Plant-Powered Protein Day 3: Nutritional Yeast // Vegan Mac & Cheese Recipe

Oh, nutritional do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

If you've never heard of nutritional yeast before, welcome to day 3 of our #PlantPoweredProtein series. :)

First off, don't let the name deter you. While "nutritional" and "yeast" aren't the most euphonious of word combinations, the product itself seriously amazing.  If you're still hung up on the name, get this: someone out there on the internet hated the name "nutritional yeast" so much that they started calling it "nooch" instead. Just like that, nooch started taking over the interwebs and is used interchangeably among members of the vegetarian / vegan communities. Nutritional yeast (also known as "hippie dust", by the packs between 6 to 9g of protein per serving, depending on the brand. With it's cheese-like flavor, nutritional yeast has quickly become a staple in many plant-based diets as a nutritious substitute for cheese.

Okay, I get the nooch thing (still weird)..but, like...what is it?

Don't confuse it with active dry yeast or brewer's yeast, as it's definitely not either of the two. I love this description from Fat Free Vegan:

Nutritional yeast is a food additive made from a single-celled organism, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, which is grown on molasses and then harvested, washed, and dried with heat to kill or “deactivate” it. Because it’s inactive, it doesn’t froth or grow like baking yeast does so it has no leavening ability. Don’t worry; no animals are harmed in this process because yeasts are members of the fungi family, like mushrooms, not animals.

So what's the big deal about these tiny yellow flakes?

  • Fiber: If you read our post from day 2, you'll know that fiber is an incredibly important element of a healthy diet and despite that, so many of us don't get enough of it. Nutritional yeast is a food that makes our gut happy and helps to regulate our blood sugar and sustained energy throughout our day. Nutritional yeast provides 3g of fiber per serving!

  • Essential Vitamins and Minerals + Vitamin B12: Nutritional yeast is rich in B-complex vitamins, amino acids, zinc, selenium and thiamine. While Vitamin B12 is present in foods like red meats, fish and animal byproducts like eggs, milk and cheese, members of the vegan community find B12 solutions in nutritional yeast. While nutritional yeast doesn't contain B12 naturally, many brands fortify B12 into their products.

  • Folic Acid: Nutritional yeast is a great source of folic acid, which is awesome for women who are trying to get pregnant or are pregnant. And for humans in general, folic acid helps our bodies produce and maintain cells.

A few ways to use nutritional yeast:

  • Sprinkle it on popcorn (a personal top favorite of mine)

  • Shake a little dash onto cooked broccoli for "broccoli and cheese" (I used to loooooooove the broccoli / cheese combo growing up...omg)

  • Stir it into mashed potatoes

  • Mix it up with some olive oil + nuts and roast them in the oven

  • Sprinkle on top of your favorite salad

  • Substitute it for parmesan cheese in homemade pesto sauce (another favorite of mine...and I think it makes the pesto taste richer)

  • Roast it with vegetables

  • Use it to make vegan mac & cheese! Check out this recipe:


What You'll Need

  • 8 oz of pasta (I used Banza's elbow pasta)

  • 1 cup of raw cashews (preferably soaked for 1 hour. If you're crunched for time, soak them in boiling water for 15 minutes)

  • 3/4 cup of water

  • 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast

  • 1 clove of garlic

  • 1 tsp of dijon mustard

  • 1 tsp of salt

  • 1/2 tsp of black pepper

  • 1/2 tsp of chili powder

  • 1/4 tsp of turmeric powder

Let's Make It

  • Cook pasta according to package instructions. Once your pasta is cooked, drain it and set it aside.

  • Add the rest of your ingredients to a food processor or high-speed blender and blend until you achieve a smooth and creamy consistency.

  • Put your pasta back in it's pot, pour the cheese mixture on top of the pasta and stir to combine.

  • Serve immediately and enjoy!

BodyMary Beth Mannino