Nutritional yeast is a highly nutritious dairy free seasoning that adds nutty and cheesy tones to several dishes. Nutritional yeast is a very common ingredient in vegan cooking, but it may seem strange to anyone who does not use it often.
Nutritional yeast is one ingredient that I can’t live without. It has an amazing flavor and it also has great nutritional value. What’s not to love?
Nutritional yeast is actually made from Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, which is a single-celled organism. Saccharomyces Cerevisiae is usually grown on molasses. When they are mature, they are harvested, washed, and dried with heat to deactivate it.
Unlike baking yeast, nutritional yeast does not have a leavening ability. It neither froths nor grows.
Nutritional yeast should not be substituted with baking yeast or active dry yeast. You’ll end up with a huge mess because these yeasts are alive.
Nutritional yeast is very easy to find it. You can buy it at any nutritional food store. Most of these stores stock nutritional yeast at the “Vegetarian Support Formula” section. You can also buy it at a grocery store near you.
There are several brands of nutritional yeast in the market. I’d be the first to admit that some brands are better compared to others. To find the one that suits you best, you can buy a little of each and try them out.
You can either use the powdered version of nutritional yeast or the flaked version. It is all up to you. Both versions work just fine.
So what happens when you do not have any nutritional yeast? Luckily, there are several ingredients that can act as substitutes for nutritional yeast. Brewer’s yeast, soy sauce, parmesan cheese, yeast extract, vegetable bouillon, and stock cubes are all good substitutes for nutritional yeast.
We’ll get into the details of these substitutes a bit later, for now, let’s talk about nutritional yeast a bit more. Knowing exactly what you are substituting plays a major role in choosing the best substitutes.
How to use nutritional yeast
Nutritional yeast has several uses. It is a versatile ingredient. I’ll share a few of my favorite ways to use nutritional yeast.
- In bean dishes
Bean dishes taste amazing with some nutritional yeast in it. Just add a teaspoon of nutritional yeast to your dish for the best flavor.
- Sprinkle on pasta
Trust me, your pasta will taste way better with some nutritional yeast in it. Just sprinkle some of it onto your pasta and you are good to go.
- Sprinkle on popcorn
Yes, your popcorn could use a little bit of nutritional yeast. Just sprinkle a little bit on it for the best popcorn you have ever had.
- Stir it into mashed potatoes
I tried adding a little bit of nutritional yeast to my mashed potatoes and I have never looked back since. Nutritional yeast complements potatoes perfectly.
Nutritional Yeast Benefits
As I mentioned at the beginning, nutritional yeast has several benefits. Nutritional yeast contains folic acid, vitamin B, protein, zinc, and selenium. Nutritional yeast also has a very low content.
Another benefit is that nutritional yeast is gluten free. This makes it ideal for everyone on a gluten-free diet.
Nutritional yeast also contains vitamin B12. This is a plus because plant foods do not contain vitamin B12 unless it is added as a supplement.
Nutritional Yeast Substitutes
You may want to substitute nutritional yeast with something else for several reasons.
Maybe you ran out and you just need a quick fix, or you can’t find it at your local grocery store, or you simply do not like the taste and you want to try something else. Whatever the reason, you can try any of these substitutes.
- Brewer’s yeast
Brewer’s yeast is arguably the best substitute for nutritional yeast. It is a single cell organism that feeds on sugar. It excretes alcohol and carbon dioxide. Brewer’s yeast is usually removed from beer. It is then dried and deactivated. After that, it is processed into a powder or flakes.
Just like nutritional yeast, brewer’s yeast is packed with nutrients. It is particularly rich in protein. Brewer’s yeast gets its nutrients from feeding on the grains that are used to brew beer. It has both trace minerals and amino acids.
While using brewer’s yeast as a nutritional yeast substitute, keep in mind that brewer’s yeast does not have the same flavor as nutritional yeast. Brewer’s yeast naturally has a beer aftertaste. Therefore, you may want to use just a little bit of it. Start with a small amount then add little by little until you achieve the flavor that you want.
For every tablespoon of nutritional yeast that your recipe calls for, use half a tablespoon of brewer’s yeast.
- Soy sauce
You can use soy sauce as a substitute for nutritional yeast. Soy sauce is made from fermented soybeans. Soy sauce has an umami flavor that makes it the perfect addition to savory dishes.
You can sprinkle some soy sauce on your dish if your recipe calls for nutritional yeast. The flavor will be similar to that of nutritional yeast.
While using soy sauce as a nutritional yeast substitute, you should know that it has a high sodium content. Therefore, be careful not to add too much to your dish as it may become too salty.
For every tablespoon of nutritional yeast that your recipe calls for, use half a tablespoon of soy sauce.
- Parmesan cheese
You can use parmesan cheese as a substitute for nutritional yeast. Parmesan cheese is not a vegan option, so if you are keen on maintaining a vegan diet, use another substitute.
Parmesan cheese is popular for its cheesy, nutty, and savory flavor. Its flavor is very similar to that of nutritional yeast. This explains why most chefs recommend using nutritional yeast as a substitute for parmesan cheese in vegan recipes.
The only downside with parmesan cheese is its sodium and cholesterol content. It is not as nutritious as nutritional yeast.
Substitute nutritional yeast with parmesan cheese in the ratio 1:1. If a recipe calls for one tablespoon of nutritional yeast, use one tablespoon of parmesan cheese.
- Yeast extract
I’m pretty sure you have come across marmite and vegemite. These are the most common brands of yeast extract. Both brands work well when used as a nutritional yeast substitute.
Most people find the taste of marmite overbearing, so I suggest adding it to your dish little by little. If you add too much at once it may overpower your dish.
Vegemite is milder compared to marmite. So if you are worried about marmite overpowering your dish, use vegemite instead.
Yeast extract has savory notes, so I recommend using it as a nutritional yeast substitute in stews, soups, and gravies.
- Vegetable bouillon
Vegetable bouillon is a very common ingredient in every vegan kitchen.
It is made by vegetables being simmered and boiled down to make a flavorful concentrate. Vegetable bouillon has a very rich flavor. It is also readily available in any grocery store.
Vegetable stock naturally has a very high liquid content, so keep this in mind when using it as a nutritional yeast substitute. I suggest using it in soups and stews for the best results.
- Stock cubes
If you want a substitute that won’t add extra liquid to your dish, stock cubes would work just fine.
Stock cubes are less tasty compared to nutritional yeast, so you may have to use a little more than your recipe requires.
Most stock cubes contain yeast extract as one of the ingredients. The yeast extract is used as a flavoring. If you are trying to avoid yeast completely then you should specifically look for the ones that do not have yeast extract as an ingredient or use another substitute altogether.
Stock cubes also have a high sodium content, but there are a few varieties in the market that have a low sodium content.
Stock cubes work well in savory dishes.
What does nutritional yeast taste like?
A lot of people describe the flavor of nutritional yeast as savory, umami, cheesy, and nutty. A little bit of nutritional yeast goes a long way.
A tablespoon or two will most definitely enrich the flavor of your gravies, soups, and sauces. You can use more when making ‘cheese sauces’ and eggless scrambles. They will taste amazing.
Nutritional yeast is a great addition to vegan dishes. I have come across several recipes that require me to use nutritional yeast.
Nutritional yeast is not a staple in my kitchen. I do not always have it in hand, which is why I had to research the possible substitutes.
Most of these substitutes work quite well. If you are not vegan, I suggest using parmesan cheese as a nutritional yeast alternative. These two have a similar flavor and you can easily mistake one for the other.
You can use any of the substitutes we have discussed above depending on which one you have on hand and which one suits you best. I am positive that your dishes will turn out fine.