Nutritional yeast is a wonderful accompaniment in the vegan cuisine and it provides a delicious cheesy flavor to meals. It is used to make vegan Parmesan and it tastes great as a pizza topping. Nutritional yeast is an important staple in the vegan kitchen, but what do you use if you have a yeast allergy or intolerance and you can’t consume it? Recently, I was asked about substitutes for nutritional yeast, and it got me thinking.
How can this staple be replaced and still provide delicious – or even cheesy – flavor to meals? Let’s take a look at the following yeast-free options.
Dried Chopped Mushrooms
Personally, I love mushrooms, and they will make a great substitute for nutritional yeast, given that they have so much flavor. Have you ever had dried shiitake mushrooms? They are to die for! Well, that is just me. Someone else might say, “ew shiitake mushrooms”, but I could eat the dried version every day, and when I had a large bag of them, that’s what I basically did 😉 When I finished the bag I went out and bought another one. I was hooked.
Of course, when it comes to mushrooms, there are many varieties and flavors. So, which ones are the best to replace nutritional yeast with?
- Yes, you guessed correctly! Shiitake mushrooms. With their mild flavor their dried, chopped up version makes a nice accompaniment
- Oyster mushrooms also have a nice, mild flavor, probably even a little lighter than shiitake mushrooms
- Porcini mushrooms: dried porcini mushrooms provide a more powerful and hearty flavor
- Chanterelles: these have a very distinctive flavor and also make a flavorful addition
Spices and Herbs
Can spices and herbs replace nutritional yeast? Yes, some spices and herbs have excellent flavors that could come close to a hearty accompaniment on pizzas, lasagnas, or any other dish you are preparing. Let’s take the following for example:
- Basil and oregano: great for tomato, pastas, or bread-based dishes, they offer a wonderful, zingy flavor. Obviously, they don’t taste like cheese like nutritional yeast does, but they do add strong flavor.
- Paprika: this colorful spice adds vibrant color to any dish, and although its taste is mild and not cheesy at all, it does bring a good flavor to your dishes. You can also sprinkle it over your meals as a garnish.
- Dried onion flakes: they are very savory and will add much flavor to any dish. Moreover, their texture is similar to the texture of nutritional yeast.
Yes, there are some other good alternatives that will replace the texture and/or flavor of nutritional yeast.
- Chickpea flour offers a similar flavor to nutritional yeast, and the texture is nearly the same. Additionally, it is also high on protein and it provides some of the B vitamins that nutritional yeast contains. If you slightly fry chickpea flour it will have a great nutty flavor.
- Soy sauce is my favorite sauce, period. I know, it is high on sodium, but if you’re taking the low-sodium version, this is also a sublime substitute for nutritional yeast. But that unmistakable and unique taste of soy can work wonders on your taste buds (well, it does on mine 😉 ). Soy sauce makes a great nutritional yeast substitute in sauces.
- Vegemite is not a favorite of mine, but I include it, because taste is subjective and many people love Vegemite (not me, though, you could chase me out of the room with that, haha). Although it is still a yeast extract and therefore a no for anyone who is intolerant to yeast, its high salty flavor can still be a good substitute. However, – and I’m being biased here – I’m not sure how much I should recommend this, since it still has yeast extract.
- White miso paste: this is a great substitute if you’re looking to use it for creamy cheese sauces, and thanks to a little hint of acid it gives a wonderful cheesy flavor, making it a good addition to your meals.
- Vegetable bouillon: being an intensely flavorful vegetable concentrate, this is great for soups and stews. If you need less fluid, you can use stock cubes and sprinkle it on veggies or pizza. Just bear in mind that it is extremely salty and it may still contain some yeast extract.
Nutritional yeast is one very important staple in the vegan kitchen. I love its cheesy flavor and its many nutrients are a great bonus. If you, however, have a yeast intolerance or the doctor forbade you any foods with yeast, then not being able to use nutritional yeast on a vegan diet could present a slight problem. Fortunately, there are many alternatives and I hope that the above mentioned options will be of some help.
Please let me know if you have any doubts or questions, and if you have any other alternatives that you like to use, I will be happy to hear about it. Let me know your thoughts.