What the Heck is Nutritional Yeast?

I had no clue what nutritional yeast was until a few months ago when I heard it mentioned as a good source of B vitamins by a natural health specialist. After my own online research, I decided to give it a shot and walked to a nearby health food store (lucky for me, it was on sale that day – I took that as a good sign). When I brought it home, I studied it in the same perplexed way I did when I first brought home other previously foreign objects like Tempeh or Seitan. My conclusion was it looked and smelled like fish food. But please don’t let my quirky observations scare you. The taste is extremely mild and it comes loaded with vitamins and minerals.

The brand I purchased was BRAGG. Their nutritional yeast is derived from pure strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae grown on mixtures of beet and cane molasses. When the fermentation process is complete, the yeast is harvested, thoroughly washed and cleaned, and dried on roller drum dryers. The drying process totally inactivates the yeast’s leavening ability. As an inactive yeast, it has no fermenting power unlike the live yeasts used in bread making and brewing.

Nutritional yeast is an excellent source of vitamin B-12, which is essential for a healthy nervous system, proper food metabolism, and the regeneration of red blood cells. The vegetarian source of the vitamin B-12 in Bragg Premium Nutritional Yeast Seasoning is from natural fermentation, not from a synthetic process or an animal source. This is said to be good for vegans and vegetarians, who sometimes do not get enough vitamin B-12 in their diet because vitamin B-12 is not found naturally in plant foods, only in animal foods.  Just one tablespoon provides 40% of the daily value for Vitamin B-12.  Other benefits include:

  • Protein
  • Fiber
  • Riboflavin
  • Niacin
  • Folic Acid
  • Pantothenic Acid
  • Zinc
  • Selenium
  • Naturally Low in Fat and Sodium
  • GMO-Fee
  • Sugar-Free
  • Dairy-Free
  • Gluten-Free
  • Cholesterol Free
  • No Artificial Colors of Flavors

Nutritional yeast is described as having a nutty, cheesy flavor. There is indeed a hint of nuttiness, but I found the flavor too subtle to resemble cheese. (I’m not sure if the flavor is different from brand to brand). It does, however, lend a nice creaminess when added to hot pasta dishes, which texturally remind me of melted cheese. I’ve been sprinkling this on pretty much everything for nutritional purposes more than for taste because honestly I can’t really taste anything. Well, except oddly on popcorn. For some reason, the taste really comes through when used as a popcorn dressing, and it’s delicious. You can also add it to sandwiches, salads, soups, dips, and smoothies.

More info

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4 Responses to What the Heck is Nutritional Yeast?

  1. Hi Izzy, I’ll give Red Star a try in the future to compare the two brands’ flavors. I’ve used other BRAGG products that I love so I went with them. Not sure about the Red Star one, but the BRAGG yeast’s flavor is so mild when I’ve put it on pasta and sandwiches, my fiance and I just can’t taste it – which isn’t so bad because at least we’re getting our B vitamins. But it actually tastes pretty good on popcorn – as though your popcorn was lightly salted. Give it a shot! I’ll be posting a vegan asparagus risotto recipe this week and I used the nutritional yeast for that and it gave it the cheesy creaminess but no weird taste. Really, it’s not bad at all. If you do decide to try it, let me know how you like it.

    • Izzy says:

      Hmmm. I wonder if it would make a cheesy popcorn flavor. I really like this idea and will definitely have to try it!

      • To me it’s more reminiscent of putting garlic powder on the popcorn than cheese. Then again, I don’t put a whole lot. One thing’s for sure, it definitely doesn’t taste bad, and it’s a far healthier option than putting melted butter or lots of salt.

  2. Izzy says:

    I have a container of Red Star yeast (which I’ve been told has the best flavor for cheeze products) sitting, still sealed, in my pantry for about a month now. So many people use this as a cheese replacement and yet I still can’t bring myself to try it.

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