Nutritional Yeast aka yeast flakes or yeast powder is a deactivated yeast that is commonly used in Vegan diets to add a nutty and cheese flavor and to provide the meal with more vitamins, especially vitamin B12, and protein. If you need to substitute this ingredient for your next meal, you can find here 12 vegan substitutes for nutritional yeast.
We have many recipes on the blog containing yeast flakes, and because many of you already asked how to substitute this ingredient, we want to cover the best substitutes for nutritional yeast from nuts and seeds to mushrooms, vegan cheese, or miso.
What is Nutritional Yeast?
Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast that is often used as an ingredient in vegan cooking and baking. It has a savory, cheesy-like, umami flavor that makes it a popular substitute for cheese among plant-based diets.
When sprinkled or added to foods, nutritional yeast provides a cheesy, nutty flavor that vegans and vegetarians love. But this type of yeast is appreciated by non-vegans as well due to its long list of health benefits from boosting energy to improving glucose sensitivity, according to Medical News Today.
Thanks to its versatility and nutritional benefits, nutritional yeast has become a staple ingredient in many houses, including ours. On our blog, you can find many recipes featuring this ingredient. Some popular uses for this pantry staple include adding it to creamy sauces like this Vegan Carbonara, sprinkling it on top of pasta, soups, or popcorn, and adding some on top of our morning toast and scrambled tofu.
Why Substitute Nutritional Yeast?
There are a few key reasons why someone may want to use a substitute for nutritional yeast in recipes:
We've been there. You are just trying to follow a recipe or cook something delicious, and you realize the jar of yeast flakes is completely empty. At home, nutritional yeast doesn't last long. Kids love it sprinkled on their soups and pasta, and we use it almost daily, so it's very common to find ourselves in this type of situation. So now you can cook your favorite vegan recipes even if you run out of nutritional yeast.
Allergies or Sensitivities
Some people have allergies or sensitivities to nutritional yeast, which is made from yeast extracts. Some nutritional yeast may also contain gluten, and if you have a gluten allergy or intolerance, you will need to substitute this ingredient for a gluten-free option.
Nutritional yeast is more expensive than generic options like spices, salt, cheese, and nuts. Substituting with pantry staples can save money for those trying to cut costs.
Nutritional Yeast Substitutes
There is a reason why we list cashews as the number one ingredient for nutritional yeast substitutes. Cashews have a similar taste and texture (when powdered) to yeast flakes. If you are looking to add that distinctive nutty flavor to your dishes, cashews will definitely do the job.
- Soaked cashews can be blended into a creamy paste to make cheese sauces and dips, or to make creamy sauces.
- Use grounded cashews as flakes. You can sprinkle grounded cashews on pasta meals, stews, toast, and more. Use a food processor to blend them until they have the desired consistency.
- Use powdered cashews as nutritional powder. Add to your favorite dishes. We recommend using a food processor or spice grinder to powder the cashews.
For 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast flakes, use 1 tablespoon of grounded cashews
2. White miso paste
This fermented soybean paste adds a savory, salty flavor similar to Parmesan cheese. White miso is our favorite choice, as it's light and doesn't overpower other ingredients.
Because of its umami flavor, we already use this ingredient to make curry pastes, instead of adding prawn paste normally used traditionally, and to make delicious marinades for different dishes like this miso-glazed aubergine.
For 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast, use ⅓ tablespoon of white miso
3. Soy Sauce
Soy sauce can be a great nutritional yeast alternative if you are looking to add umami to your dishes and yeast flakes are not available. Using tamari or liquid aminos can be the perfect option for people looking for a gluten-free alternative.
A few dashes of soy sauce lend savoriness similar to yeast flakes. Try it sprinkled on pasta, pizza, salads, or anywhere you want a hit of umami flavor.
Our favorite soy sauce is Kikkoman, which is widely available in most grocery stores, and comes in large bottles.
For one tablespoon of nutritional yeast, use ½ tablespoon of soy sauce. For a gluten-free option, use tamari, and reduce the total amount of salt in the meal, as soy sauce adds more saltiness than nooch.
This sesame seed paste makes a good substitute for nutritional yeast when added to pasta, salads, roasted veggies, etc. Tahini adds a nutty and cheesy flavor to your meals. A little goes a long way.
Texture-wise, tahini, and nutritional yeast are very far, but in taste, they can be quite similar when added to your favorite meals. Tahini is also a great source of protein, and widely available.
For 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast, use 1 tablespoon of tahini
5. Yeast extract
If you live in the UK or Australia, products like Marmite and Vegemite will sound familiar.
When yeast flakes are gone, and we want to add some umami to our dishes, we may use Marmite, as it makes for a great substitute. Its salty and savory flavor, makes yeast extract a great option to substitute nutritional yeast. Also, yeast extract is rich in Vitamin B12, just like nutritional yeast.
This alternative is perfect to add to stews, soups, and sauces.
For 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast, use ½ tablespoon of Yeast ExtractNutritional yeast and yeast extract are not
6. Vegan Parmesan Cheese
You can find Vegan Parmesan Cheese in some large supermarkets, where they have a great assortment of Plant-based products. Our go-to brand for plant-based parmesan is Violife, but you can find other good brands such as Nooch It! or Nurishh.
Vegan Parmesan is definitely your choice if you are going after a cheesy flavor, and a similar texture to yeast flakes, and you don't mind paying a little extra.
Perfect alternative to sprinkle to your pasta dishes, or to make vegan pesto.
For 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast, use 1 tablespoon of Vegan Parmesan Cheese
7. Vegetable Boullion
If you rely on nutritional yeast to enhance the depth of flavor in your dishes, you might consider using vegetable bouillon powder as a replacement. We recommend you to get a high quality one, as some boullion cubes can contain many additives.
This ingredient is a great vegan substitute for yeast flakes if you want to season your soups, sauces, and marinades.
For 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast, use 1 tablespoon of Vegetable Boullion
8. Onion and garlic flakes or powder
If you are looking for a flaky or powdery texture and nutritional flakes are not an option, try combining onion and garlic flakes or powder.
On their own, onion powder and garlic powder can mimic some of the savory qualities of nutritional yeast. But, combining the two together results in a robust, nutty, and cheesy flavor. Use onion and garlic powder blends when making cheese sauces, seasoned nuts, savory baked goods or anywhere you want an extra dash of flavor.
For 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast, use 1 tablespoon of Garlic and Onion powder
9. Chickpea flour
Also called gram flour or besan, chickpea flour can be used to make vegan cheeses just using it like nutritional yeast when blended with water, lemon juice, and seasonings. It provides a smooth, creamy base without dairy.
For 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast, use ⅔ tablespoon of Chickpea flour
10. Brewer's Yeast
Brewer's yeast and Nutritional Yeast are really similar in texture. They come from the same species of yeast, but nutritionally they are a little different. Brewer's yeast is a good source of Selenium. It has a bitter taste, so you will need smaller amounts of this type of yeast.
This type of yeast is normally taken as a nutritional supplement and it can be found in large supermarkets, online, or in health food shops.
For 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast, use ⅔ tablespoon of Brewer's yeast
11. Sunflower Seeds
You can use toasted and grounded sunflower seeds to recreate the texture and nutty flavor of the nutritional yeast. Rich in protein, this is a great option if you are looking for something healthy to use as a subsitute for nutritional yeast.
Grounded, it can be a great alternative to use to sprinkle on your favorite meals.
If you want to make sunflower seed butter, this can be added as well to soups, sauces, stews and marinades as an alternative to nutritional yeast.
For 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast, use 1 tablespoon of Sunflower Seeds (grounded or as butter)
12. Mushroom Powder or dried mushrooms
The mushroom powder is made from dried mushrooms that have been finely ground into a fine powder. It has an intense umami flavor similar to nutritional yeast.
This ingredient can be used in place of nutritional yeast when making cheesy sauces, soups, veggies, tofu, pasta, and more. It provides that savory, rich flavor that nutritional yeast adds to your meals. Use porcini, shiitake or a blend of mushroom powder.
Another option to add flavor to your dishes is to soak dried mushrooms to make a mushroom stock.
For 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast, use 1 tablespoon of Mushroom powder
Nutritional yeast has a unique savory, cheesy, almost nutty flavor that can be difficult to fully replicate with a single ingredient. However, by combining different nutritional yeast substitutes, or choosing the right one, we can come close. Here's a summary of some of the best nutritional yeast substitutes:
For flavor - Use ingredients that add umami such as cashews, miso paste, tahini, vegan parmesan cheese, soy sauce, yeast extract, or mushroom powder.
- If you are going after a cheesy taste, we recommend using vegan parmesan cheese, cashews, or miso paste.
- If you are looking for an umami kick, try tahini, soy sauce, yeast extract or mushroom powder.
For nutrition - Brewer's yeast, or sunflower seeds, offer comparable nutrients like B vitamins, protein, and minerals.
For cost - For a budget-friendly substitute, use onion and garlic flakes or powder, chickpea flour, or vegetable bouillon.
For convenience - Choose from the list something that you already have at home.
Pro tip: Combining different substitutes like grounded cashews, onion and garlic powder or flakes, sunflower seeds, and vegan cheeses can come really close to the overall taste and nutrition profile. Consider your needs and budget to decide the best nutritional yeast stand-in.