Can You Substitue Nutritional Yeast for Cheese?

Marissa Newby
Nutritional YeastWikimedia Commons

Nutritional yeast can be used as a plant-based alternative in many dishes where you need a savory or cheesy flavor profile. Contrary to what you might think based on the name, it is deactivated and won’t make anything rise or yield differently. Nutritional yeast, or nooch as the youngsters refer to it, is extremely versatile. Here are 10 ways that you can use it in everyday recipes, unique takes, and foodie fun.

Topping On Salads, Soups, Popcorn, Chips, and Sides

Nutritional yeast can be sprinkled onto popcorn that is not slathered in butter and artificial cheese for an extra bit of flavor. To add some depth of flavor, in a non-stick pan, toast your nooch until the color deepens to a darker brown and it becomes fragrant, and then put it on your popcorn or salads. You can also use it to toss onto vegetables, along with some herbs and spices, before roasting them in the oven or cooking them in the air fryer for a cheesy bit of umami. Make a cheesy broccoli soup or a high-protein white bean and kale soup with some plant-based sausages and sprinkle some nutritional yeast on top after it is plated for an extra-cheesy experience.

Nutritional yeast can also be added to the roux, a base, or as a thickener in traditionally creamy soups. You can cut the use of some flour and add flavor by using nutritional yeast instead. This can be particularly handy if you are looking to lower your carbohydrate intake but still have hearty plant-heavy dishes. A particularly yummy potato soup can be made

Cheese Sauce That Will Embarrass Dairy-Based Cream Sauces

Combining nutritional yeast, almond milk, soaked cashews, a bit of lemon juice and garlic salt in a blender can create an extremely versatile cheese sauce that can be used to make some bomb comfort food like macaroni and cheese, hashbrown casserole, and vegetables smothered in liquid gold. You can also make a spicy riff of this sauce by adding some smoked paprika to the mix or chopping some jalapenos into the blend to make a delicious dipping sauce for Mexican-inspired dishes.

This can be valuable for easy one-pan dishes on nights where you just don’t have the time or energy to make a full-scale gourmet dinner. Use the cheese sauce with several different components that can vary. Try a loaded mac and cheese by combining the sauce, noodles, pulled pork, or shredded chicken into a casserole dish, mixing and baking.

You can also keep it super simple by baking potatoes, adding the cheese sauce as a topping, and sprinkling some green onions and chili onto the potato. Make a cheesy broccoli topping by adding the cheese sauce to steamed broccoli and mixing it. The cheesy broccoli can be a standalone side as well.

Extra Protein and Aminos into Egg Substitute Dishes

Fancy up your tofu scramble by adding some toasted nutritional yeast in as you cook it to make a savory breakfast or brunch. You can also use an egg substitute such as Just Egg, mixed with chopped peppers, nutritional yeast, your preferred spices, and some spinach poured into a muffin pan and baked until crispy and fluffy. The nutritional yeast adds a depth of flavor that will change your quiche muffin game.

Try cutting up some bell peppers and onions to sauté. Use vegan meat ground or crumbles, or ground beef or sausage, whatever your preference might be. Cook the mixture down and mix with Just Egg or your tofu scramble, along with the nutritional yeast to make a healthy addition to your weekly breakfast. This can be used as a great meal prep to make in bulk and store as well to keep you on track or save you some time during the busier parts of the week.

Pesto and Bechamel sauces

Sub nutritional yeast into these sauces where other cheeses would go. For the bechamel sauce, use plant-based milk in place of the cream for the roux, along with the nutritional yeast to keep it fully well-rounded and packed with protein. You will lower your sugar and fat profile this way as well, making this traditionally heavily fatty cream sauce a little healthier with the same great taste.

For another twist on the traditional pesto, use zucchini noodles instead of pasta if you are focused on cutting carbs. Make your nutritional yeast pesto and toss it with zoodles and top with fresh herbs and the nutritional yeast parm located a bit later in this list to layer on the flavor and cut some carbs.

Sprinkle, Bake, Snack

Make a cheesy trail mix and save some cash. Mix nuts, roasted chickpeas, seeds, and perhaps some savory granola with your nutritional yeast to make a protein-packed snack. You can also use nutritional yeast and a bit of avocado oil, toss some canned chickpeas in this yeast and oil mix and bake independently for a crunchy protein snack.

You can also use this to make a southern favorite. Grab a freezer bag, some saltines of choice a bit of oil, nutritional yeast, paprika, red pepper flakes if you like it extra spicy, and some ranch seasoning mix. Toss it all together in the bag until coated. All the crackers sit in a sealed bowl or container afterward to increase flavor. If you are less than enthusiastic about spicy foods, skip the pepper flakes and paprika.

Panko Crust Protein, Bread and Biscuits

Toss panko or other breaded or floured crusting with nutritional yeast to add a cheesy, savory element to the food you might be about to fry or bake. Fish and chicken will benefit from this application the most. Why not add some extra B12 to the scenario without adding extra fat? This will also work for eggplant parm.

You can also use this application if you are making biscuits or croissants or other bread products. In your biscuit dough, add garlic powder and nutritional yeast to make cheesy garlic biscuits. This can also work for spicy cornbread riffs like jalapeno cornbread or even corned pudding.

Plant-Based Parmesan That Lasts In Storage and Packs Flavor

Very similar to the cheese sauce or queso we mentioned earlier, but without the wet ingredient. Place dry cashews, nutritional yeast, and garlic salt into a blender or food processor and blend until you reach a preferred consistency. You can store this in a jar afterward and use it where you would traditionally use a parmesan sprinkle such as pasta dishes or fresh salads.

If you like bruschetta, crisp your bread and make your vegetable mix, sprinkle the nooch parm on it to serve in place of grated parmesan. This also stands up to the salad in a jar recipes that you can make ahead and store for meal prep or easy go-to foods. The parmesan flavor will stay but give a buttery melt to dressings if they are added to the jar during storage.

Parmesan Crisps Without the Dairy

Combine almond flour, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and a bit of water until you have a slightly doughy consistently, spread out on a baking sheet with a silicone or parchment liner, bake until crisp and use it as a cracker or break it up to top another dish.

If you want to make something similar to the fried cheese wisps that are keto-friendly, the nutritional yeast won’t work well without adding liquid and oil. If you want to do this, consider using vegan cheese shreds rather than nutritional yeast. Or use dairy-based cheeses to pull this off if you prefer a less cracker-like consistency.

Combine the Nooch, Pesto, and Just Egg

Double the umami, double the nutritional benefit. Cooking the Just Egg as an omelet on top of the vegan pesto cooks the flavors into the outside of the omelet can add a depth of flavor that is a crowd-pleaser. Try adding fresh pico to spice things up!

If you are looking for a lunch option, consider adding the pesto into Pasta Verde instead. Pesto is an extremely versatile sauce. Bonus, you can make a vodka sauce with the nooch parm or creamy cheese sauce that is divine.

Your Dog Can Benefit

Well sourced nutritional yeast without enriched additives can be a safe way to provide extra protein and B vitamins to your canine companion. Do not rely on nutritional yeast for total nutrition for your dog, but it can be a fun addition to a snack or treat you might be baking for them as a special occasion. Fair warning, make sure you read your label and test with a small amount first before diving headfirst into a dietary change with your pet. Contact your veterinarian and talk through the idea. We certainly would not want your best friend feeling ill.

Bonus recipe for pressure cooker lovers

This is a one-pan struggle meal that can be done cheap, easy, and quick. Use arborio rice, dry, in your pressure cooker. Add double the water to rice ratio, add plenty of nutritional yeast to suit your taste, garlic salt, and chopped mushrooms. Close the lid, cook for 8 minutes and let the pot depressurize. Voila, you’ve made cheesy mushroom risotto without the 30 minutes of endless stirring and stress.

Nutritional yeast is a cheesy, savory addition to many dishes where it can either hide or be the main player. It adds plenty of B vitamins and a full protein amino acid profile. We can all likely use just a bit more protein and vitamins in our diet.

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Marissa, a graduate safety practitioner and paramedic, has been writing and editing fiction and non-fiction work for 15 years. She delivers researched and sourced news concerning world events, public health, public safety and emergency management.


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