Deactivated vegetable yeast — doesn't sound very appealing, does it?
Despite its less than captivating nature, nutritional yeast (also known among the cool kids as "nooch") has become a pantry staple for those following a vegan diet and those looking for a dairy-free, plant-based alternative to cheese. Why? Well, the readers who have had the chance to try it before already know the answer: nutritional yeast is delicious, incredibly versatile, and able to boost the flavor of any dish it's prepared with.
On top of that, nooch makes for the perfect health food: something that tastes like a treat but is actually incredibly good for your body. Keep reading to learn all about the wonders of these miracle flakes, including where you can find nutritional yeast and how to use it to boost your meal's nutritional profile with one single sprinkle!
What Is Nutritional Yeast?
Nutritional yeast is the market name given to the inactive yeast that's cultured on the surface of molasses. It's not the kind of yeast you're probably already thinking about — this yeast is not "alive" as the one you would find in bread, and despite being cultivated on molasses, nutritional yeast is certainly far from sweet. The best way to describe its flavor for the uninitiated is a finger-licking blend of cheesy, nutty, and savory.
Some of the best ways to use nutritional yeast include using it as a thickener and topping on soups, stews, and curries, sprinkling it on top of salads, or even making cheesy-style pasta.
Its natural cheesiness is truly uncanny, and its strong nutritional profile is definitely something you should take into consideration when looking for healthy vegan alternatives to cheese. A tablespoon of nutritional yeast can provide generous amounts of folic acid, selenium, zinc, B vitamins (yes, even vitamin B12!) while being sugar and gluten-free.
Now you probably understand why we like to call these "miracle flakes"!
Fortified vs Unfortified Nutritional Yeast Flakes
However, not all types of nutritional yeast can boast that great of a nutritional profile.
The most popular brands of nutritional yeast are in fact only fortified with vitamin B12, selenium, and folic acid, as the yeast does not naturally contain those nutrients. To be fair, unfortified nooch is not devoid of nutrients either, as it can still provide a variety of natural vitamins and minerals from its production process.
We have talked about the benefits of supplementation extensively in the past, so if you are looking for the best kind of nutritional yeast for a healthy diet, you should be reaching for the fortified kind.
Lead Levels In Nooch And Safety
While nutritional yeast has been considered a safe product since its debut on the market, recent studies have found detectable amounts of lead in samples from three leading brands: Frontier, KAL, and Whole Foods brand — but don't let that scare you off so quickly!
The same study also found that those lead levels were so low that they all complied with the strict California Prop 65 standards. However, it's more than understandable if you still wish to stay clear of these brands, especially if you are pregnant and used to eating large quantities of nutritional yeast on a daily basis.
Fortunately for all nooch aficionados, no detectable lead levels were found in the two most popular brands of nutritional yeast in the U.S., Bob’s Red Mill and Bragg.
Which Brand of Nutritional Yeast Is Best?
Speaking of popular brands, these are the two you're most likely to come across on your shopping trip if you live in North America. If you're unsure about which one to go for, we recommend looking at their nutritional profile to compare which one will provide you with the greatest amount of nutrients.
They both have the signature cheesy taste of nooch, both can be found in most grocery stores, both are sugar-free and gluten-free, and they are both fortified with vitamin B12. To make the choice even harder, their nutritional profile is also fundamentally the same: Bob’s Red Mill boasts 730% of your daily vitamin B12 needs per 1/4 cup, while Bragg provides 563% of your daily recommended intake per tablespoon. The latter contains 5g of protein per tablespoon, while the former provides 8g.
In our opinion, Bragg might take the crown solely on the basis of its packaging: a convenient shaker bottle!
Where To Find Nutritional Yeast
So, you're sold on the nooch and want to make it your next diet staple — but where can you actually find nutritional yeast in your area? Here we answer some of the most researched questions when it comes to finding this product.
Where to find nutritional yeast in a grocery store?
Yes, you might be able to find nutritional yeast at your local grocery store. It's all about knowing where to look, and that's exactly what we're here for!
Which aisle to find nutritional yeast?
The first place you should look in for pre-packaged nutritional yeast is the health food aisle of your local grocery store, while the second-best would be the spice aisle. Note that sometimes, loose nutritional yeast might also be marketed as "yeast flakes", especially if you are getting it from the bulk bin section of your grocery store of choice.
In case you've never ventured to that section of your local grocers, all you have to know about bulk bins is that they are the most convenient option when looking to stock up on foods like nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and yes, nutritional yeast as well. Just scoop up the goods into the plastic bag provided, close it with a twist tie, and write down the bulk bin number before checkout. Note that some grocery stores might have more than one section with bulk bins, so it's worth taking the time to explore all relevant aisles!
If all these options fail, you might have a better chance of finding it at one of the grocery stores listed below.
Can you buy nutritional yeast at Walmart?
Quite conveniently, Walmart offers several brands of nutritional yeast, including the ever-favorite Bragg.
Can you buy nutritional yeast at Kroger?
Yes, Kroger is also a retailer for Bragg's nutritional yeast.
Can you buy nutritional yeast at Meijer?
Yes, you can! Meijer stocks both Bragg and Bob's Red Mill's nutritional yeast.
Can you buy nutritional yeast at Whole Foods?
While the steep prices might put you off shopping at Whole Foods, this is undoubtedly the best grocery store for nutritional yeast. Besides selling its own brand of nooch in the bulk bin section (which you might want to avoid if detectable lead levels scare you), Whole Foods stocks a great selection of all major nutritional yeast brands.
Health Food Stores
If none of the above stores seem to carry nutritional yeast in your area, your next stop should be your local health food store. Although usually coming with a higher price tag, these stores usually carry a wide variety of nutritional yeast products, so they are definitely worth a trip if you are looking to really experiment with all that nooch can do!
Lastly, we have the most convenient and accessible option for all: buying your nutritional yeast online. You can find all the major brands on sale on Amazon, iHerb, and on the online shop for any of the grocery stores listed above.
You may be able to find a real bargain if you buy in bulk from any of these online retailers, something to keep in mind for when you're hooked on the nooch and constantly reaching out for more — and we've got an inkling that you will be.