VEGAN CHEDDAR CHEESE
Of all the ingredients I use in my recipes, the one I get asked about the most is nutritional yeast. I’ve been cooking with it for so long that I forget how strange it must sound to people who are new to vegan cooking. Neither the word “nutritional” nor the word “yeast” conjures up mouthwatering images, but the truth is, it’s one of the few “health food store” ingredients that I wouldn’t want to have to do without–and not because of its nutritional value.
So what is it, why do I use it, and where can you find it?
What It Is Nutritional yeast is 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.
Nutritional yeast has such an unappealing name that somebody started calling it “nooch” and the name caught on on the internet.
The brand that most vegans use is Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula because it is a good source of vitamin B12 and contains no whey, an animal product that is used in some other brands. In the U.K., nutritional yeast is sold under the Engevita brand and in Australia as savory yeast flakes.
What It Isn’t
Nutritional yeast is not the same as brewer’s yeast, which is a product of the beer-making process and is very bitter.
It’s also not Torula yeast, which is grown on paper-mill waste and is also not very tasty. And please do not try to substitute active dry yeast or baking yeast, which taste bad and will probably make a huge, frothy mess because their yeasts are alive.
Where Can I Find It?
You probably won’t be able to find nutritional yeast in a typical grocery store. I buy it from the bulk bins at the local natural food store, where it is labeled “Vegetarian Support Formula.”
Larger grocery stores might have Bob’s Red Mill brand in the natural food section. If you can’t find it locally, Amazon has several brands, including Red Star. I use the flaked version of nutritional yeast, but it’s also available in a powder. If you’re using the powder, you will need only about half as much as the flakes.
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