The term nutritional yeast might not inspire you to throw elbows on your way to the dinner table, but it should. Even a couple of tablespoons of this Saccharomyces cerevisiae family member contain enough good stuff to bestow nutritional superpowers.

Interested? Read on.

What is it?
Nutritional yeast is the same kind of yeast used to make bread or brew beer, but the way it’s produced (and used) makes it very different. The yeast used in bread and beer is purchased alive and is killed when you bake or brew your final product. When brewing beer, the leftover dead yeast cells can be harvested and used as a nutritional supplement, but the taste is less than appetizing.

By contrast, nutritional yeast is engineered with taste specifically in mind. It’s grown on something rich in sugar, like molasses or sugar beets, then heated until the bacteria becomes inactive. The resulting product is washed, dried, and broken up into flakes — the form in which you’d typically buy it. Many producers make fortified nutritional yeast, which means that they add an armload of extra vitamins to the yeast during manufacturing.

What are the benefits?
Nutritional yeast is particularly popular with those who follow a vegan or primarily plant-based diet, as it’s packed with protein and B-vitamins that are difficult to get outside of animal food sources. It’s a complete protein, which means it contains all essential amino acids.

The percentage of B vitamins in non-fortified nutritional yeast can vary a lot (30 – 180% of the RDI in one tablespoon) so those looking for a consistent source of Bs should opt for fortified versions, which typically contain thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, in more meticulously measured volumes.

Nutritional yeast is also an antioxidant powerhouse. Antioxidants are like top security for your body’s cells, fending off free radicals and heavy metals, and keeping chronic illness at bay.

Where can you purchase it?
Nutritional yeast can be found just about anywhere you do your shopping — Whole Foods, Target, Amazon, and The Vitamin Shoppe, to name a few. As with any food product or nutritional supplement, quality really matters, so be sure to do your brand research before making a purchase.

How do you eat it?
Here are five recipes to try your hand at nutritional yeast inclusion.

Vegan Mac and Cheese with Creamy Cauliflower Sauce

Yeah, we know — there’s a lot of garbage vegan mac and cheese out there. This recipe takes a good bit of work and might leave your kitchen a mess, but trust us when we say… it’s completely worth it.

Cheesy Popcorn

Popcorn is already a delicious, relatively healthy snack food. Now there’s a way to make it c-h-e-e-s-y while actually boosting the nutritional value. Sign us up.

Brussels Sprouts & Sausage Quiche with Almond Crust

Nutritional yeast is not just for vegetarians, and this delicious quiche is proof.

Luxurious 7-Vegetable & “Cheese” Soup

We know summer’s not over yet, but we’re already bookmarking this one for chilly autumnal nights by the fire.

Green Goddess Bowl

Give. Us. The. Greens! This bowl is a nutritional cornucopia with edamame, broccoli, and the almighty avocado leading the charge. Nutritional yeast is the perfect accessory.

xx, The FabFitFun Team