Nutritional yeast is an ingredient used in many vegetarian recipes because it's a source of protein and B vitamins. It adds a nutty, cheesy flavor to many dishes such as casseroles and gratins. Another common use is to sprinkle the yeast on popcorn and cooked vegetables.
It's yellowish in color and sold in flake or powder forms.
Nutritional yeast is similar to brewer's yeast: Both come from the same strain of yeast and are used as nutritional supplements. But brewer's yeast is a byproduct of beer-making, according to the Cook's Thesaurus, and that's what makes it bitter. So don't substitute one for the other.
And don't confuse nutritional yeast with yeast used in baking. Nutritional yeast is not active, so it is nonleavening. It's pasteurized, which deactivates it.
Once nutritional yeast is deactivated, it becomes a good source of nutrients, the thesaurus says.
Most health-food stores carry nutritional yeast. There are several brands and container sizes of nutritional yeast. Prices range from $6.50 for a 4 1/2-ounce container to $18 for 16 ounces.
If you're new to nutritional yeast, try using it in this Mac and Cheese-Style Cauliflower recipe adapted from Vegetarian Times magazine's January/February 2012 issue.
Mac and Cheese-Style Cauliflower
Makes 8 1-cup servings. Prep time: 15 minutes. Total time: 1 hour.
8 heaping cups cauliflower florets
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 shallot, peeled, minced
2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced