Though vegans and other natural eating types have been using it for years, nutritional yeast is only just going mainstream. Besides the unappetizing name, however, there’s a lot to love in this mysterious new powder. Not only is it tasty, but it’s particularly healthy as well. The name notwithstanding, nutritional yeast is full of vitamins, but you’d never known it based on the flavor. That just begs the question, what is nutritional yeast anyway?
Nutritional yeast bears some relation to both bakers yeast and brewer’s yeast, which are used to make bread and beer respectively. Before you get caught up worrying that you’ll find your stomach fermenting like a fresh batch of sourdough, have no fear, nutritional yeast is specifically inactive. You can’t use it leaven bread, but that also means that its less savory flavor elements have also been neutralized.
The savory powder has become a darling of the ever-growing vegan and vegetarian movement for its intense umami notes, with a nutty, rounded edge that lends a cheesy quality to any food its added to. Of course, it also helps that most varieties of nutritional yeast are packed with a plant-based source of the crucial vitamin B12. While nutritional yeast is often a major component in any dairy-free, cheese-like recipe, it can also stand on its own as a seasoning.
One of the most sublime concoctions involving nutritional yeast that stays away from the arena of cheese substitutes is as a popcorn seasoning. Mixed with a little bit of salt and oil, the nutritional yeast coats each kernel with a bite of its savory tang. If you want to upgrade this even further, add in a sprinkle of garlic powder, or go for broke with some truffle oil, and you may never be able to eat plain popcorn again.