Dairy Free but missing cheese? Nutritional Yeast to the rescue!
Not to be confused with baker’s yeast (such as active dry yeast), brewer’s yeast, or yeast extract, nutritional yeast is a member of the fungi family that is grown on sugarcane or beet molasses and then deactivated. Since nutritional yeast is an inactive yeast, it doesn’t grow, froth, or leaven like baker’s yeast.
As the name implies, nutritional yeast is packed with some healthy goodness. It is typically fortified with B vitamins, including vitamin B12, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid.
It’s also a sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, low-fat food that is a relatively good source of fiber, iron, and protein. It is a natural-source vitamin B complex that supports adrenal hormone synthesis as well as the production of energy and liver detoxification.
What can you make with Nutritional Yeast?
Nutritional yeast is a staple in most vegan diets and is naturally gluten-free and dairy-free yet makes an amazing alternative to cheese in a sauce for those of you doing Whole30, Paleo, Anti-inflammatory diets, etc. Nutritional yeast comes either in the form of flakes or as a powder. It has a savory, nutty, or cheesy flavor. People can add it as a savory seasoning to a variety of dishes, including pasta, vegetables, and salads.
My favorite uses for Nutritional Yeast:
Best Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Macaroni and Cheese:
1 head roasted garlic (see instructions for method)
- 10-12 ounces gluten-free penne* (I love Bionaturae penne found at Whole Foods)
- 4 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced (4 cloves yield ~2 Tbsp)
- 4 1/2 Tbsp arrowroot starch*
- 2 cups unsweetened plain almond milk (plus more as needed)
- ~1/4 tsp each sea salt and pepper (to taste)
- 5 Tbsp nutritional yeast (plus more to taste)
- 1/2 cup vegan parmesan cheese (see recipe below)
To roast garlic, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (204 C) and cut off the very top of a head of garlic. Drizzle the top with a bit of oil, a sprinkle of salt and loosely wrap in foil.
Place directly on oven rack and roast for 45 minutes – 1 hour, depending on size of garlic. You’ll know it’s done when the garlic is very fragrant and the bulb is golden brown. Remove from oven, slightly unwrap, and let cool.
At the 40-minute mark, bring roughly 10 cups (2400 ml // use more or less if altering batch size) water to a boil in a large pot and salt generously. Once boiling, add pasta and stir to prevent noodles from sticking. Cook according to package instructions (usually about 8-10 minutes). Once fully cooked, drain and set aside.
In the meantime, begin preparing the sauce. Heat a large, oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add oil and minced fresh garlic. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until light golden brown. Immediately add arrowroot starch and whisk – cook for 1 minute.
Slowly add almond milk while whisking, then cook for 2 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently. The sauce will likely look a little clumpy – that’s OK! We’re going to blend it.
Transfer mixture to a blender, along with the roasted garlic. To extract garlic, simply push up from the base and the softened cloves should come right out – so gratifying (and delicious).
Next add salt and pepper, nutritional yeast, and vegan parmesan cheese and blend on high until creamy and smooth, scraping down sides as needed.
Taste and adjust seasonings as needed – you want it pretty well salted + cheesy, so don’t be shy with the nutritional yeast, salt, and vegan parmesan cheese.
Return sauce back to skillet from earlier and cook over low heat until warmed and slightly thickened – about 2-3 minutes – whisking occasionally. As it warms back up, it will thicken and get super cheesy (see photo). For a thicker sauce, leave it as is. To thin slightly, add almond milk 1 Tbsp at a time until desired consistency is achieved. Turn off the heat if it starts bubbling too aggressively.
Add cooked, drained pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. Then top with 1 more Tbsp vegan parmesan cheese (amount as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size).
Optional: Heat oven to high broil and position a rack at the top of the oven. Broil pasta on high for 1-2 minutes (optional), or until golden brown (see photo). Watch closely as it can burn quickly.
HOW TO MAKE VEGAN PARMESAN CHEESE
Easy, 4 ingredient vegan parmesan cheese that’s perfect on top of pasta, popcorn and anywhere you’d usually use parmesan cheese!
Add all ingredients to a food processor and mix/pulse until a fine meal is achieved. Store in the refrigerator to keep fresh. Lasts for several weeks.