Back in 2011 I made this seemingly tangible promise to myself that I would cook more, and proudly proceeded to learn the art of making kale chips (which was documented here), which I unwisely assumed would be the beginning of an illustrious new-world cooking order. This was a little wrong, though the learning curve did improve and I make them at least once a week. More so, I have expanded my repertoire of “chipping” to other veggies and leafy greens (with mixed results): broccoli, arugula, brussel sprouts, asparagus, spinach, red cabbage, green beans and carrot shredding.
So as I “chip” away, you can imagine my glee when upon another epic night of ladies (much like the one noted in the infamous kale-chip making post, except in this one we made brie pops and friendship bracelets on top of the kale chips) I was introduced to nutritional yeast, perhaps the best topping this side of the Mississippi (I know those east coasters are putting everything below tartar sauce and no way am I messing with that).
Nutritional yeast might as well be pixie dust because it is at least partly made of magic. It is yeast that tastes like cheese. Seriously. If you put it on something and don’t tell your friends it’s nutritional yeast at least one in three of them will believe it really is cheese of some kind (I tried this at a bachelorette party…to be fair this was after we had eaten some Jello shots so this wasn’t the best control group). Not only does it taste like cheese, but it’s also kind of woody and nutty, so it’s a complex sort of cheese flavor that makes it taste extra fancy.
Going for $8 a pound at my local Whole Foods, you’d darn well hope it tastes fancy (actually, price isn’t an issue because yeasty things are really light (hence the pixie dust analogy earlier), I just felt like being crotchety for a moment. The moment has passed). Price and taste aside, nutritional yeast has a few benefits that cheese does not:
We are all prone to over-cheesing. It’s just how we roll as Americans. But two tablespoons of nutritional yeast, which yield about 50 calories, is more than enough to cover a bunch of kale for kale chips, or a bunch of broccoli. Try to only use two tablespoons of Velveeta. I dare you.
What’s B-12? I had zero idea why I should care about this B-based vitamin, so I turned to Wikipedia (thank you for not being blacked out!). Here’s what B-12 deficiency can do to a guy or gal:
Vitamin B12 deficiency can potentially cause severe and irreversible damage, especially to the brain and nervous system. At levels only slightly lower than normal, a range of symptoms such as fatigue, depression, and poor memory may be experienced…Vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause symptoms of mania and psychosis.
Yikes, right? Benefits of B12 are as noted: [B12 plays a] key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, and for the formation of blood. It is one of the eight B vitamins. It is normally involved in the metabolism of every cell of the human body, especially affecting DNA synthesis and regulation, but also fatty acid synthesis and energy production.
Totally worth the time it takes to sprinkle on something.
Packed with protein and a surprising amount of fiber, this little yeast of sunshine is doing your body good. And without all the fat we associate with dairy-based protein sources.
Need some ideas on how to get started with this yeasty-goodness? Here are a few:
1. Roll broccoli flowers in oil, sprinkle on nutritional yeast, bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes.
2. Cream of Wheat/Polenta/Grits – sprinkle on before or after cooking. Enjoy.
3. Popcorn, either with a little butter, a little olive oil, or a little sunflower seed oil.
4. Salad – I’ve been putting it on with oil and vinegar.
5. Savory cookies – if you make your own savory cookies (is this just my family?), add in or sub in place of cheese.
6. Bake on top of a casserole.
Go forth and conquer! And let me know how it goes…curious to hear how other people are using this most magical of all yeasts.