Nutritional yeast is becoming a health food buzzword as it continues to become more and more popular in the vegan and dairy-free communities. Contrary to what you might think, nutritional yeast is very different from the yeast we use to make bread rise. It's a yellow, flaky substance grown on sugar cane or molasses, that is then harvested, dried out, and made inactive. Nutritional yeast is known for its cheesy flavor, and is used in dishes ranging from vegan mac and cheese to soups to Alfredo-inspire sauces. But is nutritional yeast healthy? It tastes like cheese, after all. If you're unsure whether this ingredient belongs in your diet, here's everything you should know about this vegan staple.

Is Nutritional Yeast Healthy?

Ukie Ly

Nutritional yeast is packed full of nutrients, and is a complete protein. Our body requires 20 amino acids to function, but can produce only 11 of them on its own. So for a food to be considered a complete protein it must contain the right amounts of the other 9 essential amino acids to form a full protein.

In order to get enough complete proteins into their diets, vegans will pair certain foods together. For example, many vegans try to combine foods like rice and beans, which complement each other to form a complete protein. Nutritional yeast, however, contains an average of 4 grams of complete protein per serving (2 tbsp), making it a nutritious staple to add to any diet. 

More importantly, nutritional yeast is an excellent source of B vitamins, and is often supplemented with vitamin B12, which is difficult for vegans to get sufficient amounts of naturally from their diets. Vitamin B12 is high in foods like milk, cheese and meat, so vegan-friendly foods such as nutritional yeast and soy milk are often supplemented with it. 

One serving of nutritional yeast also contains 3 grams of fiber and a substantial amount of zinc, among other minerals. Nutritional yeast aids the body in many ways, including maintaining our immune system, improving digestion, and lowering cholesterol. 

As you can see, nutritional yeast is packed full of vitamins and minerals and is also gluten-free, making it a healthy choice for those of us with dietary restrictions.

How to Eat Nutritional Yeast

popcorn, corn, salt, cereal, kettle corn, wheat
Sarah Silbiger

The best part about nutritional yeast is its versatility. It works sprinkled on top of many dishes, and can also be used to create creamy, cheese-like sauces. There are many delicious recipes you can make with nutritional yeast, such as vegan mac and cheese, vegan pizza, cheesy kale chips, and vegan Alfredo

If you're trying to figure out how to start eating nutritional yeast and these recipes seem daunting, my favorite ways to eat it are simply sprinkled on microwave popcorn or on top of eggs. If you're still looking for ideas, check out these seven foods you should be adding nutritional yeast to

How Much is Safe to Eat?

Ukie Ly

One of the biggest questions I had when I first started eating nutritional yeast was how much is safe to eat? The answer is that there is no limit. However, you should see how your body reacts to it before you go crazy, like any new food you introduce into your diet. It is also recommended that consumption be spread out throughout meals for our bodies to be able to fully digest all the nutrients nutritional yeast provides. 

So, is nutritional yeast healthy? The simple answer is yes. It is high in protein, vitamins, and fiber. As long as it is sealed tightly and stored in a cool, dry place, nutritional yeast has a lifespan of up to two years–so go ahead and add some yeast to your feast.