If you’ve been living a vegan lifestyle for any amount of time, or even just dabbled with making a few vegan recipes, you’ve no doubt come across nutritional yeast as an ingredient. It’s often added to meals to help achieve a cheesy flavor, where there would traditionally be (dairy) cheese.
But what happens when you’re mid-recipe and you’ve suddenly realized you’ve run out of this handy ingredient? Or perhaps you have a yeast intolerance, and can’t eat it… Fear not, for there are a whole host of nutritional yeast substitutes already in your pantry!
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What Is Nutritional Yeast?
Nutritional yeast gives you the taste of Parmesan cheese without the dairy fat or calories. But it’s different from activated yeast, which makes bread dough rise. Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast made by heat and dried into flakes. So since it’s deactivated, it doesn’t ferment like active yeast.
Most B vitamins traditionally come from animal products. Nutritional yeast is a popular source of B vitamins in low-fat and vegan diets. According to WebMD, nutritional yeast provides fiber, protein, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants that boost your immune system.
When you use it in recipes or sprinkle it on food, it instantly makes your meals more nutritious. And it’s a healthy alternative to cheese and sodium. Nutritional yeast flakes help satisfy your craving for cheese and boost the flavor of salads, popcorn, and pasta. We add it to nearly every meal in our house!
What do You Use Nutritional Yeast For?
Most people use nutritional yeast in recipes that call for cheese sauces, fondues, pizza toppings, or anything with melted cheese in it. You can use this tasty alternative for all your vegan recipes. It’s easy to incorporate this nutrient-dense alternative into your diet.
Here are a few suggestions for including nutritional yeast in your diet:
- Sprinkle as a condiment
- Top off salads, vegetables, rice, and potatoes
- Make a nooch fondue
- Add it into soups, dips, and sauces
Nutritional yeast isn’t the only supplement you can use to add nutrients to your recipes. And it’s not the only way to add that lovely cheesy, umami flavor either. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to find a vegan substitute for nutritional yeast.
Here are some of our most popular recipes that contain nutritional yeast:
- Vegan Onion Dip
- Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip
- Vegan Gluten-Free Crackers
- Creamy Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff
- Vegan Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
- Vegan Cashew Queso (pictured below)
- even this Vegan French Toast!
As you can see, it’s a super versatile ingredient!
Best Substitutes for Nutritional Yeast
If you’re having a hard time finding nutritional yeast, you can incorporate the following nutritional yeast alternatives into your recipes.
If you grind cashews into a powder, you can use it as a nutritional yeast flakes substitute. Use the cashew powder in the same way, sprinkling it on popcorn, salads, and pasta. Also, add the powder to your vegan sauces for a boost in flavor and protein.
When you use it in recipes, add the same amount of cashew powder as you would use nutritional yeast.
If you need a nut-free solution as a sub for nutritional yeast, sunflower seeds are perfect. They’re readily available and have a treasure trove of health benefits. Here are a few:
- Help regulate blood pressure
- Lower blood sugar
- Help prevent heart disease
- Relieve inflammation
- Reduce anxiety
You can grind the sunflower seeds into a powder just like with the cashews. Then you have a bottle ready whenever you want to boost the flavor and nutrients in your food.
If you need a thickening agent but don’t have nutritional yeast, use chickpea flour as an alternative. If you use this as a replacement of nutritional yeast, use the same amount of chickpea flour as you would nutritional yeast.
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are a staple for vegan diets. If you have dried chickpeas at home, you can grind your own chickpea flour. It costs far less than the ground chickpea flour you buy at the store. Just store it in an air-tight container and you’ll always have chickpea flour available for your recipes.
You can’t go wrong eating chickpeas as part of your plant-rich diet. They’re full of fiber that’s beneficial for gut health. Also, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, chickpeas have resistant starch that helps control blood sugar, and it contributes to heart health.
Between the health benefits and the additional flavor chickpeas add to your diet, they’re one of the best nutritional yeast substitutes.
The rich, savory flavor of soy sauce makes a great replacement of nutritional yeast. The main ingredients in soy sauce are soybeans, wheat, and salt, so it’s not suitable for anyone following a gluten-free diet. One tablespoon of soy sauce has 10 calories and zero fat, which makes it a flavorful, low-calorie addition to any food.
One of the health benefits of soy sauce is its antioxidant abilities. However, keep in mind that it is high in sodium, so adjust your recipes to taste.
Liquid aminos have a similar flavor and texture to soy sauce. They’re made in two different ways. One of them uses fermented coconut sap and the other uses soybeans treated with an acidic solution.
This nutritional yeast substitute has a savory and salty flavor. It’s a perfect addition to any vegan meal, and unlike soy sauce, liquid aminos are suitable for those following a gluten-free diet.
Since liquid aminos contain amino acids that your body needs for developing muscles and immunity, this makes them ideal for vegan diets. If you’re using liquid aminos as a nutritional yeast substitute, measure a little less because of the added sodium.
Most dried mushrooms have a similar flavor to nutritional yeast, but porcini mushrooms have the closest flavor profile. When you taste dried porcini, you’ll experience a strong earthy taste with a meaty, chewy texture.
These mushrooms are full of protein, so they’re ideal as meat substitutes for vegan meals. You can rehydrate dried porcini by soaking them in hot water for about 15 minutes. You can also use the broth for soups and gravy.
When using porcini as a nooch substitute, however, you’ll want to use dried mushrooms and grind them into a powder with a mortar & pestle. They won’t recreate the cheesy taste but it will give your meal a touch of umami.
Miso paste is another nutritional yeast substitute made from soybeans. Try it for making creamy vegan sauces as substitutes for cheese.
Since it’s fairly salty, make sure to taste-test your sauce, adding the miso paste in small amounts. Start with about a 1/3 of the amount of nutritional yeast called for in the recipe.
This handy nutritional yeast alternative is inexpensive and easy to find. Vegetable bullion is a great base for all your vegan soups and sauces. You can find this in powder or cube form. Vegetable bouillon powder is convenient for sprinkling into soups, coatings, and anywhere you want a savory flavor.
Do keep in mind that bouillon powder or cubes have high sodium content, and offer little in the way of added nutrients, but they do add to the flavor.
Vegan Parmesan Cheese
You won’t believe how close vegan Parmesan cheese tastes like the real thing. Usually, it consists of four ingredients:
- Roasted cashews
- Garlic powder
- Brewer’s yeast or nutritional yeast
You can save a few dollars by making your own. All you have to do is blend the dry ingredients together and store them in a closed container. Making your own allows you to add the nuts and spices of your choice, so you have more options for your recipes.
Store-bought vegan Parmesan is also available. And since it’s dairy-free, it stays fresh for weeks in the fridge.
When using brewer’s yeast as a nutritional yeast replacement, decrease the amount you’d normally use for nutritional yeast. For example, if you use one tablespoon of nutritional yeast, you only need two teaspoons of brewer’s yeast.
It has the same texture and thickening qualities as nutritional yeast. However, you might notice a small difference in the flavor – Brewer’s yeast is typically more savory. It adds minerals and amino acids to your food, so it makes it a good alternative for nutritional yeast.
Herbs and Spices
The nutrient-dense benefits of herbs and spices are underestimated. They are a quick way to add diversity, flavor, aroma, and antioxidants to any recipe. Plus, you can find them in any grocery store, which makes them a convenient nooch substitute.
The following herbs and spices are beneficial vegan substitutes of nutritional yeast:
- Cayenne pepper – Good source of antioxidants and cardiovascular health.
- Cinnamon – A popular spice with an enticing flavor and aroma that decreases blood sugar.
- Ginger – Health benefits include protection of the liver and decreased inflammation.
- Turmeric – A bright orange spice that adds vitamin E and antioxidants to your food.
These are just a few of the herbs and spices you can use as a sub for nutritional yeast. In addition to the ones mentioned, try dill, sage, rosemary, and bay leaves for savory flavors in your vegan meals.
Now you know some delicious, nutritional yeast alternatives for all your vegan recipes. They might not have the exact flavor and texture of nutritional yeast, but they’re a close second when you’re in a pinch.
So, when you’re out of nutritional yeast or just want to try something different, these nooch substitutes will spice up your meals, and even add a nutritional boost too!