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Nooch: Funny Name, Deliciously Healthy Results

  June 02, 2017
By Benjamin Goodin

The phrase “nutritional yeast” yields clinical, unappetizing mental images. Even the appearance of nutritional yeast, which in its flake form has earned it unflattering comparisons to fish food, fails to elicit positive reactions, but vegans swear by it. Glowing endorsements from vegans may also fail to capture the interest of the carnivores amongst us. All of these circumstances are probably why nutritional yeast enthusiasts have given it the playful moniker of “nooch,” an Ethiopian name meaning “for a thousand,” but the flavor and utility of nooch are how it is earning a place in the kitchens of vegan and non-vegan gourmands alike. 

Let’s talk health benefits first. Nutritional yeast is, unsurprisingly, yeast: a single-celled organism that most of us are familiar with from baking. Nooch is actually a byproduct of beet molasses and sugarcane manufacturing, but you will not be using it to leaven your loaves — nooch is “deactivated,” so it won’t be adding a fluffy texture to your dishes. Nooch is often labeled as a “support formula” for vegans and vegetarians because it is not only rich in protein (about eight grams per tablespoon), but it also contains zinc, selenium, folic acid, and provides all nine of the essential amino acids and many of the non-essential amino acids too. Additionally, nooch contains no preservatives or added sugars. Most importantly, the majority of nooch on the market is fortified with B-complex vitamins, particularly B12, which supports healthy brain and nervous function, metabolic health, and helps the body produce red blood cells. Nooch is good for everyone, not just vegans and vegetarians, but it is great for those looking to reduce sodium but not flavor, those with lactose intolerance or dairy-free dietary requirements, and people looking for clean-eating or celiac-friendly (gluten-free) alternatives. 

Perhaps the most important question, especially when it comes to dietary substitutions that create sustainable, and not temporary, healthful change, is why should you choose nooch? Most people find that a change in diet often means giving up some of their favorite foods, or they equate “healthy alternatives” with “tasteless cardboard”; that’s why maintaining a new diet can be so difficult. Well, what if you could have the flavor of one of your favorite foods, without violating your new diet? The flavor of nooch is described as “cheesy, nutty, and savory”; three words any cheese-lover longs to hear. In fact, the bulk of nooch uses in cooking are focused on its ability to emulate cheese flavors. Nooch’s umami flavor also has the culinary benefit of acting like seasoning in the respect that it is a noted flavor-enhancer like MSG and salt, without the accompanying hypertension risk. More than a few recipes suggest cutting nooch in with batters and breadings, and it sees use in a number of soups as a thickening agent and flavor-profile enhancer.

Don’t just trust the hype, pick up nutritional yeast in the health foods aisle or at a natural foods store. You won’t find it in the square paper packets like other yeast; nooch typically comes in bulk jars and sprinkler-lid containers that look like Parmesan cheese shakers, and requires refrigeration after opening. Although some clever marketer will likely sell it by its nickname eventually, make sure you are keeping your eyes open for “nutritional yeast,” and not “nooch.” Try experimenting with some of the suggested uses here, or cook up the recipe on the next page.

Photo credit: OlgaMiltsova/iStock

Use nooch to add healthy flavor to some of your favorites: Eggs, Popcorn, Beans, Pasta, Baked Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes, Salads, Roasted Vegetables, Soups, Pizza Topping

Macaroni and Cheeze

Makes 6-8 servings
4 cup    uncooked macaroni pasta
2 cup    soy milk or regular milk
1 cup    low-sodium vegetable broth
3/4 cup    nutritional yeast flakes
3/4 tsp    salt
1/2 tsp    dried mustard
1/2 tsp    black pepper
1/4 tsp    paprika
1/8 tsp    garlic powder
1/16 tsp    turmeric
1/4 cup     all-purpose flour

Cook macaroni in a large saucepan according to package directions. Drain pasta and set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine all remaining ingredients, except flour. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Once the sauce is hot and bubbling, add the flour and whisk until all lumps have dissolved.
Pour hot sauce over pasta and serve.

Recipe courtesy of
Photo credit: StockStudios/iStock

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June 02, 2017


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