Nutritional yeast, often affectionately referred to as "nooch," is a magical ingredient in vegan cuisine. These golden-yellow flakes add richness, protein, and a nutty-cheesy taste that falls neatly into the realm of umami. Nooch is most commonly dusted over salads, pasta dishes, vegan pizza, scrambled tofu, and popcorn, but it also makes a fantastic flavoring for vegan broth and soup bases, cheesy sauces, homemade vegan cheeses, and savory sprinkles. It can stand in for the flavor of cheese in almost any recipe. It's so delicious, most cats and dogs love it as much as vegans do!
I've personally had a lengthy love affair with nutritional yeast (known as engevita yeast in the UK), spanning several decades. In fact, I wrote odes to it in my books The Uncheese Cookbook (first published in 1994! and updated with The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook in 2003) and The Nutritional Yeast Cookbook (published in 1997). I even included a few nooch-based recipes in my very first book, Ecological Cooking, which was self-published in 1989-90 and republished by Book Publishing Company in 1992. So, yeah -- nooch and I go way, way back. Although the recipes in these books aren't low in FODMAPs (FODMAPs weren't even a "thing" back then), they've been jumping-off points for many subsequent and contemporary recipe developers and modern-day vegan cheese products.
If you been avoiding nutritional yeast because of candida or other health concerns, fear not. Throw your worries, not your nooch, to the wind. Nutritional yeast is a primary grown product (unlike brewer's yeast, which is a by-product of the brewing industry) that's cultivated for both its taste and nutritional content. Because it's free of sugar and added sodium, and is toasted and deactivated during processing, it doesn't contribute to candida overgrowth in any way. Unlike baker's yeast, it has no leavening capabilities. Note that some brands of nutritional yeast are labeled as brewer's yeast, even though that's not what they contain. Look for products that list Saccharomyces cerevisiae (the technical name for nutritional yeast) on the package label to ensure you're buying the right product.
Nutritional yeast is loaded with B vitamins, but the nutritional content will vary somewhat from brand to brand. Note that nooch doesn't naturally contain vitamin B12, so if you want to add more B12 to your diet (and you should!), make sure to purchase a brand that has been fortified with this nutrient (again, check the label). Nutritional yeast is naturally vegan, but a few manufacturers add whey or honey to their product during processing; Red Star Nutritional Yeast, KAL, Bob's Red Mill, and Bragg Premium Nutritional Yeast Seasoning are just a few of the brands that do not. If you buy nutritional yeast in bulk, check with the store to find out which brand they stock, and ask to see the product label or ingredient list.
When it comes to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), is nooch in the naughty or nice category? Luckily for us, it's been given the green light from the researchers at Monash University as being a low-FODMAP food. Although larger serving sizes haven't yet been tested, one to two tablespoons should be fine for most people (unless you have a sensitivity or intolerance to either yeast or nooch, of course). So sprinkle it liberally over salads, soups, gluten-free pasta, or any of your favorite low-FODMAP dishes. To get you started, here's one of my favorite recipes from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook, adapted just for you to be bursting with flavor, not FODMAPs. (You can find additional low-FODMAP recipes that include nutritional yeast in my book Low-FODMAP and Vegan.) Enjoy!
Low-FODMAP Crock Cheese
Makes 1-1/2 cups
1/2 pound (8 ounces) firm regular tofu, drained and pressed
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1-1/2 tablespoons light miso
1 teaspoon garlic-infused olive oil
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco (optional)
Pinch ground turmeric (optional)
Variation: For a fancy cheese ball, carefully form the thoroughly chilled Crock Cheese into a ball using your hands and roll it in crushed walnuts.
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