Top 5 Nutritional Yeast Substitutes (From a Vegan)

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As a vegan, I miss cheese (not gonna lie)!

But, there’s this thing called nutritional yeast that really comes in handy when I’m craving a cheesy flavor. It’s so popular that many vegan or dairy free folks will recognize it!

However, if you are a big fan but ran out, or you’re just looking for something else to use instead – check out this list of nutritional yeast substitutes that will help give ya the umami flavor you’re craving!

Disclaimer: This article is only providing information and is not personalized dietary advice. It is not a substitute for medical or dietary advice. Talk to your doctor about any health or dietary concerns and questions. The nutritional yeast substitutes mentioned in this article were chosen because of their close flavor (and for some- a similar texture when ground up) to nutritional yeast, and the authors personal experience using them. The substitutes mentioned do not have the same nutrient composition as nutritional yeast. See our Disclaimers for more details.

title reads: nutritional yeast substitute ideas. There are graphics of all the options mentioned in the post, including: cashews, pistachios, almonds and tahini with seasonings (onion, garlic powder, salt (optional). and vegan parmesan 'cheese'

Top 5 Nutritional Yeast Substitutes

As a vegan myself, I use nutritional yeast when I’m looking for to add a cheesy and umami flavor –without the dairy!

While I (and many other vegans) love nutritional yeast for this purpose, I wanted to create this post in case you want to use something different, or ran out!

So here are my top 5 nutritional yeast substitutes to use in a pinch:

  • Cashews
  • Almonds
  • Pistachios
  • Tahini
  • Vegan ‘Parmesan’

For all of these (except the vegan parmesan), I might add a pinch of onion and garlic powder seasonings to bring out more of that umami flavor.

Sometimes I’ll add a tensy bit of salt as well – depending on whether or not the nuts/seeds are salted.

hand holding onion powder seasoning, garlic powder seasoning and salt containers.

Cashews

cashew pieces in a bag

Cashews have this buttery, yet mild flavor that blends well with other seasonings, making them an tasty nutritional yeast alternative.

It’s easy to grind them up in a food processor, and add seasonings! Some ways I might use cashews is in a yummy vegan cashew ‘cheese’ or sauce.

If you can get cashew halves- those will likely grind up easier.

Cashews are also notable for providing a decent amount of selenium (this also depends on soil) and plant based protein (about 5 grams of protein per ounce!) (1).

Almonds

sliced almonds in a bag

Surprised to see almonds on this list?

Let’s just say, as a vegan – I’ve done a bit of experimenting!

When you grind up almonds (I like to use slivered almonds- because they grind up quicker in the food processor), and add a few savory seasonings, it makes a tasty alternative!

Almonds impart this almost meaty, yet bland flavor that makes a nice base. When ground up well, you can get a texture similar to nutritional yeast powder.

I also love this alternative because it’s also known for being one of the nuts highest in calcium! A 1 ounce serving contains about 62 milligrams of calcium (2)!

Pistachios

hand holding shelled pistachios

There’s just something about pistachios that makes them a a savory base to replace nutritional yeast!

I’d sometimes use already shelled and halved pistachios, and a good food processor to grind them into a ‘mealy’ texture.

Combined with a pinch of garlic and onion powder seasoning, this makes for a yummy topping on pasta, roasted eggplant, and more!

Besides how awesome pistachios are in the flavor department (they might be my personal favorite nut!) I love that they contain decent amounts of the amino acid lysine (3)– an essential amino acid that can be a bit more tricky for vegans who aren’t eating enough legumes)!

Tahini

hand holding a jar of Artisana Organics tahini

Tahini (ground sesame seeds butter) may be just the thing to add that missing piquant flavor!

You’ll find it used as a runny/creamy component for several vegan sauces.

And aside from providing fiber, tahini contributes a decent amount of plant based iron (about 2.7 milligrams, or about 15% the daily value for iron per 2 tablespoons (4))

Vegan ‘Parmesan’

hand holding violife vegan parmesan

Ok, so this isn’t dairy parmesan, but it sure tastes similar!

Violife Parmesan reminds me of nutritional yeast with that cheesy and aged-flavor. But, the coconut oil adds creaminess and texture.

Why texture? Well, coconut oil is a solid fat, that is rich in saturated fats – fats we want to limit in particular for heart health.

I personally use this one sparingly, and enjoy the authentic flavor it imparts – such as on top of popcorn for some vegan ‘cheesy popcorn’ from time to time!

Nutritional Yeast 101

Since you are reading this article about nutritional yeast alternatives, I assume you already know what nutritional yeast is. But if not, read this section!

Nutritional yeast – sometimes nick-named ‘nooch,’ is inactive yeast.

By ‘inactive’ I mean this yeast isn’t going to help bread or similar products rise!

Nutritional yeast comes in a variety of yellow shades, and can be processed down into flakes or a finer powder.

If you are a vegan or dairy free eater , you are probably familiar with nooch because it imparts a cheesy (yet, slightly nutty) and umami taste.

This makes it excellent in dishes that call for a cheesy and savory flavor, such as eggplant parmesan, or cheesy popcorn (speaking of popcorn, here’s my go-to vegan recipe that uses nutritional yeast!) .

But why is called ‘nutritional’ yeast specifically?

That’ requires a whole other discussion, so let’s get into it!

Nutrition

Nutritional yeast is probably called such because it’s chock full of nutrition!

In general, non fortified nutritional yeast, will likely contain significant amount of specific nutrients- like, niacin, biotin, and thiamin.

Some nutritional yeasts are also fortified with additional vitamins such as, vitamin B12but, not all are fortified. You must check the nutrition facts to see if it’s fortified with this vitamin! It’s often listed as the synthetic: ‘cyanocobalamin’ in the ingredients list.)

Generally speaking, both fortified and non fortified nutritional yeasts contain similar amounts of calories, carbohydrates and protein.

Check out a comparison select nutrition facts from two brands below (note – formulations/ingredients may be different or may change. Check the nutrition facts of your product):

CaloriesSaturated FatSodium (milligrams)CarbohydratesProteinIronThiaminNiacinRiboflavinVitamin B12
Foods Alive (unfortified) Nutritional Yeast Flakes – 15 grams600 grams70 milligrams5 grams8 grams7 milligrams1.2 milligrams14.4 milligrams0.078 milligrams0 micrograms
Bob’s Red Mill Large Flake Nutritional Yeast (fortified) – 15 grams600 grams25 milligrams5 grams8 grams1 milligram11.8 milligrams46 milligrams9.7 milligrams17.6 micrograms

Nutritionally speaking, I personally add nutritional yeast- not only for the yummy flavor, but also for that boost of protein and certain nutrients.

Flavor wise, I personally like to add it foods like:

  • Tofu
  • Popcorn
  • Sauces
  • Noodles
  • On top of vegetables
  • On bean dishes

Have you used any of these substitutes for ‘savory’ dishes? Which ones did I miss? Make sure you share in the comments!

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2 thoughts on “Top 5 Nutritional Yeast Substitutes (From a Vegan)”

  1. Love the violife products. I am not vegan, but we have vegan family members and when they visit we only do vegan dishes.

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