Remember that episode of "Breaking Bad" Season 1 when Jessie tried to cook without Walt and he tossed out a batch of crystal in the desert because it wasn’t perfect? And then Badger freaked out, fell to his knees and frantically tried to save every piece from the ground? That’s my reaction upon spilling a morsel of nutritional yeast.
Nutritional wha? Oh my dear, let me tell you!
As the trend-aware, but not obnoxiously trendy lady you are, I’m guessing you feel pretty hip to the latest in food things, whether that’s a cronut or kale (so 2013, I know) or pasta made from just about anything (mung bean spaghetti, anyone?).
But there’s a secret ingredient that's long been a staple in the vegan pantry that I’m guessing you’ve never really heard of -- or at least never used. It’s called nutritional yeast, or as we vegans affectionately call it, “Nooch.”
Mention Nooch to your token vegan friend and I promise their eyes will light up. We use it on just about everything.
What is it and why is it so effing awesome?
Nooch is not the same as brewer’s yeast used for things like beer fermentation or the active yeast used for making bread. It’s deactivated yeast, golden in color, sold in dry flakes or powdered form.
Nutritional yeast is filled with B vitamins and is frequently fortified with B12. It’s high in protein, amino acids, magnesium and folic acids. It’s fat free, gluten free and has almost no carbs or calories. From a health perspective, you really can’t go wrong.
Still wondering what the heck you do with this stuff?
Nooch has a cheesy, creamy or even nutty flavor. It’s most frequently used to replace cheese. In its dry form - think of it like the Parmesan cheese that you loved from the green container as a kid.
I love to sprinkle it onto popcorn to give an added buttery/salty flavor. Or I’ll add it to my avocado toast.
Have you ever tried Kale Krunch’s Quite Cheezy chips and wondered how they got that nacho cheese flavor? Yep, you guessed it, they used Nooch. One of the first ways I worked it into my meals was by making vegan queso for chips and other Mexican dishes. Craving mac ‘n cheese? No prob -- Nooch can help!
Want to relive your childhood with some goldfish crackers, but don’t want the processed, GMO, food coloring yuck that comes with it? Make your own. I’ve made those before and they honestly taste like the real thing (tweak the measurements before you bake to get the flavor just right).
In my opinion, Bragg’s brands have a cheesier flavor, while Bob’s Red Mill is a bit nuttier. I also prefer the flakes to the powder, but depending on the recipe -- the more easily dissolving powder might be your best bet.
If you’re already vegan or feeling pretty confident that you know all about the wonders of nutritional yeast, I’m about to make your brain explode -- have you tried Parma Vegan Parmesan yet?
This isn’t your grandmother’s faux parm, you guys.
This stuff is like crack in a bottle. My Mom introduced me to two different flavors, Original and Garlicky Green. When I tell you that I literally ate it with a spoon – I am not exaggerating! They’ve taken Nooch and upped the ante. They combine Nutritional Yeast with some other yummy goodness like hemp seeds, sea salt, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and herbs. This stuff is ten miles away from everything else on the market. According to their website all their products are not only vegan, but gluten free, soy free, GMO free and kosher. Run, don’t walk and buy some. You can thank me later.
OK foodies and especially vegans: How do you use Nooch? What’s your favorite brand? And is there some other secret ingredient out there that I NEED to know about?