Trying Out Nutritional Yeast

A nice, yeasty, stove-top bowl of popcorn

If you read my post on popcorn, you might have heard me mention nutritional yeast. For the longest time I truly believed that salt was the one-and-only “topping” for my favorite snack. Once, when I was in Portland, a friend put nutritional yeast on my popcorn and I felt underwhelmed. It didn’t taste like much, and it reminded me of the first time I tried In-N-Out Burger after moving to CA for college: “Not bad, but what’s all the hubbub?” Interestingly enough, after a few months in CA I ended up falling in LOVE with In-N-Out, and what-would-you-know, but “love” pretty much describes my current feeling towards nutritional yeast, too.

Nutritional yeast, or brewer’s yeast (there are differences between the two, but they’re close) is deactivated yeast. That means it’s a type of yeast that has been grown and killed. You couldn’t use it to make bread, and in fact it doesn’t taste the same way bread, or even beer, smells. I don’t think it’s classically “yeasty,” though some people do, but in either case it’s a little different. The jar I have consists of bright yellow flakes which have a pretty decent umami, mouthfeel taste. In my opinion umami is a flavor that goes well with salt, which is undoubtedly is why it tastes great on popcorn.

No paid endorsements here

Leah and I bought nutritional yeast at the grocery store on a whim. Then I started putting it on my go-to nighttime splurge, and it’s great! By the way, when putting nutritional yeast on popcorn it helps to cook with a little extra olive oil; then those delicious, savory yeast flakes will stick better. The combination might ultimately leave your fingers a little yellow but it’s worth it, and that’s also easily fixable by wiping your hands on your pants. Nutritional yeast tastes good on pasta dishes, hummus, broccoli, and in most situations where you’d use cheese. It’s also is a good salad topping, according to the internet. That one, however, I’m not so sure about.

Popcorn model

On the topic of nutritional yeast, the other night Leah and I went to see Lady Bird. I hadn’t had movie popcorn in a very long time, and in fact, the last time I did was when I went to see 127 Hours with my cousin. Turns out, it was disgusting—the popcorn, not the movie—and I specifically remember wiping my greasy, fake-butter-covered hands all over my movie theater seat, since it was summer and I wasn’t wearing pants. Onscreen, James Franco was cutting his arm off. Truly, eating some of that fake butter—and being covered in that fake butter—was much worse than the film’s amputation scene.

Here we go!

Fast-forward to 2018, and Leah and I decided to do a little experiment. We ordered movie theater popcorn without the butter, and then once in our seats we took out our yeast bottle. I put the stuff all over the popcorn, and the end product wasn’t half bad! Nothing like stove-top made at home, of course, but the initial product was greatly improved. So add a pinch of this “spice” to your own life if you’re feeling like trying something new, and to end the topic, I’m not sure if 127 Hours still holds up, but if you’ve seen it recently tell me if it’s good or not. And I’d love to hear your opinion on nutritional yeast as well.

–Jeff and Leah

The finished product (sorry movie theaters are dark!)

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