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Here's Why Nutritional Yeast Is The Magical Ingredient You Didn't Know You Needed

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Chances are you have at least one friend who is vegan, because, really, who doesn't these days? And you may have heard them talking about eating some questionable items, like a bowl of mac and cheese or some homemade pizza.

How, you might wonder? Friends, they were eating nutritional yeast. Before those eyebrows get any higher, let us explain.

Nutritional yeast, affectionately called "nooch" by those who are in the know, is a magical substance found in the bulk or supplement section of most health food stores. The name doesn't sound too appealing, but nutritional yeast is just an inactive yeast made from sugar cane and beet molasses. It's very similar to the active yeasts found in breads, but has no leavening ability. And it instantly allows for some amazing variety in a vegan diet -- specifically for its cheesy, umami-like flavor.

The best part? Nutritional yeast doesn't have to be reserved for only vegans. It can be a healthy and delicious addition to anyone's diet. Before you dismiss the idea that nutritional yeast might be the ingredient you never knew you needed, consider all of these fantastic things you can do with it.

1. First things first, nutritional yeast can replace cheese in almost every single recipe that calls for it.

uncheesy
"The Best Cheesy Uncheese Sauce" by Gluten Free Goddess

A lot of people love nutritional yeast for it's strong semblance to parmesan cheese. It can serve as a healthier alternative to real cheese sauces.

2. You can make lasagna with that "cheese " sauce.

lasagna
"Creamy Vegan Lasagna With A Tofu White Sauce" by Veghotpot

This version is so creamy and so cheesy... but with no dairy. It's a true miracle.

3. Or some indulgent mac and cheese.

This dairy-free (!) recipe looks just as cheesy as the real deal.

4. Fact: Smearing your next sandwich with this pesto helps provide you with essential nutrients.

pesto
"Simple Vegan Pesto" by Food 52

Nooch is rich in B vitamins, which are especially important to your body to maintain a good food metabolism, a healthy nervous system and to help your body regenerate red blood cells. And if you're vegan or vegetarian, you may be missing out on these important nutrients.

5. Nutritional yeast works wonders with potatoes.

potatoes
"Creamy Vegan Scalloped Potatoes" by Gluten Free Goddess

You'll gobble this up so fast that you won't even notice these aren't made with real cheese.

6. And pasta.

pasta
"Creamy Spring Pasta with Shiitake Mushrooms and Peas" by Food 52

One bite of this and we can almost guarantee you'll forget dairy even exists.

7. Perhaps you're gluten free. Nutritional yeast will also be your best friend.

fritatta
"Garden Pea Tofu Fritatta (Vegan MoFo)" by Veghotpot

Nutritional yeast contains zero gluten and helps provide a savory kick to this tofu frittata, which also happens to be wheat and dairy free.

8. If you're feeling a bit lazy, all you have to do is sprinkle some on your red sauce.

Instant flavor in one very easy step.

9. And if you're trying to watch your sodium intake, nutritional yeast works as a superb salt replacement.

popcorn
"Hippie Popcorn" by Food 52

Nutritional yeast contains absolutely zero sodium. So, if you're trying to watch your blood pressure, sprinkle "nooch" on your popcorn kernels instead of salt.

10. When vegans want gravy on their mashed potatoes, nooch saves the day.

gravy
"Vegan & Gluten-Free Gravy" by Food 52

With its strong umami-like flavor, nutritional yeast is a great substitute for meat stock in gravy.

11. Even your dog will love it.

kibble
"Raw Kibble For Dogs" by Raw, Green & Simple

Lucky for your pooch, nutritional yeast is great for him to eat. You can most definitely sprinkle some "nooch" in his food for both taste and additional vitamins. This will help immensely if you happen to be raising your dog on a vegetarian or vegan diet.

12. Don't forget about dessert. Nutritional yeast adds depth to sweet treats.

pnut
"Vegan Peanut Butter Cups" by Averie Cooks

These peanut butter cups just take ten minutes to make and only have three ingredients: melted chocolate, peanut butter and, of course, nutritional yeast.

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Around the Web

What the Heck is Nutritional Yeast? - FatFree Vegan Kitchen

11 ways to use nutritional yeast (and why you should) : TreeHugger

Nutritional Yeast: The Surprisingly Tasty Health Food - Huffington Post

What Is Nutritional Yeast? A definition - Vegetarian Food - About.com