceHoff's Chickzo, Hoff's Pesto Sauce - you get the picture.

So, what is it?

Nutritional Yeast is classified as a nutritional food supplement.  It is derived from fermenting yeast, among other things.  Depending on your taste buds or how you use it, it can take on a salty, nutty, cheesy or buttery flavor.  Vegans tend to use it in place of cheese in recipes.  It comes in flake or powder form and can be used as part of a recipe or as a condiment.  

Is it healthy?

Yes, Nutritional Yeast is usually fortified with B12 (make sure it is), making it an excellent source for this essential vitamin, which is lacking in a vegan/vegetarian diet.  Nutritional Yeast is low in fat and sodium and free of dairy, sugar & gluten.  Typically free of preservatives, it also contains protein, fiber and essential amino acids.  Depending on the brand it may contain B vitamins, niacin, folic acid, zinc and selenium.  But to be honest, I use it for the taste & the B12, everything else is just a bonus.  

Where to get it...

Nutritional Yeast is a very popular item in the bulk bins of "healthy" grocery stores. It's a great bargain because it weighs next to nothing, so you can get a lot and pay very little - I stock up this way when the opportunity presents itself.

It can also be found in the supplement section of health food stores.

I typically get my Nutritional Yeast from, because I don't have a "healthy" grocery store nearby.  They sell Bob's Red Mill for $9 for an 8oz. bag.  A little more than I suspect I would pay at the bulk bin, but this one is a convenience factor.  Or you can get a handy dandy shaker by Red Star for $4 for an 5oz. bottle.  I like them both.

What to do with it...

I use it as a flavor enhancer, particularly when I'm looking for a cheesy or buttery taste.  You can use it as a topping/add-in for just about everything - pizza, scrambled tofu, garlic bread, stir-fry, spaghetti, casseroles, chili, soups, mashed potatoes, gravies, cheese sauce...  Many times, vegan mac & cheese recipes will rely heavily on Nutritional Yeast.  It also makes a great topping for popcorn - spray popcorn with a little Bragg Liquid Aminos and then mix in some Nutritional Yeast - cheesy popcorn!

Where to put it...

Store it in a cool, dry place (hmm, your cabinet perhaps). I like to store mine in a glass mason jar (along with ever other dry-good in my kitchen).

At first you may think, "This tastes nothing like cheese!"  Give it a fair chance, eventually your taste buds will come around and in the absence of real cheese, this stuff may become your new best friend.

Keep It Healthy!
The Hoff

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