‘Ultimate Parmesan Vibes’: How to Cook with Nutritional Yeast | Food

Nnutritional yeast? You could be forgiven for giving him the cold shoulder. For starters, it’s flaky and, let’s face it, looks boring. That yellowish-brown color doesn’t help either. But there’s more to this time-honored vegan staple than meets the eye.

Author and recipe developer Harriet Birrell needs no convincing of the charms of nutritional yeast. She’s been a fan since discovering it at her local health food store in 2012. Nutritional yeast (affectionately known as nooch) has become a pantry staple, appearing regularly in her recipes based on plants Birrell’s books, Whole and Natural Harry, have introduced sheet music to this flavor enhancer.

Green salad with avocado and flakes of nutritional yeast. Photograph: Mila Naumova/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Clearly, others are also starting to sit up and take notice. In July, the Cambridge Dictionary saw fit to add the word nooch to its listings; US financial news service Bloomberg issued a statement reporting that the global value of the nutritional yeast market will double to more than $999.5 million by 2032; And on Etsy, you can buy handmade ceramic jars for storing nooch.

Jack Stuart, chef-owner of neo-bistro Blume in Queensland’s Boonah, first encountered nutritional yeast at acclaimed restaurant Brunswick Heads Fleet, which used toasted flakes in a dressing for a coleslaw.

“It’s still an ingredient that a lot of people don’t know about, some see it as an underground health food thing, but a lot of chefs use it,” says Stuart.

Nutritional yeast flakes feature on Blume’s current menu garnishing a sebago potato hash, a dish Stuart describes as pure comfort food.

“Nutritional yeast has an almost umami-like parmesan taste. It’s very salty and makes for a very rich and flavorful dish.”

But what exactly is it and how is it created? Nutritional yeast is grown specifically as a food product. It is a processed, dry, inactive form of yeast that is usually derived from it Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a yeast traditionally used in beer. Grown with glucose, sometimes molasses or cane sugar, it is dehydrated and pasteurized. Unlike baker’s yeast, it cannot be used as a leavening agent, and it is also different from the food supplement – ​​dry brewer’s yeast – which has a bitter taste.

Birrell’s approach to the nooch is something that is constantly evolving. First, he saw it as a ready-made parmesan substitute for dishes like his tomato zucchini. Now she’s more adventurous, putting the salty flakes to work in anything from plant-based parmesan to dairy-free cream “cheese.”

Pancakes: Just one of the ways Harriet Birrell uses her nutritional yeast for umami balance
Pancakes: Just one of the ways Harriet Birrell uses her nutritional yeast for umami balance. Photograph: Branislav Bokun/Alamy

He even uses nooch to bring umami balance to treats, like in pancakes and the icing on a plant-based carrot cake. It has become something he now uses almost every day.

Nicole Dynan, a registered dietitian in practice, recently came to nooch. Dynan, a flexitarian for most of her life, had been hearing about this misunderstood ingredient from vegan customers for years. But he only got around to trying it in 2020 when he saw it at a bulk food store.

“I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t think it would be as good as it is,” says Dynan. “I’m a big lover of parmesan cheese and it gave me a definite parmesan sensation. It has quite a rich flavor.”

Now she sprinkles nooch flakes as a cheese substitute on lentil bolognese, uses it in salads and as a flavor enhancer in soups and mashed potatoes.

And despite what you may read in some corners of the wellness internet, Dynan says that nutritional yeast is inactive, so it cannot increase yeast overgrowth. However, he cautions that there is some evidence to suggest that people with Crohn’s disease should avoid baker’s, brewer’s and nutritional yeast, as they sometimes trigger abnormal immune responses in the guts of susceptible individuals.

For most of us, though, nooch is a worthwhile addition, says Dynan. It is low in calories, gluten-free and lactose-free, a source of fiber, fat-free and a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids.

Dynan says that most common brands of nutritional yeast are fortified with “vitamins and minerals added during the manufacturing process. These include B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6 and B12) and trace elements such as selenium, zinc, iron and manganese”.

And while the cost of nooch varies greatly depending on the brand and where you buy it, the cost can be comparable or less per gram than parmesan.

“We’re trying to encourage Australians to cut down on red meat and processed meat because we eat too much,” says Dynan. “Nutritional yeast is a good alternative product.”

Here are some tasty ways to use it:

  • Try a lighter version of a baked potato layer, using salty yeast flakes and vegetable broth instead of cheese and cream. Coat the base of a deep baking dish with a drizzle of olive oil and a nooch flake shake. Then add the thinly sliced ​​potato (preferably with a mandoline) and continue layering the potato, yeast flakes and oil until your dish is about half way through. Make double-strength vegetable stock with a good quality vegetable stock cube, then pour it in until it’s just below the last layer of potato. Sprinkle more nooch and plenty of cracked black pepper on top. Cook until the potatoes are tender and golden in an oven preheated to 200ºC.

A baked potato can easily get the plant-based treatment with vegetable stock and layers of trusty nooch
A baked potato can easily get the plant-based treatment with vegetable stock and layers of trusty nooch
  • Make a tasty fried egg for a rice bowl, or to use as a sandwich filling, by carefully sprinkling a mixture of curry powder, chilli flakes, salt and nooch over an egg while frying . Flip it over and let the heat roast the spices and nooch for another minute or so.

  • Make a vegan cheese sauce using margarine and vegetable flour to create a roux, let the roux cook, then stir in your favorite plant-based milk until lumps are gone, adding nooch flakes to taste cheesy

  • Create a cheesy, nutty salad dressing. Just stir the nooch flakes into the tahini and then add water to thin it to your desired consistency. Add lemon juice and salt to taste. This also works well on a burger instead of processed cheese.

Harriet Birrell’s Vegetable Parmesan

Parmesan of vegetable origin: made with a blitz of nutritional yeast and nuts
Parmesan of vegetable origin: made with a blitz of nutritional yeast and nuts

This recipe is an edited extract from Whole, published by Hardie Grant.

Does 1 cup

140 g of raw cashews or dried fruit/seed of your choice
35 g of nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of salt

Add all ingredients to your food processor. Press until you get a texture like almond flour. Enjoy with pizza, pasta, salads and wraps, or as a delicious addition to avo toast and nutritious bowls.

Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or freeze for longer storage.

Jack Stuart’s Candied Kipfler Potato with Toasted Yeast and Garlic Mayonnaise

Cooking the candied potatoes intensifies the flavor of the potato. Toasting the yeast flakes brings out their nutty flavor. If you’re buying mayonnaise instead of making it with the candied oil, just use a fork to mash the candied garlic before folding.

It’s useful 4

For the candied potatoes
500 g of Kipfler potatoesscrubbed of all dirt
1 head of garlic
, cut in half
Bouquet of thyme and rosemary
1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
1L of grape seed oil

For the garlic mayonnaise
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon of mustard
½ liter candied oil
(of the potatoes)
Candied garlic
(of the potatoes)
(good quality and store bought, optional)

For the nutritional yeast crumb
200 g of yeast flakes, gently toasted in a pan until lightly browned

To cook the potatoes, put them in a deep, sturdy saucepan, cover them with oil and add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer gently until the potatoes and garlic are tender, about an hour. Carefully remove with a slotted spoon and then slice the candied potatoes. Season with salt, pepper and sherry vinegar.

Add a good dollop of mayo over the sliced ​​potatoes, then top them with toasted, chilled yeast flakes.

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