What can I substitute for nutritional yeast?

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “what can I substitute for nutritional yeast?” with an in-depth analysis of nutritional yeast, what are the possible substitutes of nutritional yeast, how it can be prepared and what are its advantages and disadvantages.

What can I substitute for nutritional yeast?

Nutritional yeast can be substituted with white miso paste, yeast extract, brewer yeast, cashews, sunflower seeds, vegetable bouillon, soy sauce, liquid aminos, and chickpea flour.

The expansion of the global yeast industry is forecast to reach 4.4% p.a. in the coming years. Between 2008 and 2014 the market increased with an average annual growth of 8.0%. Currently, active yeasts account for 70.2% of the global demand while inactive yeasts have a 29.8% share of the market (1).

What is nutritional yeast?

Nutritional yeast is considered as a strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is available in markets and used as an ingredient for food products. It is also termed as a cloud of hippy dust or nooch which is a deactivated form of yeast. 

In markets, it is available in the form of granules, powder, and flakes which are yellow and are available in bulk portions in almost all those stores which have natural food.

The yeast biomass or extract are an excellent source of B vitamins. The carbohydrate concentration is between 31% and 51% of the dry biomass. The total lipid content is low (4–7% of the dry yeast biomass) and is represented mainly by the saturated fatty acids (28–43.5% of total fatty acids) as palmitic acid (18–34%) and stearic acid (4.6–9.5%), and mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs, 62% of total fatty acids) with domination of palmitoleic acid (2.9–32%). The polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are in low concentration 5.0–9.7% of total fatty acids, predominantly as linoleic acid (4.3%). The content of ash obtained from S. cerevisiae biomass is 5–10% depending on the substrate used. The yeast biomass also contains trace minerals, including calcium, copper, iron, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, manganese, selenium, sodium, and zinc, and a biologically active form of chromium (2).

Possible substitutes of nutritional yeast

Some of the possible substitutes for nutritional yeast are as following:

Soy sauce or Liquid Aminos

Soy sauce is a good alternative to nutritional yeast which is added in savoury dishes that differentiates the flavour of dishes which is a perfect one-to-one replacement for nutritional yeast. Alanine, glycine, and threonine are associated with a sweet taste, whereas glutamic acid and aspartic acid are associated with umami in soy sauce. In addition, it possesses antioxidant activity (3). 

Liquid aminos are quite similar to soy sauce in taste and physical texture but their flavour is light as compared to soy sauce and nutritional yeast. Coconut amino is in fact coconut vinegar and contains phenolic compounds and organic acids, such as citric acid, malic acid, tartaric acid, acetic acid, and lactic acid resulted from the fermentation, which are beneficial for health (4).

Nutritional yeast also demands to adjust liquid portions in the recipes if we are using nutritional yeast in a large quantity. Soy sauce is a better choice due to having low sodium content.

White Miso paste

White miso paste is prepared from fermented soybeans. Its texture is salted, paste-like and savoury. It is considered the best substitute for nutritional yeast especially in creamy sauces such as vegan cheese sauce. 

Miso is a fermented soybean paste and is one of the essential seasonings in Japanese cuisine. Its taste and aroma resemble those of soy sauce. Miso is made from steamed soybeans mixed with salt and koji. Koji is mold-treated rice, barley, or soybean that acts as a fermentation starter. White miso paste has a mild taste and is low in salt, while aka red miso is very salty and has a different, stronger odor (5).

In alteration, use white miso paste just like soy sauce in one-third quantity according to recipes.

Cashews

Cashews are also a good substitute for nutritional yeast. These can be used in two methods. 

Firstly, grind cashews in a powder form that can be spread over the dishes that would be a Parmesan, or it can be used after soaking them and then whisk them well in a vegan cheese sauce. 

Cashews are also an important part of vegan cheese sauce. So, it is a good choice to add cashews in vegan cheese sauce. Studies reported that cashew-based cheeses appeared to have a better nutritional profile than other vegan cheese alternatives (6).

To use cashews in alteration of nutritional yeast, equal quantity is replaced by nutritional yeast.

Sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds are a good substitute for nutritional yeast. Sunflower seeds should be covered with their shells and it is one of the good nut-free choices. 

The common sunflower seed, grown and consumed worldwide, supplies a multitude of nutritious components including protein, unsaturated fats, fiber, vitamins (especially E), selenium, copper, zinc, folate, iron, and more. The sunflower seed and sprout contain valuable antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiinflammatory, antihypertensive, wound-healing, and cardiovascular benefits found in its phenolic compounds, flavonoids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and vitamins (7).

The method of using sunflower seeds is almost similar to cashews; both are used after soaking.

These can be crushed into a refined powder that can be used over the popcorns or paste. These are salted in taste. So, it is necessary to adjust the taste as per choice.

Dried Porcini mushrooms

Dried Porcini Mushrooms are a good replica of nutritional yeast in flavour, and taste and it is also considered as a one-to-one replacement.  

Porcini mushrooms (Boletus edulis) or summer mushroom has a special taste and great nutritional value. It has a semicircular cap with light to dark brown. Because of the chemical composition and nutritional value, mushrooms are healthy and tasty. The content of nutrients in mushrooms depends on the origin of the mycelium from the substrate, conditions and methods of cultivation (8).

Porcini mushrooms taste deeper with an earthy flavour as compared to most of the other mushrooms.

Some texture alternatives for nutritional yeast

Nutritional yeast gives a thickening effect to the sauces, stews, and soups. We will also discuss some substitutes of nutritional yeast according to the texture that can make the recipes thicker.

Brewer’s yeast

Brewer’s yeast is mostly used in manufacturing bread and beer. Its physical appearance is almost similar to nutritional yeast, such as both are present in the form of flakes and powder. But, in taste brewer’s yeast is more bitter and it also gives a thickening effect. 

It is most preferably used in soups or sauces. It makes the soup thick in texture than all other alternatives. Brewer’s yeast does not raise the texture, it only thickens it. 

The brewer’s yeast extract produced by enzymatic treatment is used to obtain several food processing factors such as flavoring enhancers such as monosodium glutamic acid and nucleotides, e.g., 50-guanosine monophosphate and 50-inosine monophosphate. Those substances, or the yeast extract, are used in meat products, sauces and gravies, soups, chips and crackers, stews, and canned food (2).

That is why it is recommended to use more in all those sauces and soups which are formed from cheese. 

Firstly, use half or one-third amount of the brewer’s yeast in recipes then adjust it according to your choice of taste and thickness.

Brewer’s yeast powder contains high levels of residual gluten derived from grain malt (e.g., wheat or barley) used to produce beer. Then, patients with celiac disease, who have gluten sensitivity and try to avoid gluten should be aware of the risk associated with the use of brewer’s yeast supplements (2).

Chickpea flour

Chickpea flour is used in replacement of nutritional yeast just to get thickness in stews and soups. It is considered as a one-to-one replacement of nutritional yeast and it is an easily available and also a suitable substitute. 

Chickpea flour is easily manufactured if it is available in your pantries just by pinching the chickpeas that can be sprinkled over the popcorn and pasta to get a delicious taste.

However, when chickpea flour is added to a food application, it might interact with the volatile compounds present in the food product, due to protein or starch interactions. Moreover, the aroma of legumes is sometimes associated with an unpleasant, beany-like aroma and therefore the addition of chickpea flours to (semi-) liquid food applications might induce some new potential (off-)flavours and aromas to the product (9).

Other FAQs about Yeast that you may be interested in.

Can you eat yeast raw?

Does Nutritional Yeast Have MSG

What is the best temperature for yeast?

Conclusion

In this brief article, we have answered the question “what can I substitute for nutritional yeast?” with an in-depth analysis of nutritional yeast, all possible substitutes concerning the taste and texture of nutritional yeast and the required quantity to be used.

References

  1. Saif, Said. Yeast Congress 2020-Market analysis. Oxidants and Antioxidants in Medical Science, 2021, 10.
  2. Jach, Monika Elżbieta, et al. Yeast protein as an easily accessible food source. Metabolites, 2022, 12, 63.
  3. Bai, X., M. Meenu, and B. Xu. Taurine, Free Amino Acids and 5′-Nucleotides in Oyster Sauce Products Marketed in China. J Nutr Nutr Ther, 2021, 1. 
  4. Malakul, Wachirawadee, et al. Novel coconut vinegar attenuates hepatic and vascular oxidative stress in rats fed a high-cholesterol diet. Front nutr, 2022, 156. 
  5. Minamiyama, Yukiko, and Shigeru Okada. Miso: Production, Properties, and. Handbook of fermented functional foods, 2003, 277.
  6. Craig, Winston J., A. Reed Mangels, and Cecilia J. Brothers. Nutritional Profiles of Non-Dairy Plant-Based Cheese Alternatives. Nutrients, 2022, 14, 1247.
  7. Guo, Shuangshuang, Yan Ge, and Kriskamol Na Jom. A review of phytochemistry, metabolite changes, and medicinal uses of the common sunflower seed and sprouts (Helianthus annuus L.). Chem Centr J, 2017, 11.
  8. Stojanova, Monika, et al. Comparative Research for the Influence of Drying Technology on the Chemical Composition of Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius) and Porcini Mushrooms (Boletus edulis). Goce Delcev University. 2017.
  9. Noordraven, Laura EC, et al. Effect of experimental flour preparation and thermal treatment on the volatile properties of aqueous chickpea flour suspensions. LWT, 2022, 160, 113171.