Yesterday I was thinking "You know you are a real vegan when... you open your second big bag of nutritional yeast, after finishing the first". It was kind of a milestone, so I am going to share.
One of the big roadblocks for my becoming vegan was cheese. I freaking loved cheese. As an ingredient, and as a food. A food group. A whole culinary and nutritional THING. I hated the dairy industry, but loved cheese. Talk about conflicted. Also, fat and conflicted. That is by far the worst kind. The kind where you're going "poor cows... nom nom...sob...". Not a good look.
Enter Nutritional Yeast.
Another big roadblock for me was the ubiquity in Vegan recipes of ingredients that I simply never saw in Australia. When 80% of a cookbook calls for weird stuff like "Bragg's Amino Acids" and "Nutritional Yeast" it just made me lose the will to live. I'd close the book and have some cheese.
Finally, this year, having gotten super serious about going really truly vegan- I set out to find the elusive Nutritional Yeast. It is not easy to find, but I have been buying it from https://www.organicbuyersgroup.com.au/ and have been very happy with their service. It looks expensive, but a $17 bag of the stuff lasts me about 6 months and I use it a lot.
What is it? Well when you open your bag, you'll notice it smells a lot like that yummy fake cheeze flavour that you find in "foods" like cheezels and cheetos. The bag is full of bright yellow, friendly looking flakes. Taste them- and it's like licking the fake cheezie dust off your fingers after a Cheezel binge! Is that a good thing? hell yes. Maybe it's a little bit like parmesan, but a lot like cheezel dust.
Here's what Wikipedia says about Nutritional yeast (apparently those in the know call it Nooch. I don't, because that sounds creepy).
"Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast, usually Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Nutritional yeast is produced by culturing the yeast with a mixture of sugarcane and beet molasses for a period of 7 days and then harvesting, washing, drying and packaging it. This is commercially available in the form of flakes or as a yellow powder similar in texture to cornmeal, and can be found in the bulk aisle of most natural food stores. It is popular with vegans and vegetarians and may be used as an ingredient in recipes or as a condiment.
It is a source of protein and vitamins, especially the B-complex vitamins, and is a complete protein. It is also naturally low in fat and sodium and is free of sugar, dairy, and gluten. 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 because yeasts are fungi, whereas B12 is synthesized only by bacteria.
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 parmesan cheese."
So what do I personally use Nutritional Yeast for? Well- here you go. Please add your own uses as I am learning new tricks all the time!
- Make a white sauce (soymilk, some kind of flour, a bit of garlic, a titch of mustard, some lemon juice. Many people like to add a half cup or so of ground up raw cashews- they do add a certain fatty goodness to the mix) Stir in a half cup or so of Nutritional Yeast. Yummy cheeze! You can use this is in so many ways- in the fridge it cools to a consistency like soft cheese, and while you can't slice it, it's very spreadable. It makes good cheeze sandwiches, a dip, on crackers, or atop pizza it can't be beat.
- Use it in recipes like Mac and cheeze, any recipe that requires a cheesy flavour. The one thing it doesn't impart is that "stringy" texture of melted cheese- so if your recipe requires that for structural reasons you might need to be a bit creative.
- Blend it into silken tofu for another cheeze that can be used on pizza, or in recipes. Layer it into a lasagne.
- make vegan fritattas or "quiches" by following one of the recipes around that combines silken tofu, Nutritional yeast, veggies and other ingredients into an eggless delight that will delight even real men.
- add it to seitan to increase the "umami" potential.
I honestly do not miss cheese at all- in fact I get really sick now when I eat it to be polite- which won't be happening again!