What is Nutritional Yeast
(sometimes called Brewer's Yeast**)
Click for larger photo
Nutritional yeast is an inactivated yeast that has been grown on a nutrient rich medium for the purpose of producing a flavorful powder that is used to add a "cheese" like flavor to vegan foods. It is not at all related to baking yeast that one uses for bread baking.
Nutritional Yeast is dry, powdery and flaky. Tasted plain it has a very strong taste (some folks like it mixed into smoothies or fruit drinks ... I don't!) But used in recipes for sauces, it adds that wonderful complex, rich flavor that cheese adds to recipes.
Don't expect vegan sauces that use Nutritional Yeast to "taste like cheese". They won't. But they will have a rich, complex, pleasing flavor that is also associated with cheese. And too, remember that you "taste first with your eyes". If a sauce "looks like cheese", has the wonderful blend of taste, smell, and texture of cheese, then the mind automatically starts thinking "CHEESE"!! When I bring my vegan Macaroni and Cheese casserole to potlucks, I call it "Macaroni and Cheese" (as opposed to "Vegan" Macaroni and Cheese). It looks like Macaroni and Cheese. It is extremely flavorful. So my omni friends dig in, expecting that unique blend of taste and smell sensations they equate with Mac and Cheese, and TASTE mac and cheese and love it!
Nutritional Yeast really has no substitute, and is the one specialty ingredient you may need to seek out.
If kept in a dry, dark, cool place, this will keep for months. I keep it in a airtight plastic container in my cupboard.
If you live near a large health food store, you should be able to buy this in bulk, which will allow you to purchase only the amount you need. It IS fairly pricey. Around these parts, bulk prices are around $9.00/pound ... but realize a pound is A WHOLE LOT. One cup only weighs about 48 grams, that is, less than 2 ounces.
Amazon sells it, although you have to buy 4 packages at a time. This is how I buy mine, and just keep the packages unopened in the pantry, and it keeps perfectly.
Googling "nutritional yeast" will give you lots of other on-line purchasing options.
Up Close photo that shows the powdery, flaky texture of nutritional yeast.
Click for larger image
**Some folks use the terms "brewer's yeast" and "nutritional yeast" interchangeably. Technically, these are not at all the same item ... "brewer's yeast" is a by-product of beer making, and is the same sort of darker yellow, powdery product, but tastes much stronger, and much more bitter. "Nutritional Yeast" is grown on specifically chosen medium for creating an end product that is very flavorful.
However, in actual practice, I've found some health food stores selling bulk "brewer's yeast" that is really nutritional yeast. I don't think I've ever come across true "brewer's yeast".
If you do buy a bulk product, note that you will find variations in taste among different suppliers. The packaged, branded products (Bob's Red Mill, Red Star) do tend to be better tasting, and more uniform in taste.