Does Nutritional Yeast Have Protein?

If you’ve been looking into this interesting ingredient that seems to be popping up everywhere of late, you may have found yourself asking, “does nutritional yeast have protein?” After all, it seems to be a staple for vegans and it is a form of yeast, right? Right! Lately, it has landed on menus in mainstream restaurants on a variety of dishes, vegan and otherwise. Let’s look at this tiny food that has become so universally beloved.

What Is Nutritional Yeast?

Nutritional yeast began as an afterthought about 75 years ago. At the time, the only yeast people talked about were the kinds you put in bread to make it rise or the yeast you added to beer or wine to create alcohol.

Then, in the 1950s, Red Star Yeast began to sell its waste products: brewer’s yeast that had already been used to ferment beer and was now ready to be tossed into a landfill somewhere.

You see, historically, yeast is a naturally occurring organism that will ferment beer, wine, and any other sugary food or liquid when left out too long. It hovers near, forever in search of sugar as its energy source.

But brewers and winemakers did not realize this microscopic life-form was behind the magic of beer and wine. They simply knew that if they left their batches of wort or must out long enough, those liquids would become alcohol rich.

Then, in the early 1800s, Louis Pasteur discovered yeast as the responsible party and commercial manufacturers began collecting it from nature, studying it, experimenting on it, and cultivating their own specially prepared and packaged yeast, both liquid and dry.

Whether from the wild or from a package, however, once yeast gets into the sugary liquid, it will consume all the sugars inside and convert them to alcohol and carbon dioxide.

What many people didn’t realize, however, was that the yeast did not die at the end of this fermentation process.

Then, in the early 1900s, a group of chemists studied the biomarkers of brewer’s yeast and found it to have a high nutritional value. This yeast that had done such a great job of fermenting could continue to contribute to humanity.

So, Red Star saw this reality as a gift and began taking that leftover brewer’s yeast, drying it out, or, effectively, killing it, so it could no longer leaven or ferment, and then packaging it and selling it as a nutritious condiment.

How Is Nutritional Yeast Used?

The first iteration of this concept was Marmite, a condiment sold in England as a savory spread to put on crackers or toast.

The problem with Marmite for many, however, is that the spread has a pretty bitter taste to it. It is certainly what some would call an acquired taste.

It was only in the late 1990s and into the early 2000s that companies thought to make nutritional yeast for the purposes of nutritional yeast itself.

Today, most nutritional yeast is made directly from yeast fed a diet of beet sugar or cane sugar and then dried out. It is never used to ferment beer. (Fortunately, other uses have been discovered for that waste product.)

Now, nutritional yeast not put through the brewing process does not come across as so bitter. Instead, it unlocks an umami flavor that comes across to many as cheesy, typically leaning in the direction of parmesan. Also, because it is dried and toasted, it imparts a nutty flavor as well.

Vegans are no longer the only ones buying nutritional yeast off the market shelves. And you can find them in most grocery stores as a result of the increased demand.

Many people love nutritional yeast on popcorn, in pastas, in soups and stews, and even sprinkled over steamed veggies.

The flavor becomes a bit addictive.

Does Nutritional Yeast Have Protein?

The original reason it was marketed to vegans, and why they took to it so well is precisely because of its relatively high protein content. You can typically find 5 grams of protein in 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast.

This ingredient is also rich in many B vitamins, including B2, B3, B6, B9, and it is also often fortified with B12, which is an essential building block for human health and hard to find naturally in foods.

Nutritional yeast also contains fiber, iron, and potassium all while being fat free, gluten free, and dairy free. You see why it’s such a hit as a cheese substitute for vegans?

And even if you’re not vegan, you might just be trying to cut back on cheese, but still crave cheesy flavors. Nutritional yeast is great for this purpose.

So, the answer to your question is yes, nutritional yeast has protein, and quite a bit of it, in fact. Enough to help you supplement if you’re not eating meat or boost your intake if you’re aiming for higher protein count.

Of course, if you’re not vegan, you can have both cheese and nutritional yeast and have plenty of protein and flavor in your diet.

Either way, nutritional yeast is a delicious additive for pretty much any savory dish, and it’s an excellent source of protein and other vitamins. You can’t go wrong having this topping stocked in your pantry.





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