The Difference Between Brewer’s Yeast and Nutritional Yeast

If you’re here asking the question about the difference between brewer’s yeast and nutritional yeast, you are probably either in the yeast business or you are wondering if you should supplement with one, or both, of these common dietary supplements. So, what is the difference? What are the benefits of each? And should you be taking either or both?

What Is Yeast?

First, let’s talk about what this organism called yeast is.

Yeast has been around for millions, and perhaps billions of years. It is a single celled eukaryotic life form that comes from the fungus family. Scientists believe that before yeast, there was only bacteria, which is a prokaryotic organism, which means it does not have a self-contained nucleus like the yeast.

The theory is that during an evolutionary process and in order to adapt to the necessary food source, some bacteria evolved into yeast, and the two went their separate, and sometimes not so separate ways.

Both yeast and bacteria are in constant search for an energy source that will allow them to reproduce. And while there may be more bacteria cells across the globe, yeast actually takes up more space as it is larger in size than bacteria.

Since those early days, yeast has searched for sugar, consumed it, and converted that sugar to water and carbon dioxide in the presence of oxygen and alcohol and carbon dioxide in the absence of oxygen.

It is thanks to yeast that we have wine, beer, and liquor. And it is thanks to a symbiotic culture or bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) that we have foods like yogurt, kombucha, keffir, sauerkraut, and kimchi.

Recently, as more people across the globe have become more health-minded, and others have turned to vegetarian and vegan diets, they have turned to yeast for nutrition they cannot get without eating meat.

How Yeast Is Grown

For thousands upon thousands of years, humans have relied on yeast to do its thing naturally. We would crush grapes, strain them, and wait for yeast to ferment that grape juice into wine.

We would knead a dough made with wheat flour and leave it out to naturally rise. And it would!

Yeast has never let us down.

It grows wild in almost all environments; you could place a jar of dried fruits sitting in water in your yard under a tree with a lid on it and within a day or two you would see yeast bubbling away in the water.

Test Your Yeast


Still, in the 1800s, when Louis Pasteur came along with his microscope, he discovered yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, to be exact, the yeast most commonly found in nature, and the same yeast that ferments our beverages and foods.

Closely following his discovery, corporations managed to capture, grow, and market brewer’s yeast and baker’s yeast to the public.

Today, more than 400 strains of S. cerevisiae are grown across the globe, packaged up, and sold to brewers, bakers, and other food producers, as well as to nutritional supplement companies.

Nutritional yeast is one of the newer products that has come from this venture. In the 1950s, Red Star began drying and flaking their yeast products and marketing them as “nutritional.”

But is it nutritional?

The Difference Between Brewer’s Yeast and Nutritional Yeast

Brewer’s yeast is simply wild yeast that has been captured and cultivated in a laboratory or other manufacturing facility. It is fed barley malt, a naturally sweet grain, on which it can reproduce relatively rapidly.

To make it a nutritional supplement, the yeast is dried out and heated, which effectively “kills” it or deactivates it. This step is critical because some evidence shows that a high amount of live and active yeast in the diet can lead to a candida overgrowth in the human body, essentially setting us up for things like yeast infections and other illnesses caused by an imbalance.

The yeast is then often sold in capsule form so people can simply swallow it with water, or in powdered or flaked form to add to meals.

The flavor of brewer’s yeast is quite bitter and grainy, though some manufacturers will put it through a debittering process and add sugar.

Nutritional yeast, on the other hand, is grown specifically as a nutritional supplement.

It has no other purpose. It is S. cerevisiae grown on a diet of beet or cane sugar and then fortified with synthetic nutrients. Finally, the yeast is dried and heated to deactivate it and then sold in flakes as a seasoning.

Typically, brewer’s yeast is hailed as nutritional because it is high in chromium, a mineral that helps control blood sugar in a similar way to insulin.

In contrast, nutritional yeast is fortified with vitamin B12, a vitamin that is critical to our health and energy levels but that is primarily found naturally in meat, particularly grass-fed red meat because cows get the B12 naturally occurring in the soil when they eat.

Thus, nutritional yeast has long been a favorite dietary supplement for vegetarians and vegans seeking to get this vitamin from their diet.

Nutritional yeast has a cheesy, nutty, umami flavor, so it is often used as a cheese seasoning, sprinkled on pastas, popcorn, and salads.

Can You Substitute One for the Other?

You cannot really supplement brewer’s yeast for nutritional yeast, or vice versa, as they have such distinct flavors and offer different vitamins. You can, however, take both.

And, of course, you cannot use nutritional yeast to ferment anything, as the yeast is already dead.

Do You Need Yeast in Your Diet?

Now, when it comes down to it, you don’t need either of these yeasts in your diet. You can get B12 or other B vitamins through other supplements or through eating red meat. You can get chromium through other supplements as well. If the argument is that you want to get these vitamins and minerals naturally in your diet, that argument can be made for taking brewer’s yeast as the chromium is naturally occurring, and you can actually get some B complex vitamins as well. But since nutritional yeast is fortified with vitamins, the argument does not hold water there.

However, if you simply want to enjoy nutritional yeast as a seasoning on your food and feel good about the vitamin boost, go for it! It certainly can’t hurt you.


If you’re working with yeast, whether growing it into a supplement or using it for fermentation, being able to monitor it, grow, and repitch it can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars! Join the hundreds of brewers, vintners, bakers and bioethanol producers from all around the world using the Smartest Automated Yeast Cell Counter! Request a Free Demo Account today and experience firsthand how Oculyze can take your brewery or winery to the next level! 


  • Publications

    Best Pattern Recognition Software

    A review of the best pattern recognition software for those interested in the various applications, including colony counts, bacteria identification, and more.

    Read more
  • Publications

    Petri Dish Bacteria Identification Chart: Why Use One

    This article is dedicated to those in the lab wondering whether a comprehensive petri dish bacteria identification chart could make their job easier.

    Read more
  • Publications

    Is Bioethanol Good for the Environment?

    Have you been asking the question, “Is bioethanol good for the environment?” This article describes the role of bioethanol from an environmental perspective.

    Read more
  • 0
      Your Cart
      Your cart is empty