Nutritional yeast, affectionally nicknamed “nooch”, is one of the mainstays of many vegan’s pantries, and if you’re leading a vegan lifestyle, then it should be a staple for you, too.
If you’re not taking advantage of this ingredient, then let me tell you that you are missing out big time. Not only is it 100% vegan and super good for you, but if you cook it right then, you can make it taste like cheese.
If you’re anything like me, losing cheese was like losing a part of yourself, so having a vegan substitute is super important.
But things happen and sometimes you don’t have any nutritional yeast around. Or maybe you just don’t like something about it but still want to make recipes that include it. Either way, you need a nutritional yeast substitute.
Lucky for you, I have a list of some common nutritional yeast substitutes that you probably already have lying in the back of your cupboards.
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What Does Nutritional Yeast Taste Like?
Nutritional yeast has an umami flavor that is savory and sometimes described as cheese-like. Umami is a flavor along the same lines as salty, sweet, bitter, and sour. It differs from the basic traditional tastes and is often described as a savory, broth-like taste.
This umami flavor is what nutritional yeast imparts to a dish. So if you’re looking for a nutritional yeast substitute, you’re going to want to find something that also imparts that umami flavor.
What Is A Substitute For Nutritional Yeast?
If you’re all out of nutritional yeast, or you’re not able to find it anywhere you live, fear not. There are a few substitutes that you can use. Some of these are common, some less so, but all of them can be used in place of nutritional yeast.
First up is brewers yeast. If you haven’t heard of this before, don’t be too surprised. It’s an ingredient that is primarily involved in alcohol brewing. While not the same as nutritional yeast, it is related to it.
This kind of yeast is particularly high in vitamin B content, so you can even use it as a supplement in your smoothies if you want.
The main difference between nutritional yeast and brewers yeast is in flavor. Nutritional yeast has a slightly nutty taste to it, whereas brewers is slightly bitter. Regardless, it still makes for a great alternative
If you’re unfamiliar with yeast extract, you might know it by its other name: Marmite or Vegemite.
While more popular in the UK than the US, there are still plenty of people that know about the particularly divisive ingredient. Yeast extract is very rich and salty in flavor, which is why it’s such a “you love it, or you hate it” type of spread.
If you are in camp “tasty”, you can use it as a spread like peanut butter, or even to thicken up sauces and soups.
If you’ve had no luck getting your hands on nutritional yeast or brewers yeast, you’re next best bet is to head to a supermarket and see if they have some Marmite or Vegemite in stock.
Miso is a much more common ingredient than the others mentioned above; however, it only has a niche use as a substitute.
We’re pretty much only talking about flavor when discussing miso. This means that if you’re looking for something else to bake with or put in your morning smoothie, then this isn’t the substitute for you.
However, if you’re cooking a recipe that calls for nutritional yeast as a flavor enhancer, a small amount of miso can do the same job.
Specifically, use a 1/3 ratio of miso to the amount of nutritional yeast you were meant to be using.
Other Commonly Found Substitutes
While these substitutes aren’t as close to the taste of nutritional yeast as the options above, they’ll do in a pinch. Some other common nutritional yeast substitutes are as follows:
- Dried Seaweed
- Vegan Worchester Sauce
- Vegetable stock
- Concentrated Vegetable Bouillon
Dried Mushrooms As A Nutritional Yeast Substitute
I confess I love mushrooms. It’s not unheard of for me to fry up a plate of mushrooms and just snack on them while watching Netflix.
Naturally, when I found out you could use mushrooms as a nutritional yeast alternative, I was excited to try it.
Having tested it out, I certainly don’t plan to use mushrooms as my main alternative for “nooch”. It does do the trick in a pinch, though.
There are four different types of mushrooms that you can substitute in:
- Oyster Mushrooms
Particularly, you’re going to want to dry out your shrooms and ground them down to a powder. This powder then serves as the nutritional yeast alternative.
The main thing I noticed with this is that the flavor I was getting was more meaty than cheesy. There is a distinct lack of that parmesan taste that comes with nutritional yeast.
If that’s not an issue for you, then fire away with mushrooms as a secondary option.
Spices & Herbs To Use As A Nooch Substitute
If you’re strictly looking for the taste of nutritional yeast without the yeast, then spices and herbs are going to be your best bet.
You’re not going to be able to replicate the taste exactly, but there are a few different powders that you can use to vaguely replicate the flavor.
Out of all my experimentation, by far, what produced the best result was paprika.
Like mushrooms, paprika lacked that cheesy tang; however, it was super savory and flavorful. Granted, I’m a sucker for paprika on just about anything, but I feel as though it really pulled through here.
Oregano and Basil
If the smokiness of paprika isn’t your thing, you could try out an oregano and basil blend. These herbs are much fresher and lighter than paprika and go particularly well in savory bread recipes.
Again, there is no cheese here, and the herbs don’t exactly replicate the yeast flavor so much as present themselves as tasty actual alternatives, rather than substitutes.
This is an Indian space commonly known as “hing.” With asafoetida, a little goes quite a long way. Most dishes incorporating this spice use merely a pinch for the entire meal.
It’s made from the dried powdered resin of the gum from a tree and has a strong strong smell that dissipates during cooking. Many people liken it to a strong parmesan.
Replacing the Texture of Nutritional Yeast
On the flip side of flavor, there are a few options for those of you out there looking to substitute out the texture of nutritional yeast for plant-based cheese recipes.
Tofu can be found in most vegans’ fridges, so you probably don’t even have to go to the store for this one. The slight sponginess feels similar enough to soft cheeses that if you close your eyes, you can convince yourself there’s no difference.
While tofu is the only substitute I tried, some of my friends gave me the following recommendations:
If you don’t have tofu on hand, depending on the dish, you may be able to swap in mashed chickpeas to mimic a soft cheese. Tofu is a better mimic for ricotta cheese in lasagna but in a pinch, you could make mashed chickpeas work texture-wise.
Soaked and blended cashews are the base to many vegan cheese dips. If you blend the nuts coarsely, it looks and tastes similarly to cottage cheese.
By blending fully you can mimic a smooth cheese sauce or nacho cheese dip.
If you need to go nut-free, soaked sunflower seeds can be used exactly like soaked cashews. Many vegan cheese spreads and cheese rolls are made using sunflower seeds as the base ingredient.
Potatoes and Carrots
Another nut-free base option for “cheeze” sauce is to boil potatoes and carrots until soft, then blend. The starch from the potatoes creates a hearty thickness that is similar to nacho cheese sauce. The carrots add extra vitamins and a nice orange color.
I hope that you found this article helpful. Nutritional yeast is super handy to keep around, and running out of it can really leave you in a bind. I know, I’ve been there.
While no nutritional yeast substitute will be exact, there are many options for recreating the flavor or texture you’re aiming for.
Let me know of any “nooch” substitutes you’ve found and liked below.