Kitchn Love Letters

The Store-Bought “Delicious Dust” I Sprinkle on Absolutely Everything

published Dec 27, 2023
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bottle of nutritional yeast silo'd
Credit: Photos: Shutterstock; Design: The Kitchn

There’s a tender place in my heart and a forever spot in my pantry for an often underappreciated and polarizing item: nutritional yeast. 

This delicious golden powder doesn’t get the respect it deserves in home kitchens. It’s time that nutritional yeast gets the PR intervention it deserves so we can look past the unappealing name and finally embrace the umami-packed ingredient for what it truly is: a delicious dust that deserves a spot in every kitchen.

I prefer to call it “Nooch” rather than its given name both for the obvious fun of the word and because who wants a reminder that they’re sprinkling nutritional yeast over their avocado toast? Let’s never string the words “nutritional” and “yeast” together again. It’s Nooch from here on out. 

Credit: Elizabeth Briskin

What’s So Great About Nooch?

Somewhere along the way, Nooch became synonymous with vegan and dairy-free sauces and cheese substitutes. Sure, this is probably thanks to its naturally cheesy-without-the-cheese flavor and ability to dissolve into a melty, yellow nacho-looking sauce. Nooch also pops up in the early environmental cookbook Diet for a Small Planet and has long been a staple in vegan cafes and health food stores. Nearly every recipe attempting to recreate a menu item from Erewhon Market, the nucleus of LA’s “wellness” culture, is loaded with Nooch. 

But the golden powder has so much more to offer. Nooch is far from a musty powder relegated to the mysterious shelves of hippie pantries or indie movie theater condiment offerings. It’s more than the token dairy-free cashew mac on crunchy cafe menus. 

Say it with me: Nooch is for cheese lovers too! 

The powder is made from the same yeast that makes sourdough bubbly and cinnamon rolls puffy (called Saccharomyces cerevisiae). To make Nooch, yeast is fermented in a giant tank with sugar to feed on, then harvested and dried into shelf-stable flakes. 

What really makes Nooch great is the coveted sixth flavor umami. You may not be able to describe umami specifically, but you know it when you taste it. Imagine the flavor of a grainy chunk of Parmesan, long-simmered marinara sauce, or effervescent kimchi. That deeply savory, je ne sais quoi you taste is umami, and chances are, it makes your palate sing. And unlike many other umami sources, Nooch is shelf-stable and sprinkle-able on anything. 

Not to mention the nutritional breakdown (turns out, there’s a reason for its legal name after all). Nooch is an impressive source of essential minerals. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a 10-gram serving (two tablespoons) contains over 200% of the recommended daily values of niacin, riboflavin, and vitamins B6 and B12. (B vitamins play an essential role in metabolism and energy production.)

There are also a few milligrams of iron and potassium per serving, plus 5 grams of protein (11% of your daily value) and 2 grams of fiber (7 %), though those numbers will vary slightly depending on the brand.

Buy: Bragg Nutritional Yeast, $7.99 for 4.5 ounces at Instacart

Credit: Elizabeth Briskin

What’s the Best Way to Use Nooch?

Nooch has a nice cheesy flavor, but that doesn’t mean it’s only good for replacing cheese. It can also amplify the savory, salty, cheesiness of a more traditional dish like lasagna or nachos. But plenty of unexpected dishes benefit from a boost of nooch too. 

The powder dissolves nicely into a creamy coconut curry sauce, it’s fantastic whipped into scrambled eggs, added to breading for crispy chicken or tofu, or pureed into peanut or almond butter sauce for dipping dumplings, fresh rolls, or crudité. 

If you’re heading to the store, my favorite brands are Bob’s Red Mill and Bragg, both of which have fine, delicate flakes that dissolve and sprinkle easily, and a consistently fresh flavor. You can also find some fun flavored Nooch seasoning blends, such as Parma! Plant-Based Parmesan, which I love on roasted veggies and salads.  

A gentle Nooch sprinkle over a salad, a shake over pasta, or a tablespoon dissolved into soup will light up your umami receptors, so go ahead and leave it on the table. 

Buy: Bob’s Red Mill Nutritional Yeast, $6.99 for 5 ounces at Target

What seasoning are you adding to absolutely everything right now? Tell us about it in the comments below.