One of the perks of exploring a vegan lifestyle with my home-cooking is that I am always learning about new ingredients and recipes that take me to local natural health food stores that I otherwise would have never checked out in the first place.
My favorite vegan fix of the moment is nutritional yeast. Finding this ingredient gave me a weekend adventure to a funky little health food store I found after perusing many Yelp reviews of the best natural food stores in Los Angeles.
Nutritional yeast, as far as I know, is not sold in the majority of mainstream supermarket chains. Usually available in bins in natural health food stores, nutritional yeast is a yellow-orange inactive yeast that has a slightly cheesy-nutty flavor and its flakey consistency makes it the perfect vegan substitute for parmesan cheese. The flakes can also be used to make vegan nachos, a vegan mac ‘n’ “cheese,” or as a savory sprinkle to your microwave popcorn.
Nutritional yeast is also chock full of protein and Vitamin B, which makes for the perfect stock item to help you guiltlessly enjoy a semi-cheesy flavor in your dishes without the animal products or chemicals.
So how can you start incorporating nutritional yeast into your daily meals?
- Sprinkle onto popcorn. Rather than microwaving butter popcorn, enjoy plain popcorn sprinkled with nutritional yeast for a much healthier alternative.
- Make a mac ‘n’ “cheese.” Check out this popular recipe for a mac ‘n’ “cheese” casserole from VegWeb.com. While it doesn’t exactly taste like the real thing, it is delicious in its own healthy way.
- Sprinkle onto your savory dishes as a Parmesan cheese alternative. Pizzas, spaghetti, pasta dishes, rice, savory soups, baked potatoes–you can sprinkle this stuff on pretty much anything.
- Make your own creamy “cheese” sauce. Follow this recipe, and then use as vegan nacho cheese, or make pizza or lasagna.
- Top your plain rice with some nutritional yeast mixed with a little bit of soy sauce and olive oil or butter. Um, this sounds amazing. I think I am actually going to do this right now.
- Add a new depth of flavor to your homemade gravy, sauces, salad dressings, and other liquid-based dishes. Just add a hint of nutritional yeast to all of the above.
- Mix it in with the bread crumbs you use for breading meat, fish and vegetables.
Originally published in 2010