© (iStockPhoto) “Nooch,” also known as nutritional yeast, can be added to pasta, pizza and popcorn.
Melinda Johnson, U.S. News & World Report
Behold, the power of rebranding. “Nooch,” the hot new ingredient that’s forecast to be popping up on more menus this year, is actually not new at all. It’s the slang, shortened term that’s gaining traction as the new name for a long-time staple in vegan diets: nutritional yeast.
Nutritional yeast has been a poster child for the iconic hippy, vegetarian lifestyle, and it has been used for decades by health-food store patrons. It comes in a flaky or powdery form, similar to Parmesan cheese, and can actually resemble fish food, which admittedly is part of the image problem. However, we may be entering a perfect storm for the rise of this humble ingredient: a surging interest in plant-based diets, a desire for more umami flavors and a quirky new rebranding means that nooch may be ready for prime time.
So what exactly is nooch? It’s the same kind of yeast you would use for baking, except that it’s grown on molasses and pasteurized, which deactivates it. Historically, nutritional yeast has been used to boost nutrition, mainly in vegetarian diets. However, the flavor profile is why nooch is gaining more attention in the culinary world.
“Due to its rich amino acid profile, it has savory umami characteristics and salty notes which is useful in many dishes,” explains chef and dietitian Michele Redmond, owner of The Taste Workshop in Arizona. She offers her recipe for Garlic and Walnut Herb Sauce with Nutritional Yeast.
One of the more popular ways to use nooch is to sprinkle it on popcorn, since it gives a cheesy, salty flavor. In fact, nooch can be used in place of sprinkled cheese in a number of ways – on top of salads, vegetables or pasta dishes.
Why bother? Two tablespoons of nooch deliver nine grams of complete protein and four grams of fiber, all with very little fat and sodium. It’s also a good source for many of the B vitamins, as well as minerals like selenium.