Nutritional yeast is a great way to add cheesy, nutty notes to a variety of dishes. It is a dairy free seasoning that also happens to be highly nutritious. You can use it as a vegan substitute for Parmesan cheese and as a nutritional supplement; however, it may not be available on your local grocery store’s shelves. If you are having a hard time finding it and need some in a hurry, try one of these nutritional yeast alternatives.
Your best bet: Brewer’s yeast
Brewer’s yeast is a single cell organism that feeds on sugars and excretes carbon dioxide and alcohol. It is removed from beer, dried and deactivated before being processed into flakes or a powder. It is a good source of proteins and other nutrients that it takes up while it is alive. It gets these nutrients from the grain it feeds on when being used to brew beer. Nutritionally speaking, both will provide amino acids as well as trace minerals.
When using brewer’s yeast in place of nutritional yeast, you will want to account for the slightly different flavor. Brewer’s yeast can have a mildly beery aftertaste, which means that you should start with a smaller amount than your recipe requires for nutritional yeast and increase to taste. Use 2 teaspoons of brewer’s yeast for every tablespoon of nutritional yeast that your recipe requires.
A decent second choice: Parmesan cheese
If you are not particularly interested in a vegan option, Parmesan cheese can be a good alternative to nutritional yeast. Parmesan cheese is cheese made in the style of Parmigiano Reggiano from Parma, Italy. It is known for its nutty, savory flavor. That flavor is very much like that of nutritional yeast, which is why nutritional yeast is widely considered the best vegan substitute for Parmesan cheese. Note that Parmesan cheese is not even close being as nutritious as nutritional yeast despite having a similar flavor. Rather, it may have some nutritional drawbacks due to its cholesterol and sodium content.
Use Parmesan cheese as a 1:1 replacement for nutritional yeast.
In a pinch: Soy sauce
Soy sauce is made by fermenting soybeans with salt. This results in a condiment that has the savory and meaty flavor component often termed umami, which is also one of the flavor components in nutritional yeast. Soy sauce can be sprinkled over savory dishes to flavor them in much the same way that nutritional yeast is often used. Note that soy sauce is a flavoring additive only and does not have the nutrients found in nutritional yeast. Note also that while you get 5 mg of sodium from 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, the same serving size of soy sauce will give you more than 2 g of sodium.
Use half the amount of soy sauce that your recipe requires for nutritional yeast and increase to taste.
Marmite is a brewer’s yeast extract used for its salty, meaty flavor. That flavor can make it an effective nutritional yeast substitute. Its high salt content means that you will need to use it sparingly, much like soy sauce. It has the consistency of a paste, which means that it may be difficult to use in place of nutritional yeast for sprinkling over food. Like nutritional yeast, marmite is a rich source of B vitamins.
Vegemite is Marmite’s Australian cousin. Both are yeast extracts, but Vegemite has added flavors and other ingredients that make the taste a little different. However, it can still provide the some of the savory notes that you would get from nutritional yeast.
Look for both Marmite and Vegemite in the International foods section of your grocery store.