nutritional yeast

Lately more than one of my friends has been dabbling in veganism. I don’t know if it will stick for them but I’m always interested in trying new things when it comes to food. I just have so many questions. How do you bake without eggs? What are substitutes for cream cheese and butter? And how do you survive without cheese?

Much to the relief of my husband, I’m not signing up to be one myself but you could say I am vegan-curious so have been doing some dabbling with recipes like Secret Ingredient Brownies and these oh so addictive crackers that I can’t stop eating.

Kale chips are not exactly breaking news. In fact, it was almost three years ago that I wrote about them here. But recently I was on a business trip to southern California and popped in an amazing shop called Kreation Juice. Besides delicious cold pressed juices they had these addictive nacho cheese kale chips that were vegan. How does that work? All I know is that I found myself sitting on the plane wishing I’d brought a container home with me.

What is Nutritional Yeast?

My answer to pretty much any predicament or question is to Google it and figuring out the cheesy goodness behind these vegan snack chips became a mission. I found this recipe on and with a title like “Finally, the Best Ever Kale Chips Recipe – Cheesy Kale Chips” I had to give them a try. And you know what? They were right – they are the best.

The secret to vegan cheesiness seems to be nutritional yeast. But what the heck is that?

Some more perusing on the internet (yes…more Googling) makes nutritional yeast sound like a wonder food and by that, I mean I wonder how I’ve been missing out all these years. Also called “nooch”, it’s a good substitute for those watching their sodium intake. It’s gluten free. It adds that fifth mystical taste of umami. It’s rich in Vitamin B, protein, iron and amino acids. It’s even good for your pets. And, of course, why I’m primarily interested in it…it tastes cheesy.

But what is it? According to the Whole Food’s blog, nutrition yeast is a fungus that is grown on a food source, often molasses or sugar cane, and then harvested, heated, dried and crumbled into flakes or powdered. This process deactivates the yeast so it doesn’t have any of the leavening properties you might expect from something called “yeast”.

Thankfully it tastes better than it sounds.

One of my favorite lines in my research was from Bon Appétit. “You don’t have to be vegan to partake (I’m certainly not), but based on my unscientific research, a slight hippie leaning may increase your odds of actual enjoyment.”

Apparently it’s time to embrace my inner hippie.

P.S. Looking for more kale chips ideas. Check out this link with a roundup of 50 recipes!