Yeast has played a major role in human civilization for over 9,000 years! It’s one of the oldest ingredients still in use today. Without it, we wouldn’t have beer or bread as we know it.
Ancient humans learned that by leaving grains out in the sun for an extended period, the grains would ferment and become intoxicating. What happened was, yeast in the air reacted to the sugars in the grains, producing alcohol and carbonation.
It didn’t take long for humans to understand this process and use it to their advantage, starting the rich history of beer brewing and bread baking at practically the same time.
So, yeast has been in use for thousands of years, but nutritional yeast didn’t hit the shelves until the 1920s, and wasn’t very popular until the 50s and 60s. But what makes nutritional yeast different from other forms of yeast?
Well, you can’t use nutritional yeast interchangeably with other, active forms of yeast. Unlike baker’s and brewer’s yeast, nutritional yeast is inactive. In other words, when put into dough, nutritional yeast won’t help it rise. Instead, its sole purpose is to provide you with amazing health benefits.
Nutritional yeast or “nooch” is especially popular among plant-based eaters, for its high vitamin B content as well as for its delicious cheesy flavor that goes great with just about anything.
You can take advantage of nooch’s health benefits simply by sprinkling it on top of your food—anything from popcorn to string beans will do. For more complex nutritional yeast meal recipes, keep reading!
Nutritional yeast is an amazing source of vitamin B
Just two teaspoons of fortified nutritional yeast contain significant amounts of vitamins B2, B3, B6, B12, and B9! Vitamin B is essential for dozens of bodily functions such as digestion, brain development, the formation of red blood cells and DNA, healthy cell growth, and the transport of oxygen through the body.
You wouldn’t get far without vitamin B. However, many people—especially those on vegan diets—suffer from vitamin B deficiency. Sprinkling some nutritional yeast on meals is a very quick, easy solution to that problem!
Nutritional yeast strengthens the immune system
Beta-glucan, a soluble fiber, found in nutritional yeast has antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory benefits that activate immune cells and lower your chances of illness and infection.
Besides that, beta-glucan can lower cholesterol levels, improve digestive health, and regulate blood sugar levels. Its benefits are amazing, and nutritional yeast is a great source of it.
Nutritional yeast helps hair, skin, and nails
The wide array of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids in nutritional yeast does wonders for the body—both internally and externally. Adding more nutritional yeast to your diet can mean stronger nails, thicker hair, and clearer, younger-looking skin.
When looking for nutritional yeast at your local supermarket or grocery store, you’re most likely to come across two other popular forms of yeast: baker’s yeast and brewer’s yeast. They may look the same as nutritional yeast, but as previously stated, their uses are completely different.
Baker’s yeast - This type of yeast is used to bake bread and leaven dough. It produces very small amounts of alcohol and large amounts of carbon dioxide, allowing bread to rise while baking.
Brewer’s yeast - Brewer’s yeast is used in beer brewing. It’s added to a sugary liquid called wort which produces equal amounts of alcohol and carbon dioxide, turning it into beer and giving it its intoxicating and carbonated qualities.
Nutritional yeast - This yeast’s cells are killed during manufacturing, unlike baker’s and brewer’s yeasts, making it inactive. It won’t do anything if you add it to the dough, and it won’t turn wort into beer. Instead, its main use is as a seasoning, additive, or thickener.
There are two forms of nutritional yeast: fortified and unfortified. Fortified nutritional yeast is boosted with added vitamins and minerals, giving it a specialized nutritional content. Unfortified nutritional yeast contains only its natural vitamin and mineral content and has not been altered.
Certain fortified nutritional yeasts may be more beneficial to you than unfortified yeast depending on what benefits you’re looking for. So, make sure to read the product labels and ingredient lists to see what all your options are before making a purchase.
Once you’ve brought the yeast home, make sure to store it in a dark place, as yeast is sensitive to light. You can keep yeast in a cool pantry or cabinet, or the fridge or freezer for up to two years.
Once the yeast can or packet is opened, you can store it in the fridge for up to four months. If kept in the freezer, it can last up to six months.
Depending on whether or not you’re a good cook—or even if you enjoy spending time in the kitchen—you can always reap the rewards of nutritional yeast.
Simply by sprinkling the yeast onto your popcorn, bagels, nachos, or spinach side dish, you’re automatically increasing that food’s vitamin B, beta-glucan, and amino acid content. However, there are a few ways you can incorporate nutritional yeast into your meals even more.
If you’re in the mood for something cheesy, try nutritional yeast vegan mac and cheese! Blend ½ cup softened cashews, 1 roasted carrot, ¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes, ½ cup water, and your choice of seasonings. Mix in macaroni and serve hot!
If pesto is more your forte, try enhancing a classic pesto sauce with nutritional yeast. Blend ¼ cup boiled cashews, 2 cups basil, 3 cloves garlic, 3 tablespoons milk or plant-based milk, and 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast. Serve over pasta!
Another great thing you can do with nutritional yeast is making breaded vegetables. String beans, asparagus, or eggplant are good options for this. Simply combine ¼ cup nutritional yeast, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, ground pepper, paprika, and ¼ cup breadcrumbs in a bowl. Sprinkle over your vegetable of choice, and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
Nutritional yeast is sensitive to heat, so its nutritional content will decline with prolonged heat. A quick bake in the oven won’t completely rid the yeast of its health benefits, however, the healthiest way to eat nutritional yeast is the easiest way!
Sprinkling some nutritional yeast over your meals, or snacks, or even mixing them into smoothies and milkshakes is the best way to reap this ingredient’s benefits. Who said there’s anything wrong with keeping things simple?