10/26/2016 01:22 EDT | Updated 10/26/2016 01:27 EDT

Nutritional Yeast Is An Allergy-Friendly Foodie's Best Friend

After my son's dairy and egg allergy diagnosis, my household was thrown into living a dairy-free and egg-free life. I must admit that we were completely unprepared and clueless for at least a year. It was a steep learning curve, but I've discovered so many amazing vegan products along the way and learned how to prepare meals, so that my household does not miss dairy or eggs at all.

One of the products that is new to me is nutritional yeast. I add it to sauces, soups, popcorn and pretty much anything that I want to give a distinct "cheesy" flavour to. I use it to replace Parmesan cheese in my pastas and salads, and it puts the finishing touch on my vegan macaroni and cheese sauce. Nutritional yeast adds an amazing cheesy and earthy flavour to almost anything, and ever since I discovered it, I've gotten hooked!

nutritional yeast

But what is nutritional yeast anyway? And why hadn't I heard of it before?

Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast made from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a single-celled organism that is grown on molasses and then harvested, washed and dried with heat to "deactivate" it. It doesn't froth or grow like active yeast used in baking, so it can't be used for leavening.

Nutritional yeast can be found in most health food stores or bulk stores, and looks like yellow flakes or powder. It's commonly referred to as "hippie dust" or "nooch." In Australia, it is sometimes sold as "savoury yeast flakes." And in New Zealand, it is called "Brufax."

nutritional yeast

Nutritional yeast is full of vitamins and nutrients, particularly B vitamins, folic acid, selenium, zinc and protein, and is often fortfied with vitamin B12, so that it can be used as a supplement for people eating a plant-based protein diet. This is likely why I hadn't heard of it in the past, because my guess is that it's mainly marketed to vegans and vegetarians, especially when fortified with B12.

As a meat eater, I don't really need additional B12 supplements, which is why I was thrilled to find non-fortified nutritional yeast flakes. This nutritional yeast product is 100 per cent whole food based and naturally occurring with no unnecessary additives. It is an excellent source of vegan protein and fiber and contains all 18 amino acids and minerals such as iron, selenium and zinc, as well as a natural vitamin B-complex. Most important to my household, is the fact that this nutritional yeast product is not manufactured with gluten, wheat, soy, milk, nuts, eggs or shellfish.

But You don't have to be allergic to dairy or on a plant-based diet to enjoy nutritional yeast. It can be used as a condiment to add a rich, cheesy flavour boost to your dishes, without the cholesterol or fat content of cheese.

Here are some ideas on how to use nutritional yeast:

  • Sprinkle on popcorn
  • Add to mashed potatoes
  • Add to bean dips
  • Sprinkle on pasta dishes or risotto
  • Add to sauces like this dairy-free Mac & Cheese
  • Sprinkle on corn and veggies, such as steamed peas, broccoli and carrots
  • Sprinkle on salads
  • Add to allergy-friendly quiche
  • Add to french toast or pancake batter

This blog originally appeared on HypeFoodie.