You know how a sprinkling of cheese can make almost any savory dish better? Well, step aside, Parm, there’s a new flavor king in town. Meet nutritional yeast (nicknamed “nooch”), a flaky, deactivated yeast that’s incredibly good for you. But we like to think of it as a magical yellow dust that imparts a cheesy, nutty flavor to anything you sprinkle it on. Packed full of protein and vitamin B12, nutritional yeast is also dairy-free, vegan-friendly and often gluten-free. Here’s what you need to know about this vegan superfood—plus how to cook with it.

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The Roasted Root

What Is Nutritional Yeast?

Nutritional yeast is a type of yeast (like baker’s yeast or brewer’s yeast) that’s grown specifically to be used as a food product. The yeast cells are killed during manufacturing and not alive in the final product. It has a cheesy, nutty and savory flavor. Vegan, dairy-free and usually gluten-free, nutritional yeast is low in fat and contains no sugar or soy.

What’s the Nutritional Information?

A two tablespoon serving of nutritional yeast:

  • Calories: 40
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Protein: 10 grams
  • Sodium: 50 miligrams
  • Carbohydrates: 6 grams
  • Fiber: 4 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams

What Are the Health Benefits of Nutritional Yeast?

1. It’s a Complete Protein

Many sources of plant protein are considered “incomplete” proteins. What does that mean? They don’t contain all nine essential amino acids that animal proteins do. Nutritional yeast, on the other hand, is one of the few vegan options that does qualify as a complete protein.

2. It’s a Good Source of Fiber

With four grams per serving, nutritional yeast is a solid source of fiber, which, in addition to helping you feel full, also promotes digestive health—which we know is paramount.

3. It’s a Great Meatless Source of Vitamin B12

B12 is crucial to maintaining a healthy nervous system and producing adequate red blood cells. The issue for some people who eschew animal products is that the best sources of this vitamin are things like eggs, meat, fish and dairy. Enter nutritional yeast, which can help plant-based eaters get their fair share. This 2000 study included 49 vegans and found that consuming one tablespoon of fortified nutritional yeast daily restored vitamin B12 levels in those who were deficient.

4. It Can Keep Blood Sugar Levels in Check

As a low-glycemic food, nutritional yeast can help you regulate your blood sugar levels, in turn limiting cravings and promoting energy levels and more restful sleep.

5. It Might Help Your Body Fight Chronic Diseases

Nutritional yeast contains the antioxidants glutathione and selenomethionine. We won’t try to pronounce those, but we know they’re good for us. A Finnish study found that consuming antioxidant-rich foods—nutritional yeast, fruits, vegetables and whole grains—can help boost antioxidant levels and defend against chronic diseases like heart disease, some types of cancer and macular degeneration.

Cauliflower Rice Bowl With Carrots Lentils And Yogurt Recipe

What Are Some More Sources of Vegan Protein?

Think you can’t get your daily recommended dose of protein without eating chicken? Think again. In addition to nutritional yeast, here are seven meatless protein sources to try.

1. Lentils

Part of the legume family, lentils have an impressive 18 grams of protein per cup. While they’re often used in soups and stews, they’re also great in hearty warm salad.

2. Chickpeas

We adore them ground into hummus, love their ability to take on pretty much any flavor and respect their 14 grams of protein per cup. As long as we can eat a bunch of these little guys, we’ll never have to worry about meeting our daily protein needs.

3. Quinoa

Clocking in at eight grams of protein per cooked cup, this powerful grain might be the most versatile non-meat source of protein. Eat it for breakfast instead of oatmeal, form it into veggie burgers or bake it into healthier cookies.

4. Kidney Beans

In addition to lowering cholesterol and stabilizing blood sugar, kidney beans are a terrific source of protein with 13 grams per cup. They’re hearty enough for soups but not too overpowering in lighter dishes.

5. Black Beans

Well, look at that, another member of the bean family coming up big in the protein department. The darker variety has 16 grams per cup, as well as 15 grams of fiber (that’s more than 50 percent of the daily recommended amount). On top of that, they’re often served alongside avocados, which we’re never going to complain about.

6. Tempeh

Made by combining fermented soy beans, tempeh is typically sold in cake form and has a fairly neutral (if subtly nutty) flavor. That means it can take on a variety of tastes depending on how you season it. It also contains an impressive 16 grams of protein per three-ounce serving.

7. Tahini

Tahini is a condiment and baking ingredient made from toasted and ground sesame seeds. With a consistency that’s a touch thinner than peanut butter, it’s an awesome substitute for those with nut allergies. It’s also got a commendable amount of protein with eight grams in every two tablespoons.

12 Tasty Recipes That Incorporate Nutritional Yeast

Vegan Pasta Alfredo

So creamy and delicious, yet totally dairy-free.

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Nacho Cheese Kale Chips

These are nacho typical kind of snack. (Sorry.)

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The Best Butter-Free Popcorn (Nooch Popcorn)

You may never go back to regular popped kernels again.

Get the recipe

Vegan Shepherd’s Pie

A luxurious vegetable stew made even more delicious with the addition of nutritional yeast.

Get the recipe

Vegan Peanut Butter Cups

Nooch is perfect for giving your sweet dishes a savory kick too.

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Cauliflower Risotto

All the richness, minus any cream, milk or cheese.

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Spicy Buffalo Cauliflower Popcorn

Cauliflower. Tahini. Nutritional yeast. Sold.

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The Best Shredded Kale Salad

The secret to this tasty dish is coating the leaves in a garlicky dressing and topping them with roasted pecans and nutritional yeast.

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Vegan French Toast

This brunch favorite gets its “eggy” taste courtesy of, you guessed it, nooch.

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Vegan Green Chili Mac and Cheese

Believe it or not, this pot of deliciousness is ready in 30 minutes.

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Creamy Ranch Roasted Chickpeas

These will transform your snacking.

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