northew to nutritional yeast? You could be forgiven for turning your back on him. For starters, it’s flaky and, let’s face it, looks boring. That yellowish-brown color doesn’t help either. But there is more to this traditional vegan staple than meets the eye.
Author and recipe developer Harriet Birrell doesn’t need convincing on the charms of nutritional yeast. She has been a fan of it ever since she discovered it at her local health food store in 2012. Nutritional yeast (affectionately known as nooch) has become a pantry must-have and regularly appears in her recipes. of plants. Birrell’s books, Whole and Natural Harry, have introduced scores to this hard-working flavor enhancer.
Clearly, others are beginning to sit up and take notice as well. In July, Cambridge Dictionary saw fit to add the word nooch to its listings; US financial news service Bloomberg issued a statement indicating that the global value of the nutritional yeast market would more than double to US$999.5 million by 2032; And on Etsy, you can buy handmade ceramic jars specially designed to store nooch.
Jack Stuart, chef and owner of neo-bistro Blume in Queensland’s Boonah, first encountered nutritional yeast at Brunswick Heads’ acclaimed Fleet restaurant, which used toasted flakes in a dressing for a coleslaw and kale salad.
“It’s still an ingredient that a lot of people don’t know about, some see it as an underground health food, but a lot of chefs are using it,” says Stuart.
Nutritional yeast flakes appear on Blume’s current menu garnishing a sebago potato hash, a dish Stuart describes as pure comfort food.
“To me, nutritional yeast tastes like Parmesan almost like umami. It is very tasty and makes a very rich and tasty dish.”
But what exactly is it and how is it created? Nutritional yeast is grown specifically as a food product. It is a dried, inactive, processed form of yeast, usually derived from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a yeast traditionally used in brewing. It is grown with glucose, sometimes molasses or sugar cane, dehydrated and pasteurized. Unlike baker’s yeast, it cannot be used as a raising agent and is also different from the food supplement, dry brewer’s yeast, which has a bitter taste.
Birrell’s approach to nooch is something that is constantly evolving. First, he saw it as a ready-to-use parmesan substitute for dishes like his tomato zucchini bake. She’s more adventurous now, putting the salty flakes to work in anything from plant-based Parmesan to dairy-free cream “cheese.”
She even uses nooch to give sweets umami balance, like in pancakes and the frosting she spreads on a plant-based carrot cake. It has become something he now wears almost every day.
Nicole Dynan, a registered practicing dietitian, recently came to Nooch. A flexitarian for most of her life, Dynan had heard about this misunderstood ingredient from vegan customers for years. But she only got to try it in 2020 when she saw it at a bulk food store.
“I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t think it would be as good as it is,” says Dynan. “I’m a huge Parmesan lover and it definitely gave me Parmesan vibes. It tastes pretty rich.”
Now he sprinkles nooch flakes as a cheese substitute on lentil bolognese, uses them in salads, and as a flavor enhancer in soups and mashed potatoes.
And despite what you might read in some corners of the wellness internet, Dynan says that nutritional yeast is inactive, so it can’t increase yeast overgrowth. However, he cautions that there is some evidence to suggest that people with Crohn’s disease should avoid baker’s, brewer’s and nutritional yeast, as they sometimes trigger abnormal immune responses in the intestines of susceptible people.
For most of us, however, nooch is a worthwhile addition, says Dynan. It is low in calories, gluten and lactose free, a source of fiber, zero fat and is a complete protein that contains all nine essential amino acids.
The most common brands of nutritional yeast are fortified, says Dynan, with “vitamins and minerals added during the manufacturing process. These include B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, and B12) and trace elements such as selenium, zinc, iron, and manganese.”
And while the cost of nooch varies widely by brand and where you buy it, the cost per gram can be comparable to or less than Parmesan.
“We’re trying to encourage Australians to cut back on red meat and processed meat because we eat too much of it,” says Dynan. “Nutritional yeast is a good alternative product.”
Here are some tasty ways to use it:
Try a lighter version of a baked potato layer, using salty yeast flakes and vegetable broth instead of cheese and cream. Cover the base of a deep ovenproof dish with a drizzle of olive oil and some nooch flakes. Then add thinly sliced potatoes (preferably with a mandolin) and continue to layer the potatoes, yeast flakes and oil until the dish is half full. Make a double-strength vegetable stock with a good quality vegetable stock cube, then pour until just below the last layer of potato. Sprinkle more nooch and lots of ground black pepper on top. Cook until the potatoes are tender and golden in a preheated oven at 200C.
Make a tasty fried egg topping for a rice dish, or to use as a sandwich filling, by carefully sprinkling a mixture of curry powder, chili flakes, salt, and nooch on an egg while frying. Flip it over and let the heat toast the spices and nooch for another minute or so.
Make a vegan cheese sauce using plant-based margarine and flour to create a roux, let the roux cook, then whisk in your preferred plant-based milk until lumps are gone, adding nooch flakes to taste for the cheese .
Create a cheese and walnut dressing for salads. Simply mix nooch flakes into tahini, then add water to thin it to your desired consistency. Add lemon juice and salt to taste. This also works well on a hamburger instead of processed cheese.
Harriet Birrell’s Plant-Based Parmesan
This recipe is an edited excerpt from Whole, published by Hardie Grant.
Does 1 cup
140g raw cashews or nut/seed of choice
35g nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
Add all ingredients to your food processor. Pulse until you get a texture like almond flour. Enjoy it on pizza, pasta, salads and wraps, or as a delicious addition to avocado toast and nutritious bowls.
Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or freeze for longer storage.
Jack Stuart’s kipfler candied potato with toasted yeast and garlic mayonnaise
Cooking candied potatoes intensifies the potato flavor. Toasting the yeast flakes brings out their nutty flavor. If you are buying mayonnaise instead of making it with oil confit, simply use a fork to mash the garlic confit before serving.
It serves 4
For the candied potatoes
500g Kipfler potatoescleaned of all dirt
1 head of garlic, Cut in half
Thyme and rosemary sprig
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1L of grape seed oil
For the garlic mayonnaise
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon of mustard
½ liter of candied oil (from potatoes)
confit garlic (from potatoes)
Mayonnaise (good quality and store bought, optional)
For the nutritional yeast crumb
200 g of yeast flakes, gently toasted in a pan until lightly browned
To cook the potatoes, place them in a deep, sturdy saucepan, cover with oil, and add all the other ingredients. Cook gently on the stovetop until the potatoes and garlic are tender, about an hour. Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove then slice the candied potatoes. Season with flaky salt, pepper and sherry vinegar.
Add a good dollop of mayonnaise over the sliced potatoes, then top with cooled, toasted yeast flakes.