If you’re not familiar with nutritional yeast, it’s time to learn about this nutrient-dense food. These yellow flakes are a great plant-based source of protein and B vitamins and it’s nutty, cheesy flavor makes it a versatile seasoning and base for vegan sauces. What exactly is nutritional yeast and how do you use it?  Read on to learn more. Once you see the ways to incorporate it into your diet, you’ll want to make nutritional yeast a staple in your pantry.

nutritional yeast pin

What is Nutritional Yeast?

Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast made from strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae grown on sugarcane and beet molasses. It’s sold as yellow flakes or powder and it’s vegan, gluten-free, and sodium-free. You can find it in most grocery stores either in the bulk section or packaged (often near the baking supplies). When stored in an airtight container, it has a shelf-life of about 24 months.

What are the Health Benefits?

Nutritional yeast is high in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It’s a good source of plant-based protein if you’re vegetarian or trying to incorporate more non-animal types of protein into your diet. It is also high in B vitamins, including B12. This is particularly beneficial for a vegan diet since it can be more difficult to get adequate amounts of some B vitamins when only eating plant-based foods. 

1 tablespoon serving of nutritional yeast contains:

  • 20 calories
  • 1g fiber
  • 3g protein
  • 180% Daily Value Thiamine (B1)
  • 160% Daily Value Riboflavin (B2)
  • 70% Daily Value Niacin (B3)
  • 140% Daily Value Pyridoxine (B6)
  • 40% Daily Value Folic acid
  • 40% Daily Value Vitamin B12
  • 30% Daily Value Pantothenic acid (B5)
  • 10% Daily Value Selenium
  • 6% Daily Value Zinc

Ways to Use Nutritional Yeast

  • Make a vegan “cheese” sauce. Try this vegan mac and cheese recipe that uses nutritional yeast to make a creamy vegan cheese sauce.
  • Add a few tablespoons to a soup. I find this works especially well with lentil, split-pea, squash-based, or minestrone soups.
  • Add to a stir-fry for some flavor.
  • Sprinkle it over a salad.
  • Use it as a substitute for parmesan cheese and sprinkle it over pasta or vegetables. Make a vegan pesto by replacing the parmesan cheese with it.
  • Sprinkle it on hot, buttered popcorn.
  • Add it to a tofu scramble for some cheesy flavor.
  • Sprinkle over roasted vegetables or kale chips.
  • Add some to homemade salad dressings, such as Italian dressing.
  • Add to mashed potatoes or cauliflower
  • Use it to make a creamy sauce, like in the Creamy Tomato Sauce recipe below.


Creamy Tomato Pasta Recipe

This recipe uses nutritional yeast for the base of a creamy cheesy tomato sauce that you can mix with pasta. I often make this meal for work lunches during the week. It’s filling and makes good leftovers.

Nutritional Yeast Pasta SauceIngredients

  • 8 oz. dried pasta
  • 2 tablespoons butter (use olive oil or avocado oil to make it vegan)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1¼ cups of unsweetened almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 14 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ cup frozen peas, thawed
  • ½ cup frozen roasted corn, thawed
  • Salt and pepper


Nutritional Yeast Sauce Ingredients



 1.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and add back to the pot you cooked it in.

2.  Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour. smoked paprika, garlic powder and onion powder to the butter and stir to combine. 

3.  Slowly add the almond milk, continuously whisking as you add it.

4.  Let the milk mixture cook an additional 3-5 minutes, continue whisking for it to thicken.

5.  Add the nutritional yeast to the milk mixture. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

6.  Add the fire-roasted tomatoes to the sauce and let it simmer for 5-8 minutes.

7.  Add the nutritional yeast sauce, peas, and corn to the drained pasta and mix to combine.


Now that you are more familiar with the nutritional benefits and ways to use nutritional yeast, try incorporating it into your diet as a source of plant-based protein or a vegetarian option to add a cheesy flavor to dishes.