Vegan Cooking Tips

Quick & Easy Tips for Working With Nutritional Yeast

By Nancy Berkoff, RD, EdD

Many people refer to nutritional yeast as "Nature's Cheeto Dust." But unlike actual Cheeto dust, nutritional yeast has many benefits! In addition to being vegan, nutritional yeast adds flavor while containing very limited amounts of fat and sodium. As a bonus, it does contain protein and B vitamins, including B12 if fortified. Nutritional yeast is a win-win for taste buds, the waistline, and for overall health.

Nutritional yeast is an inactive form of yeast, so people who cannot digest active yeast should be able to handle it. There are several brands of nutritional yeast that you'll see in stores, but whichever brand you select, be certain to read the label. You'll want to make sure that your selection contains the protein and vitamins you are looking for, specifically that it is fortified with B12. Nutritional yeast should be kept cool and dry, away from light, to prevent reduction of nutrients; the refrigerator is a good spot... the right conditions and easy to reach!

Many people say that you can use nutritional yeast just as you would grated cheese. It can be sprinkled or spooned and can add color as well as creaminess. You'll find it a perfect accent to enhance the taste of almost any dish that meets it. Plan to bring a shaker bottle of nutritional yeast to the table for every meal. A small dash on hot cereal can bring a sparkle of flavor to your morning oats or quinoa. Try sprinkling nutritional yeast on hot and cold savory foods, including green salads and hot or cold rice or pasta salads. It's a natural fit for mashed or baked potatoes or root vegetables, cooked vegetables, pasta, soups, polenta, beans... you name it!

If popcorn is one of your go-to treats, make it even more so with a toss of olive oil, walnut oil, or grape seed oil and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast. If you would like to make your own chips, thinly slice carrots, beets or sweet potatoes, spread on a non-stick baking sheet, sprinkle with nutritional yeast, and bake at 400 degrees until crispy.

You can make your own "cheesy" kale chips: wash and pat dry fresh kale, tear it into evenly-sized pieces, place on a non-stick baking sheet, sprinkle with yeast, and bake until crispy.

Vegan mac and cheese, bulked up with grilled cauliflower florets if you want, gets its "cheesiness" and creaminess from nutritional yeast. Toss grilled cauliflower and/or cooked pasta with silken tofu, a bit of garlic, chopped parsley, and nutritional yeast, and bake in a casserole dish until bubbly.

If you are in the mood for stirring, put on a pot of risotto or polenta, add minced fresh onions, a dash of oil, and nutritional yeast, and stir until the risotto or polenta is soft and creamy. Layer cooked lasagna noodles with tomato sauce, shredded vegetables, and nutritional yeast for a cheesy casserole. Instead of pasta, use tortillas or thin slices of cooked potato to create a new dinner entrée. For less of a fuss, add nutritional yeast to cooked rice, quinoa, barley, or mixed vegetables.

If you have some leftovers sitting in the fridge, (cooked garbanzos or lentils and rice, for example), toss with mixed vegetables and nutritional yeast and quickly heat in the oven or microwave. Soft tofu can be scrambled with nutritional yeast and eaten with toast, rolled into a burrito with salsa, or mixed into rice, quinoa or couscous. If you are looking for a creamy soup, prepare your usual tomato, bean or vegetable soup, purée, and stir in yeast for the "creamy" element.

Nutritional yeast may be used instead of egg yolks for thin batters, such as for French toast or pancakes. Mix soymilk, a bit of soft tofu, nutritional yeast, your vegan sweetener of choice, and vanilla, then dip in your favorite breakfast bread and bake or cook in a pan for a morning treat.

Create salad bowls, such as greens, pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries, spinach, orange slices and almonds, or chopped seasonal veggies and sprinkle on nutritional yeast. For a quick dip or sandwich spread, combine vegan sour cream or unflavored yogurt with chopped olives, minced pickles, dried onions, and nutritional yeast.