If you're a veteran vegan, you've probably been using nutritional yeast throughout your whole plant-based life, possibly multiple times a day as a flavor-packed seasoning, thickener, or sauce base. But for the uninitiated, all you need to know about these golden yellow, delicious flakes is that they are bound to become your next favorite condiment. Addictively tasty and nutritious, nutritional yeast flakes are a versatile and immunity-boosting vegan food product that can be found at your local health food store, chain grocers, or even more conveniently, online.
But with veganism and dairy-free lifestyles rising in popularity all over the world, brands are coming out with new nutritional yeast products every year, making it progressively harder to choose which brand to pick to get your nooch on. So, here we are making the decision much easier for you as we rank our top 5 favorite nutritional yeast brands!
Editor's #1 Pick
If you're not one to mind spoilers, here's a big one for you: our number one pick for the best brand of nutritional yeast in 2020 is Bragg Nutritional Yeast Seasoning!
Deliciously nutty and savory, Bragg's nutritional yeast flakes are slightly smaller than most, and they come in a convenient shaker bottle you can keep on your dining table, right next to your salt and pepper. Want to know more about the nutritional profile of this brand's nutritional yeast and where to get it somewhere near you? Just keep reading for our complete list of the best brands of nutritional yeast you can get your hands on in 2020!
What is "Nooch"?
Nutritional yeast (also known as "nooch" among the coolest vegans) is the market name given to dry, inactive yeast cultured on the surface of glucose-heavy products like sugarcane and beet molasses. This is the same type of yeast used to brew beer, which is scientifically known as Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, and despite needing glucose in order to grow, the signature flavor of nutritional yeast is far from sweet — this amazing product is actually sugar-free!
The best way to describe nooch for newbies would be a cheesy, savory, umami condiment that can boost the flavor of any food it's prepared with or used as a topping on, as well as making for the perfect supplement for boosting the nutritional content of even the most unhealthy of meals. Think it sounds too good to be true?
It gets even better. Nutritional yeast is also gluten-free, affordable, versatile, and a great source of B vitamins for vegans and vegetarians. Theoretically speaking, adding just a tablespoon of fortified nutritional yeast to your dinner every day can supply you with over 100% of the recommended intake for vitamin B12. On top of that, fortified varieties of nooch are also considered great sources of folic acid, antioxidants, and trace minerals like zinc, manganese, and selenium. It's a complete protein that can be added to pasta dishes, soups, stews, chilis, curries, homemade vegan cheese sauces, popcorn, salads, and much more.
We are yet to come across another vegan food that is as tasty and as nutritious as nutritional yeast, and if for some reason you haven't been incorporating these decadent flakes into your plant-based diet just yet, we hope you'll consider this article the sign you've been waiting for to put nutritional yeast on your weekly grocery shopping list.
Assessment Criteria For Best Nutritional Yeast
In order to keep our nooch ranking as objective as possible, we are going to be focusing on three main criteria when listing these popular brands: how nutritious their yeast is, how accessible their products are to people who don't happen to live near a health food store, and how safe their yeast is considered to be, both in terms of GMO and lead levels.
Wait — lead levels?!
Which brands of nutritional yeast have acceptable lead levels?
According to a 2015 review, samples of Frontier, KAL, and Whole Foods brand nutritional yeast have been shown to contain detectable levels of lead.
Now, note that the Maximum Allowable Dose Level for lead as a toxin is 0.5 micrograms a day. Fortunately enough, none of the above brands, once tested, were found to have exceeded the California Prop 65 standards on lead levels. Because of this, consuming a typical serving of two tablespoons of nooch per day from any of these brands is considered safe.
Still, pregnant women eating more than a third of a cup per day on a regular basis might want to choose a different brand (and incorporate a vegan prenatal), just to avoid any possible issue with this otherwise incredibly health-promoting product. There's still quite a lot of brands to choose from, as no detectable lead levels were found in Bragg, Dr. Fuhrman, Red Star, or NOW Foods brand of nutritional yeast.
Which nutritional yeasts are fortified vs unfortified?
During your search for the perfect nooch brand, you're going to come across two varieties of products: unfortified and fortified nutritional yeast. The latter is definitely the most popular of the two, as B vitamins, folic acid, and more crucially vitamin B12, are added to the unprocessed product in order to boost its content of vitamins and minerals. Brands like Red Star, Bragg, Bob's Red Mill, and KAL all offer fortified nutritional yeast.
Non-fortified nutritional yeast, however, can be considered just as healthful. Although it does not contain added vitamins like vitamin B12, yeast cells do naturally produce a good amount of B vitamins, iron, potassium, and antioxidants. Dr. Fuhrman, Foods Alive, and Sari Foods are a few examples of popular brands that offer non-fortified nutritional yeast.
As we firmly believe that adequate supplementation is the key to optimal health as a vegan, all the nooch varieties listed in our ranking will be of the fortified kind!
What is the best-tasting nutritional yeast?
This is not an easy question to answer for us but very good news for you, as every single brand of nutritional yeast on the market is absolutely delicious.
We could not find any noticeable differences in taste and texture for any of the major nooch brands, as they all contain 100% nutritional yeast, and nothing else!
What nutritional yeast is the most affordable?
The bulk bin section of your local grocery store (be it Walmart, Kroger, or Trader Joe's) is generally going to be the most affordable option if you're looking to stock up on the flakes in bulk.
When it comes to pre-packaged nooch on the other hand, Red Star is the one that will offer the best bang for your buck at $5.49 per shaker bottle. If you're keen on buying online, you can find a Red Star brand nutritional yeast in a pack of six on Amazon for as low as $35.
So, what is the best nutritional yeast to buy?
And now for the moment of truth: which pre-packaged nooch brands have made the cut as our top picks in 2020?
As spoiled at the beginning of this article, Bragg makes the top of our list. Why? It's THE most commonly available brand of nutritional yeast in stores and available nation-wide, its price point, while not the cheapest, is affordably set at $5.99 per shaker bottle, and it does not contain any detectable lead.
Bragg's flakes are perfect for sprinkling, and they are fortified with vitamin B12, B6, niacin, folic acid, and other key vitamins for vegans.
Similarly to Bragg, Red Star's nooch is one of the most well known on the market, and it is generally considered the most affordable — no lead was detected in Red Star's samples either, so you can shop knowing the product is 100% safe.
Bob's Red Mill
Second only to Bragg, this nooch brand is one of the most popular and most commonly found brands in stores. It only comes at number 3 as the high price tag might be inaccessible to some!
Frontier Co-Op Mini Flakes
These affordable nooch flakes have a great texture, and they come in a variety of flavors too! Unfortunately, detectable lead levels make it a somewhat less safe option for pregnant women.
Just like Frontier's brand, these flakes are some of the most affordable out there, and they’re packed with vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, this brand was found to have detectable levels of lead.
Bonus Nooch Questions
Is nutritional yeast really good for you?
100% yes! Nooch is one the most nutritious foods you can incorporate in your vegan, vegetarian, or omni diet. Studies have shown that consuming these nutritious flakes regularly can boost your immune system, help alleviate fatigue, combat hair loss, and support a healthy pregnancy.
Note that this may not be true for non-fortified varieties, as they do not contain as many nutrients.
Is nutritional yeast bad for candida?
Time for some myth-busting. Contrary to what some meat-eating health nuts might claim, eating nooch as part of your diet will not encourage the yeast-like fungus Candida albicans to grow in your body or exacerbate any candida issues. Nooch is different from brewer's yeast, baker's yeast, and pathogenic yeast. It's derived from a different species that has been deactivated, and it is unable to reproduce and infect you.
You can eat nooch to your heart's content, knowing that you're consuming an incredibly tasty and sustainable product that is, at least this once, incredibly good for you!