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So most of the superfoods in my kitchen are of the everyday variety (i.e. all the fruits and vegetables), but there is one esoteric superfood that I pretty much couldn’t live without: nutritional yeast. It’s one of those health food store items that seems weird and impossible to use in everyday life, but once you know, YOU KNOW.

So what is it? Nutritional yeast, also known as saccharomyces cerevisiae in Latin and nooch in healthy foodie circles (please don’t ever refer to it as that in my presence) is a type of yeast that is grown specifically for human consumption. It’s harvested on sugar cane, molasses or wood pulp and then pasteurized to stop the growth. Once it’s been deactivated it’s dried and packaged into flakes or powder for your enjoyment. And since it’s been deactivated it won’t contribute to yeast overgrowth like candida.

They’re not kidding about the nutritional part either. Nutritional yeast is a good source of:

  • B vitamins – all eight of them to be exact, including an elusive source of vegan B12
  • Fourteen out of 20 amino acids (a.k.a. protein), one tablespoon has about three grams
  • Chromium, a trace mineral that aids in blood sugar regulation
  • Phosphorus, the bone-building nutrient that doesn’t get nearly as much PR as calcium
  • A host of other vitamins and minerals

And did I mention that it tastes like cheese?!

I love sprinkling nutritional yeast on popcorn, salads, grain or noodle bowls, and pretty much anywhere you’d sprinkle cheese. You can blitz it with some cashews to make a non-dairy “parmesean” or stir it in to a sauce like I have here.

Have you been converted to nutritional yeast? Let me know your favourite way to use this powerhouse!

Pasta Toss with Nutritional Yeast & Summer Vegetables
Adapted from this recipe
Serves 2-3, generously

Ingredients:

4 ounces penne or other short pasta (I use brown rice pasta)
2.5 tbsps olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove, minced
10 ounces asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces on the bias
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup peas (fresh or frozen is okay)
1/4 cup broth, wine or pasta water
3-4 tbsps nutritional yeast, plus more for serving
A couple handfuls of arugula or other sturdy greens for serving
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

Method:

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Reserve 1/4 pasta water if using to cook vegetables.

2. Heat 1.5 tbsps of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, about 1 minute.

3. Add the asparagus and season with a big pinch of salt and a good crack of fresh ground pepper. Cook for about 3 minutes until asparagus is just beginning to get soft and is bright green.

4. Add cherry tomatoes and peas, and cook for another 2 minutes.

5. Add liquid and about 3 tbsps of the nutritional yeast with a pinch of salt and stir to coat. Cook for about 3 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and liquid has reduced by about half.

6. Transfer vegetables to a large bowl and combine with cooked pasta. Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil and toss to coat. Taste and adjust seasoning and nutritional yeast to taste.

7. Serve over a bed of greens with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast and black pepper.

Enjoy!