|Nutritional yeast flakes|
While it contains trace amounts of several vitamins and minerals, it is only a significant source of some B-complex vitamins. Sometimes nutritional yeast is fortified with vitamin B12.
Nutritional yeast has a strong flavor that is described as nutty, cheesy, or creamy, which makes it popular as an ingredient in cheese substitutes. It is often used by vegans in place of cheese. It can be used in many recipes in place of cheese, such as in mashed and fried potatoes, and atop scrambled tofu. Another popular use is as a topping for popcorn.
In Australia, it is sometimes sold as "savoury yeast flakes." In New Zealand, it has long been known as Brufax. In the United States it is sometimes referred to as "nooch" (also spelled nüch), "hippie dust", or "yeshi," an Ethiopian name meaning "for a thousand". Though "nutritional yeast" usually refers to commercial products, inadequately fed prisoners of war have used "home-grown" yeast to prevent vitamin deficiency. Nutritional yeast is different from yeast extract, which has a very strong flavor and comes in the form of a dark brown paste.
Nutritional yeast is produced by culturing a yeast in a nutrient medium for several days. The primary ingredient in the growth medium is glucose, often from either sugarcane or beet molasses. When the yeast is ready, it is killed (deactivated) with heat and then harvested, washed, dried and packaged. The species of yeast used is often a strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The strains are cultured and selected for desirable characteristics, and often exhibit a different phenotype from strains of S. cerevisiae used in baking and brewing.
Nutritional values for nutritional yeast vary from one manufacturer to another. On average, two
|Red Star nutritional yeast flakes|
Because nutritional yeast is often used by vegans, who need to supplement their diets with vitamin B12, there has been confusion about the source of the B12 in nutritional yeast. Yeast cannot produce B12, which is only naturally produced by bacteria. Some brands of nutritional yeast, though not all, are fortified with vitamin B12. When fortified, the vitamin B12 is produced separately (commonly cyanocobalamin) and then added to the yeast.
Although some species of bacteria that can produce B12 could potentially grow along with S. cerevisiae in the wild, commercially produced nutritional yeast is grown in controlled conditions that would normally not allow those bacteria to grow. Therefore, nutritional yeast should not be relied upon as a source of B12 unless it is fortified.
Nutritional yeast products do not have any added monosodium glutamate; however, all inactive yeast contains a certain amount of free glutamic acid because when the yeast cells are killed, the protein that comprises the cell walls begins to degrade, breaking down into the amino acids that originally formed it. Glutamic acid is a naturally occurring amino acid in all yeast cells, as well as in vegetables, fungi, and animals.