The product: Nutritional Yeast
The price: $4.99
The reason: Recently I confessed, as if it were actually a confession, that I am not the kind of mom who is passionate about manifesting creative ways to get my kids to eat healthy food. But there’s one trick I have been using on both of them and me since I last attempted to give up dairy (I self-diagnosed with eczema years ago but recently drew a parallel between the periods when I’m not flaring up and dairy abstinence), and while I’m not there yet (froyo every Sunday, without a single exception no matter my geographic location nor the contents of my stomach), it’s a really easy one.
Just use nutritional yeast instead. It tastes like if you were melting cheese into a beer and soaking cashews in it which is a terrible description but I’m not a food writer for this exact reason so the best I can offer is trust me, you should try it, and here is exactly why:
A chameleon among geckos
If we were to compare nutritional yeast to its brothers, baker’s yeast (for bread) and brewer’s yeast (for beer), it would probably be considered the most adaptable child, because while the others serve highly particular purposes, nutritional yeast—grown for exclusive use as a food product—can materialize in a multitude of ways. Call it your vegan pizza or pasta companion, the primary element in the dip to end all others at the cracker station, the sprinkle that lights a twinkle in the kernel of a popcorn bag, it can even moonlight as an egg. But what do I care about that?
It is also absurdly good for you
According to my body, who sent a telegram earlier this A.M., there are nine essential amino acids that I have to get from food and what do you know! Nutritional yeast contains all nine of those amino acids—all nine!
Also part of the telegram was a note on B vitamins: My body was all like, “Yo, Leo, we need you to take as many as you can get if you want to maintain high energy levels and brain function.” It also said something about cell metabolism but I was too distracted by the fact that my body was sending me a telegram and further that I am still unraveling a narrative along with this criminally bad joke to get it. But anyway, a tablespoon of nutritional yeast contains a shit-load of B vitamins, like up to 180% of the recommended daily intake, so I was like, woah!
One other thing I read on the internet, which was not included in the memo: Nutritional yeast has trace minerals (e.g. zinc, manganese, selenium) and this is important because said minerals contribute to the mechanisms of such important bodily functions as: metabolism, immunity, and gene regulation. I did not know genes naturally turn on and off but now that I do, I can’t stop thinking about which ones are on right now, and what that says about me.
Richer than Facebook
According to Yahoo Finance, nutritional yeast will render itself a billion-dollar market by the year 2029, which, you know, is cool, because they will presumably get to that point without like, mining personal data and shit. Instead, they’ll give lactose intolerant children and adults alike an opportunity to enjoy a bizarro mac and cheese, or pizza slice, even a knob of futter (like butter, but fake) without also imposing upon them diarrhea and so forth, so…
Here are some recipes that my friend Tyler Schlesinger, who calls nutritional yeast “powdered cheese,” and runs Hungry for Wellness, a personal chef service, recommends. I’ve had them all and let me just tell you, as if I really need to say it again: trust me, you should try it.
How to prepare it:
If you have a food processor, toss in all the dry ingredients, miso if you’re using it, and the lemon juice. Process until nicely minced, then drizzle in the oil until the mixture is smooth.
If you have a blender, add the oils and juice first, then the garlic, then the rest of ingredients and blend till smooth.
Put it in your fridge and then affix to any pizza or pasta dish you’d like.
How to prepare it:
Rinse cashews and discard the soaking water. Add to blender or food processor with nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, onion, and garlic powder. Slowly add the water until you have the consistency of smooth heavy cream. Drain the artichokes and add them to the blender or food processor with cashew mixture and pulse a few times so the artichokes are incorporated but still chunky. Add mixture to bowl and set aside.
Sauté onions in olive oil with a pinch of salt until they become translucent, add garlic and sauté for a couple minutes longer until onion and garlic start to brown slightly. Add the spinach and sauté until spinach is dark green and cooked through (this happens quickly.)
Add spinach mixture to cashew/artichoke bowl and stir with a rubber spatula to combine. Season with more salt and pepper if needed.
You could pretty much dip anything in this concoction: toasted baguette, chips, carrots, celery, a toy car!
And, okay, fine, one more!
How to prepare it:
In a sauce pan large enough to fit multiple ingredients, add the cauliflower, peeled whole garlic clove, quinoa, and salt. Cover with plenty of water and simmer until the cauliflower is tender and quinoa is cooked (about 15 min.)
Now drain the water and immediately add all the ingredients from the pot (including the garlic clove) to a blender or food processor. Add a squeeze of lemon, nutritional yeast, onion powder, and garlic powder. Now process on low, adding in oil slowly until it’s creamy as fuq. You might need more oil or you can use water. The quinoa gives the sauce extra body, but feel free to add more yeast if you want a cheesier taste.
Now go ham—but not literal ham—use it solo on pasta, or add loads of pepper to feign a cacio e pepe; add fresh herbs and mix it with marinara to make a new-age vodka sauce and pour it on everything: mushrooms, asparagus, noodles, zoodles, kaboodles. You can even fold it into a risotto.
Not to beat a dead horse but uh, trust me, people. You should try it!