week month! With the number of events and tasks on my calendar, I am beyond thankful to have made it through in one piece. March and April is going to be just as busy, so I am going to enjoy the rest of this month as much as I can! And now that this last week is over, it is time to get back to regularly scheduled programming. So many things coming down the pipe for this little blog (that just turned 4!)
Today, let’s talk about cheese. The HARDEST thing for me to give up when I switched to a plant-based diet was cheese. I know I am not alone in this, from all the times I have been asked “How could you give up cheese?!”
The one food that makes it all better: nutritional yeast. Made from deactivated yeast, this amazing little condiment is a vegan wonder food. The yeast is a member of the fungi family and grows on molasses. Once it is harvested and cleaned, it is heated to deactivate the living organism. Since it is inactive, it does not grow or aid in leavening baked goods, which is the main differentiating factor from active Brewer’s yeast.
Here are three reasons why nutritional yeast is a vegan’s best friend:
1. Flavor – There is a slight nutty and cheesy taste to the yeast, making it a natural substitute for cheesy flavor in dishes.
2. Versatility – In dry form, it can be sprinkled on top of dishes or blended with nuts or seeds to make a Parmesan-like mixture. It can also be mixed with soaked cashews or chickpeas, water, and spices to make various cheese sauces. From queso to Alfredo to the best all-purpose sauce ever, you can really do anything with it.
3. Nutrients – Nutritional yeast is the only plant-based source of vitamin B12. So for those of us who do not like taking supplements, adding nutritional yeast into your daily diet can help get this much-talked about vitamin into your diet. It is also fairly high in protein, with 4 g per tablespoon, as well as many other B vitamins, including B6, niacin, folate, and riboflavin. At 30 calories per tablespoon, that’s a pretty nutrient dense serving! (Make sure to check your nutritional yeast when you purchase it, as nutrient information varies greatly among brands – you want to make sure to get one with plenty of B12. I like Whole Foods or Braggs brands).
Here are some of my absolute favorite recipes with nutritional yeast. So good, you won’t even miss the cheese!
- Mmm Sauce – goes on EVERYTHING. Add a tablespoon of chili powder or Penzey’s Arizona Dreaming to make an easy nacho cheese sauce.
- Mushroom and Leek Risotto with Parmesan Tempeh – comfort food in a bowl.
- Roasted Butternut Alfredo – best Alfredo sauce EVER.
- Simple Vegan Pesto – try it on pizza topped with roasted veggies.
- Vegan Pea Soup – nutritional yeast makes this soup extra velvety and thick.