14 of the Tastiest Ways to Use Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast is a staple in the kitchen for plant-based and vegan cooks, and this savory, cheesy, umami-packed seasoning should be in yours, too. Lovingly called “nootch” by its fans, nutritional yeast is easy to use in all kinds of dishes (even if you’re a meat-eater). Don’t confuse nutritional yeast with baking yeast (the type you add to bread) or with brewer’s yeast (a bitter supplement that’s often used to boost breastmilk supplies).
Nutritional yeast “comes in dry, small flakes and tastes kind of like Parmesan cheese,” says Rachel Larkey, RD, CDN, CLC, a dietitian based in Brooklyn.
How to Use Nutritional Yeast
Ready to get cooking? Here’s how to use nutritional yeast. You can use it in cooked or baked dishes (though it is not a swap for active dry yeast!) or sprinkle it right on your food.
1. On popcorn
Perhaps the most common (and most delicious) way to use nutritional yeast is on popcorn. Larkey likes it “with seasonings like paprika, salt, and chipotle pepper,” but you can get creative. A tiny spray of oil will help your nutritional yeast stick but isn’t necessary.
Try topping your popcorn with nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, turmeric, black pepper, and flaky sea salt.
2. In tofu scramble
If you’ve ever had this vegan breakfast staple, you’ve likely tried nutritional yeast. Recipes for tofu scramble use it for a cheesy flavor with a little more depth (thanks to the umami). Try it in a tofu scramble with a bit of extra nootch on top.
3. In pesto
Pesto is traditionally made with Parmesan cheese. Swapping in nutritional yeast keeps that yummy flavor while saving you money (real Parm is expensive!). Use an equal amount of nutritional yeast in place of the Parmesan your recipe calls for, plus a teaspoon of oil (or water) to keep it from getting too dry.
4. On pasta
What’s pasta without a little cheese on top? Nutritional yeast is right at home atop any pasta dish, from lasagna and carbonara to spaghetti and meatballs (or wheat balls, if you’re plant-based). You can shake on plain nutritional yeast, or make this easy, cheesy Italian seasoning blend.
Mix ¼ cup each nutritional yeast and almond flour with ¼ to ½ teaspoon each garlic powder and dried oregano. Mix well and season to taste with salt. If you like heat, add a pinch or two of crushed red pepper.
5. In sauces
Stir a few spoonfuls of nutritional yeast into any sauce — it’s tasty in most types of cuisines where a little cheesy flavor would blend in. It can also thicken up sauces in place of flour and create a creamy texture without adding dairy.
6. As a coating
Use nutritional yeast with breadcrumbs or other coatings. It’s tasty on tofu or tempeh, as well as chicken breasts or whitefish fillets.
Try mixing ¼ cup of nutritional yeast with the zest from 1 lemon, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, ¼ cup almond flour, and 1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning blend for a quick and easy breading that’s both vegan and gluten-free. (Yes, nutritional yeast is gluten-free!)
7. On veggies
Sprinkle nutritional yeast on raw or cooked vegetables. It’s delightful on steamed asparagus, roasted broccoli, and fresh bell pepper or cucumber slices. If you are plant-based or looking for creative (and savory) ways to boost your protein intake, adding nutritional yeast to simple vegetables is an easy snack hack!
8. On kale chips
Kale chips are arguably one of the tastiest ways to enjoy this dark leafy green. Rub a clean, dry bunch of kale leaves with about a tablespoon of oil, then sprinkle with nutritional yeast and salt to taste (plus any other seasonings you like). Bake at 225 degrees Fahrenheit on a baking sheet for 15 to 25 minutes, until crispy (flip them halfway through).
9. On salads
Have you seen the prepackaged salad mixes that have little packets of seasoned nuts and seeds? You can make your own at home for far less. Mix nutritional yeast with chopped roasted nuts and seeds, then sprinkle over your salads for a flavor boost. You can also toss nutritional yeast right on your salad — or add it to your favorite dressing. It’s delightful in tahini-based dressings as well as vinaigrettes.
10. In veggie burgers and vegan “meats”
The next time you make veggie burgers, add some nutritional yeast to the mix. The burgers will taste a bit richer and more savory. For more advanced plant-based cooks, mix a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast into veggie meatballs, seitan, and more.
11. In soups
Stir nutritional yeast into both broth-based and creamy soups. Minestrone or other vegetable soups will benefit from the added “mouthfeel,” while creamier soups can be slimmed down by using nutritional yeast in place of some milk, cream, or butter.
12. In cashew “cheese”
Just about every recipe for cashew cheese (or cashew cream) calls for a little nutritional yeast. It adds a cheesy edge to the rich creaminess of cashews. For good measure, stir some into every dairy-free cream and cheese sauce you make.
13. On avocado toast
Avocado toast is delicious, but it’s not always satiating. Adding nutritional yeast delivers extra protein and staying power. Once you try it, you’ll wonder how you ever ate avocado toast without nootch.
14. Anywhere and everywhere
When learning how to use nutritional yeast, get creative. If you think that a dish could benefit from a sprinkle of savory deliciousness, give it a try. The flavor blends in wonderfully. Keep a shaker container of it on your countertop, so it’s always within reach.
How is nutritional yeast good for you?
Nutritional yeast is an inactive form of yeast. It is often fortified with B vitamins. (Not all brands are fortified, though common ones like Bragg’s, Bob’s Red Mill, and Red Star do contain added B complex vitamins.)
“It is awesome for vegans because it has a lot of B12, which vegans can’t get from other foods as easily, but it’s great for non-vegans as well because it packs a lot of nutrients in a small amount,” says Larkey.
Per serving (2 heaping tablespoons of large flakes), nutritional yeast benefits include:
- 0.8 g fat
- 5 mg sodium
- 7 g carbs
- 4 g fiber
- 8 g protein
- 640% DV thiamin (B1)
- 565% DV riboflavin (B2)
- 280% DV niacin
- 480% DV vitamin B6
- 60% DV folic acid
- 133% DV vitamin B12
Do you keep nutritional yeast in the fridge?
While you should keep active dry yeast refrigerated, so it helps your bread and rolls rise, nutritional yeast does not need to be stored in the fridge.
Wondering where to buy nutritional yeast? Head to a health-food store or a supermarket, where it’s often found near the baking ingredients. It is also available online. Because it’s shelf-stable, she says, it’s an excellent cheese substitute in recipes when “you don’t have cheese readily available, or you don’t feel like buying it just for that recipe.” (Nutritional yeast is also handy to take on camping or hiking trips for this reason.)
Can you eat nutritional yeast raw?
You sure can! Nutritional yeast can be used straight from the container or in cooked foods.
Can nutritional yeast be used in baking?
While you could add nutritional yeast to a baking recipe for flavor, it wouldn’t yield the same effects as the type used for baking.
“Baking yeast is alive when purchased, leavens bread, and gives an earthy flavor,” explains Larkey. “In nutritional yeast, the yeast cells are dead by the time you buy it. It gives a nutty, cheesy, or savory flavor to foods.”