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Nutritional Yeast – One of our Favorite Things!

by Gentle World on August 28, 2010

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Even if you’ve never heard of it before, when you start exploring vegan cooking, it won’t be long before you’ll start hearing about this magical food… Not to be confused with Brewers’ Yeast – which has an impressive nutritional profile but also quite an unpleasant flavor – nutritional yeast is a wonderful ingredient that soon becomes a staple in many a vegan kitchen.

It’s used frequently in many recipes, and makes a great condiment and seasoning, as it adds a delightfully ’savory’ flavor to everything from pasta and tofu to toast and popcorn. Not only does it do an amazing job of imitating the flavor of cheese – making it an essential ingredient for non-dairy cheese sauces and toppings – it is also nutritionally rich, and an excellent supplement for anyone concerned about their intake of B vitamins, and especially B12.

There are a number of brands of nutritional yeast, but as far as I know, Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula is the only one that is 100 percent vegan, fortified with B12, and also delicious. Their website has lots of information about the specific benefits of this product.

According to its nutritional profile, 1.5 tablespoons of this tasty golden powder (2 tablespoons of the large flakes) provides:

Thiamin – 640% RDA
Niacin – 280% RDA
Folic Acid – 60% RDA
Selenium – 32% RDA
Riboflavin – 565% RDA
Vitamin B6 – 480% RDA
Vitamin B12 – 133% RDA
Zinc – 21% RDA

So… If you’re not yet familiar with nutritional yeast, how do you incorporate it into your cooking? Following are a couple of simple recipes to help acquaint you with this new ingredient, but you might want to simply try it as a sprinkle on any of your favorite foods. One of my favorite ways to season brown rice, sweet potatoes or pasta is simply to dress them up with a little olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt or tamari and a tablespoon or so of nutritional yeast. Once you get familiar with the flavor, you’ll likely find that you want to keep it on the dining table at all times…

Nutritional Yeast Gravy
yields 2 ½ cups

1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or water
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup tahini
1/8 medium onion, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
3 Tbsp tamari
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp sea salt

Combine the stock, nutritional yeast and tahini in a blender; blend at medium speed for one minute.

Add the remaining ingredients, and blend well at high speed. Add more liquid to thin, or tahini to thicken. Season to taste.

Pour gravy into medium-sized saucepan; place over low heat and cook until warmed, stirring constantly.

Cheesy Gravy (see below for quick method)
yields 2 cups

1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup oil
1 to 2 cups stock or water (depending on desired consistency)
1 1/2 Tbsp tamari
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp basil
1/4 tsp oregano

In a medium saucepan, combine the yeast and flour; place over a low heat, stirring until lightly toasted.

Add the oil, stirring to make a thick batter. Slowly add the stock, stirring constantly (add liquid until desired consistency is reached).

Add the remaining ingredients, and stir well.

Quick method:

1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/8 cup tamari
1 1/2 to 2 cups vegetable stock or water (depending on desired consistency)

Place all ingredients in a blender, and blend at medium speed for 30 seconds, until creamy. Season to taste with sea salt and garlic powder. Heat on low flame.

‘Cheezy’ Onions
serves 2-3 (as a side-dish)

2 medium onions, sliced in thin rounds
2 Tbsp oil (optional)
3-4 Tbsp water
1 1/2 Tbsp tamari
5 Tbsp nutritional yeast
sea salt and pepper, to taste

In a frying pan, sauté the onions in oil (or a little water), then add remaining ingredients. Continue to cook until onions are thoroughly soft. Serve as a topping or side dish.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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