Nutritional yeast has rapidly grown in popularity over the last decade or so.
More and more people choose to follow a plant-based diet as vegan-friendly restaurants and cookbooks prove that plant foods can be just as gourmet and satisfying as omnivorous foods, with the right ingredients.
With the advent of these plant-based foods and new ways to cook them comes nutritional yeast.
What are the best nutritional yeast substitutes? The best substitutes for nutritional yeast include brewer’s yeast, yeast extract, soy products, coconut aminos, and chickpea flour. Each substitute has its strengths and weaknesses depending on what kind of food or drink you are making.
This article will explain what nutritional yeast is, what it tastes like, its nutritional benefits, and the most common reasons it’s used.
Understanding the basics of nutritional yeast will then help you decide which substitute will work for the recipe you’re creating.
Finally, all the best nutritional yeast substitutes and how to use each one most effectively is explained in detail, making it easy for you to decide which alternative is is best suited to your needs.
What Is Nutritional Yeast?
If you’ve ever baked bread from scratch or tried your hand at brewing beer, you’ve likely come into contact with either baker’s yeast or brewer’s yeast.
They’re the same strain of yeast, simply cultivated slightly differently to achieve different results. The same can be said for nutritional yeast.
All three types of yeast are initially grown in cultures on sugar or molasses. After harvesting, it is washed and dried using heat to deactivate the fungi.
Nutritional Yeast Taste
One of the reasons nutritional yeast is so popular in the vegan community is because the flavor is distinctly cheesy.
It is most commonly compared to parmesan, but with the right combination of spices and other ingredients, it can be used as a good flavor substitute for a variety of cheeses in many different applications.
Of course, the taste is not an exact match. Nutritional yeast is very savory, with an umami flavor that isn’t as sharp as most cheese but is rather more nutty and earthy.
Nutritional Yeast Benefits
One of the reasons nutritional yeast is called nutritional yeast is because it has a very impressive nutritional profile.
The type of nutrition it contains, along with the cheesy flavor, is a primary reason explaining why it is so popular in the vegan space.
In a 1oz serving, you will consume:
- Calories: 84
- Carbohydrates: 10g
- Fiber: 5.5g
- Fat: 1.2g
- Protein: 11.7g
Nearly 12g of plant-based protein in a 1oz serving size is pretty impressive, but there are even more benefits when you look more closely at the vitamins and minerals.
In that same 1oz serving, you will receive more than 100% of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, and B12.
B vitamins are crucial for processing and transporting nutrients in your system and B12, in particular, is notoriously difficult to source without supplementation, especially if you’re on a strictly plant-based diet.
Nutritional yeast is one of the very few plant-based sources and offers it in the greatest quantity per serving size.
What Is Nutritional Yeast Used For?
Because of the flavor, nutritional yeast is most often used to create the savory, cheesy element in a recipe. It’s commonly used to create vegan cheeses or cheese sauces or simply to bring a savory depth of flavor to a recipe.
Nutritional yeast can also be used as a seasoning, sprinkled over potatoes and vegetables, topping pasta or rice dishes, or even adding flavor to a bowl of popcorn.
Some people use nutritional yeast specifically for its nutritional benefits, usually as a way to increase their protein or vitamin B-12 intake.
Best Nutritional Yeast Substitutes
There are many reasons you may not want to or be able to use nutritional yeast in a recipe you’re trying to create. Not everyone appreciates the flavor of nutritional yeast, including vegans. Many people are also allergic to yeast.
Very often, nutritional yeast simply isn’t a standard ingredient in your pantry.
Whatever your reasons for needing a substitute for nutritional yeast, many alternatives can work, though some are more suitable for certain recipes than others.
We’ve compiled a list for you to work with, offering suggestions for how and when you might want to choose each option.
Most are vegan, but, even if you’re not plant-based yourself, most options are relatively common in the average omnivorous diet.
|Substitute||When to Use||What to Expect|
|Brewer’s Yeast||For replacing the nutritional value||Slightly bitter flavor, may foam or react in some recipes|
|Yeast Extract||For replacing the nutritional value and adding salty, bitter, umami flavor||A little goes a very long way|
|Soy Products||For liquid-based, savory recipes||Rich umami flavor|
|Coconut Aminos||For soy-free, liquid-based, savory recipes||Umami flavor without soy or yeast|
|Mushrooms||For an earthy, sometimes nutty, umami flavor||Savory flavor, more meaty than cheesy|
|Chickpea Flour||For cooking in large quantities, ¼ or more||Similar texture, flavor, and nutrition, though milder in all aspects|
|Spices||To replace nutritional yeast as a seasoning agent||Varies depending on blend|
|Parmesan||Non-vegan dishes||Similar flavor and texture, though more sharp than earthy|
As previously mentioned, nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast of the same strain as both brewer’s yeast and baker’s yeast, or dry yeast.
Because nutritional yeast has been deactivated, it cannot be used to substitute any other type of yeast in a recipe that requires the live form, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the reverse is true.
If you don’t have an allergy to yeast or aren’t avoiding all types of yeast for any other reason, substituting an alternative yeast for nutritional yeast may be your best option.
1. Brewer’s Yeast
Brewer’s yeast is most commonly used in the beer-making process, hence its name, but it’s also used for baking bread.
It’s even used as a nutritional supplement for minerals and B vitamins, though it’s not nearly as powerful as nutritional yeast.
The nutritional value is slightly different from nutritional yeast. Brewer’s yeast is a comparable source of protein, but considerably lower in vitamins and minerals. This makes it less attractive as a reliable B12 source, but still quite nutritious.
The biggest difference between nutritional yeast and brewer’s yeast is the flavor. brewer’s yeast has a bitter flavor compared to the earthy, nutty, cheesy flavor of nutritional yeast.
When using it in recipes, use slightly less than the amount of nutritional yeast called for to reduce the bitter edge. 2 tsp of brewer’s yeast will substitute well for 1 tsp of nutritional yeast.
Though the flavor is slightly different, it will still add a certain savory quality to your recipe.
2. Yeast Extract – Vegemite and Marmite
Yeast extracts are made through a special process of heating yeast, the same strain as nutritional yeast, to degrade the cell wall, which results in a much more concentrated flavor. The liquid is then reduced to a paste or dried into a powder.
Yeast extract is commonly used as a flavoring agent in many different processed foods, though in North America it isn’t very popular for household use.
It can be found, however, under brand names such as Vegemite and Marmite, which are highly popular in the UK and Australia.
Yeast extracts will typically have additional ingredients and are fortified with B vitamins, so they make a good substitute for the nutritional benefits of nutritional yeast, but the flavor is different.
Yeast extract is much more powerfully flavored because it is concentrated. You will only need 2–3 tsp for every 1 tbsp of nutritional yeast called for. The flavor is savory but more salty and bitter than nutritional yeast.
Vegemite is one of Australia’s most iconic foods. It is a high-impact, strongly flavored thick spread that should be used sparingly. It is often paired with cheese, rather than used as a substitute for it.
If you’ve never tried it, keep in mind that it is often described as an acquired taste and North Americans who are not used to the taste may not just dislike it but hate the salty, meaty taste entirely.
Marmite is the UK’s version of yeast extract. This is another condiment that is an acquired taste. It is milder yet sourer than vegemite, but still much more strongly flavored than nutritional yeast. It’s more of a syrup than a paste.
Using either Vegemite or Marmite in broth or sauces, or spread very thinly over toast, will add to the salty, savory flavor of the dish.
If you’re searching for the creamy nuttiness of nutritional yeast, you may want to pair it with some crushed cashews and a bit of garlic.
3. Active Dry Yeast
Baker’s yeast, or dry yeast, does have a comparable amount of protein and more B vitamins overall than Brewer’s yeast, but it has no vitamin B12 at all.
It’s much more difficult to use dry yeast as a substitute for nutritional yeast because it reacts very readily with ingredients that contain sugar, glucose, or salt, which are nearly all ingredients.
It will be very unpredictable in cooked or baked recipes and may also cause your food to taste sour. It also doesn’t taste as pleasing as nutritional yeast when used as a seasoning agent.
There are some claims that if you toast active dry yeast to kill the yeast it will essentially be the same as homemade nutritional yeast. This is not true.
It may taste less sour and more savory, but it is still not a great substitute. There are better options on this list, so keep reading!
Soy and soy products are great substitutes for nutritional yeast on a variety of fronts. First, soy is a complete protein, similar to nutritional yeast.
Next, many soy products are fermented specifically to create a satisfying, comforting umami flavor. Some examples are miso paste or soy sauce.
Miso paste has a depth of flavor that works well in liquid-based recipes that use nutritional yeast as a seasoning.
Soy sauce can be used the same way, but its flavor profile is mainly salty, whereas miso paste has more of the umami savoriness along with a unique tang from the fermentation process.
It isn’t a flavor match for nutritional yeast, but it provides a similar experience.
5. Liquid or Coconut Aminos
Liquid aminos or coconut aminos are generally used as a substitute for soy sauce for those who are avoiding soy products.
They aren’t as salty as soy sauce, but taste very similar and can add the same savory, salty goodness as a replacement for nutritional yeast.
Liquid aminos have an added benefit that soy sauce does not. They’re also a good source of free amino acids, hence their name.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, so these products can help replace some of the nutritional value lost from the nutritional yeast.
When using the soy products listed above or liquid aminos as a substitute for nutritional yeast, start with a small amount and build up as necessary.
These liquids are much saltier than nutritional yeast and should be tested for flavor carefully.
The previous substitutions replaced the earthy, cheesy savoriness of nutritional yeast with alternative flavors that focused mainly on the salty effect.
Mushrooms are also appreciated for their umami flavor, but they provide the earthy, sometimes nutty experience rather than the salty.
Each type of mushroom tastes different and will add a unique quality to your recipe. For example, shiitake mushrooms are quite mild, whereas porcini mushrooms have a more pungent flavor profile.
Fresh, cooked mushrooms will add a meaty quality to a recipe, along with boosting the flavor, which differs from the cheesiness, but is similarly satisfying.
To get a closer match to nutritional yeast, however, you can grind dried mushrooms into a powder and use it as a direct replacement. It may alter the color of your recipe slightly, so use with caution in light cream sauces.
If your interested in replacing nutritional yeast with mushrooms in your pasta recipes, check out our article on the 7 best mushrooms for pasta.
7. Chickpea Flour
Chickpea flour is a surprisingly good substitute for nutritional yeast, as it is somewhat similar in texture, flavor, and nutritional value, though milder in all aspects.
Some recipes call for a large amount of nutritional yeast, ¼ cup or more. For those recipes, it isn’t just the flavor that needs to be replaced but also the consistency that is achieved by the powder or flakes.
Chickpea flour rises to this challenge.
It doesn’t have as strong of a flavor as nutritional yeast, but chickpea flour does have an earthy, buttery taste that is similar to nutritional yeast, though without the yeast-induced cheesiness. Adding some garlic and other spices can help.
If you’re trying to substitute nutritional yeast for a seasoning that is sprinkled on veggies, pasta, or even a crunchy treat, you can toast some chickpea flour with a bit of added spices like smoked salt, garlic, and/or paprika.
This will help to achieve a flavor that is savory and rich, similar to nutritional yeast.
The trickiest part to using chickpea flour as a substitute for nutritional yeast is the conversion. There is no exact ratio for replacing one with the other, and each recipe might do best with a slightly different amount.
We recommend starting with 1/3 less chickpea flour than nutritional yeast is called for and adding more as necessary.
If the nutritional yeast in your recipes is mainly used as a seasoning, such as being sprinkled over cooked vegetables or to add flavor to popcorn, often searching your spice cabinet can give you the substitutions you need.
Nutritional yeast is often described as cheesy in flavor, but it also adds a savory, umami depth of flavor that can be achieved with spices, albeit without the cheesy goodness.
Try adding a combination of the following spices to your recipe instead of nutritional yeast:
- Paprika, or smoked paprika
- Smoked salt
- Dried oregano, basil, or coriander (more herbaceous and bright flavors)
Combining spices with a creamy spread or dip will help bring back some of the cheesy taste by adding richness.
If your recipe calls for soaked and pureed cashews, mashed chickpeas, pureed cauliflower, or any other velvety, buttery ingredients, spices will work well as a substitute for nutritional yeast.
If you’re not vegan or sensitive to dairy products, you can substitute parmesan cheese for nutritional yeast in almost every recipe, both cooked or fresh.
The flavor and texture are similar and they will act nearly identical when cooked. The main difference is that parmesan has a sharpness to it, whereas nutritional yeast is more earthy in flavor.
Use the same amount of parmesan as you would use nutritional yeast, but make sure it is grated to get the texture and consistency right.
The main difference between parmesan and nutritional yeast is the nutritional value.
Parmesan has none of the benefits of nutritional yeast in terms of vitamins or minerals, though it is a good source of protein. Instead, it has more calcium and fat.
Nutritional Yeast – Nutrition Substitutes
If you need to supplement the nutritional value of nutritional yeast, it’s a good idea to first talk to your health care professional about your intake needs and supplementation options.
There are both dietary supplements and prescription medications available.
While there are many vitamins and minerals found in nutritional yeast, the most common reasons it’s eaten as a type of dietary supplement is for added protein and/or vitamin B12.
The amount of protein found in nutritional yeast is almost unbelievable. Luckily, protein is in almost all foods to some degree, so if you’re eating a varied diet, you’ll be able to increase your protein intake with every meal.
Nutritional yeast is considered a complete protein, however, which is less common in the plant world. The most common complete vegan proteins are:
- Soy and soy products such as edamame, tofu, seitan and tempeh
- Chia seeds
You can also combine certain foods to gain all the amino acids you need in multiple foods, which is easier than you might guess.
Hummus and pita, peanut butter sandwiches, and rice and beans will each give you all the amino acids your body needs to thrive.
Some sources are higher than others, and if you’re looking specifically for high protein plant-based foods, consider adding a few of the following to your daily diet (in addition to the above listed):
- Lentils, chickpeas, edamame, and legumes
- Ancient grains such as spelt, amaranth, and teff
- Seeds and nuts, such as hemp, flax, sesame, almonds, walnuts, and cashews
- Rice, particularly wild rice
- Tofu or tempeh
Vitamin B-12 is naturally present in many different animal products, such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy, but it’s rarely found in plant foods.
In addition to supplements, many vegan food products are fortified with B-12. Because it’s such a vital nutrient, it’ll often be listed as a feature or, at the very least, declared in the nutritional data.
If you’re looking to replace the vitamin B-12 found in nutritional yeast, research products such as veggie dogs and other meat alternatives, as well as plant-based milk or cheeses.
If you’re avoiding nutritional yeast entirely because of an allergy, keep in mind many of these foods get their B12 from nutritional yeast, so this may not be an option for you.
Is Nutritional Yeast Gluten Free?
Yes, nutritional yeast is naturally gluten-free. However, if you’re highly allergic to or sensitive to gluten, you will want to be sure that it has been processed and packaged in a facility that has been certified as gluten-free.
With any packaged food, there is always a chance of cross-contamination if it is handled in a space that also handles wheat. Most certified manufacturers will put a badge on all their packages to confirm the safety of the product.
Does Nutritional Yeast Feed Candida?
Candida is a fungal infection caused by yeast, so it’s not surprising that you might be concerned about eating any yeast. Luckily, there is no need to be concerned about nutritional yeast worsening Candida.
The species of yeast that causes Candida is entirely separate from nutritional yeast and it cannot cause or feed the fungus. Moreover, nutritional yeast has been deactivated, so it cannot grow in your system in any way.
Is Nutritional Yeast the Same as Nutritional Yeast Seasoning?
Yes, nutritional yeast, nutritional yeast seasoning, and even simply yeast seasoning all refer to the same thing.
In North America, it is most commonly called nutritional yeast or “nooch,” though in Australia it’s much more likely to be called yeast seasoning.
Occasionally brands will combine the terms to appeal to a wider audience, but they are all the same, simple yeast ingredient unless there are other spices, herbs, or additives referenced on the ingredients label.