Just the name of this ingredient will most likely cause you to instantaneously dismiss it. Nutritional yeast doesn't sound like something you want to willingly eat; and it doesn't sound like it could possibly contribute to a tasty meal. But despite your first reaction to this little known ingredient (outside of the vegetarian and vegan world, that is), you should know about nutritional yeast. Trust us, you'll want to buy it and eat it, and you'll most likely love it.

Nutritional yeast doesn't taste like yeast (you know, that strong, beer-like flavor). It comes in both powdered and flaked forms, and tastes nutty, cheesy and delightfully creamy. Many vegans use it as a cheese flavoring substitute, adding it to gravies, sauces, and mac n' cheese dishes. Vegetarians also take advantage of its great nutritional profile.

Nutritional yeast is an excellent source of protein, containing essential amino acids; it's full of vitamins, especially B-complex vitamins (and is often times fortified with vitamin B-12), and it's low in fat and sodium.

While that all sounds good, you might be wondering what nutritional yeast is. It's essentially just yeast (the kind that helps bread rise) that has been deactivated. Once the yeast has grown, it is killed (deactived) by heat and then crumbled into flake or powdered form. This makes it easy to add to dishes, or serve on top of popcorn (which just might be the best way to enjoy it). You can find nutritional yeast in most health food stores, but if it's not available in your area, there are great online sources.

Online sources:
Bob's Red Mill
Bragg Premium Sodium Free Nutritional Yeast
KAL - Yeast Flakes

Have you ever tried nutritional yeast? Leave a comment.

WATCH: Cooking With Nutritional Yeast