Most vegan chefs swear by nutritional yeast, and it’s not difficult to see why. Nutritional yeast is a fantastic vegan source of protein, and a great flavor enhancer. Not only that, but if you’re trying to thicken up a vegan sauce, nutritional yeast is the way to go!
What happens, though, when you’re trying to whip up a creamy vegan sauce and you realize that you don’t have any nutritional yeast on hand? Don’t worry, because there are actually plenty of substitutes for nutritional yeast out there!
We’ve compiled a list of our favorite nutritional yeast substitutes below, so don’t go anywhere! First, though, let’s answer the burning question: What the heck is nutritional yeast, anyway?
What is Nutritional Yeast?
The name suggests that nutritional yeast is, well, “yeast that has more nutritional value,” and this isn’t far off. Many people get nutritional yeast mixed up with active dry yeast, but despite these two ingredients having similar names, they actually couldn’t be more different.
Active dry yeast is activated yeast, and a lot of bakers use it to help bread rise. Nutritional yeast is deactivated yeast, and it has a lot more nutritional benefits. For example, it contains a decent amount of protein, Vitamin B-12, zinc, manganese, amino acids, and so on.
In a nutshell, nutritional yeast comes from deactivated yeast and is grown on things like whey, blackstrap molasses, and sugar beets. It's a great way to get protein and B vitamins if you're vegan, and it tastes savory, nutty, and cheesy. It’s perfect for replacing Parmesan cheese in non-vegan recipes, like the one for these Parmesan potatoes!
Not only that, but it can add a pop of color and make your food look more appetizing, which is always a plus! It's not the same thing as regular yeast and won't work for baking, but it's fantastic for enhancing the flavors in your savory vegan dishes.
The Best Substitutes for Nutritional Yeast
If you’ve been looking for some good nutritional yeast substitutes, then you’ve come to the right place! Not all of these substitutes will be vegan or dairy-free (Parmesan cheese is just too good — and similar to nutritional yeast — to not include on this list), but don’t fret. We’ll be sure to tell you what is and isn’t vegan in case this is something that matters to you.
You’re probably familiar with hummus — that delicious paste that you can dip your baby carrots into or spread onto a healthy spinach wrap. Hummus, as you may or may not know, is made from chickpeas! We’re not quite talking about chickpeas, though. We’re talking about chickpea flour.
Chickpea flour is vegan, and it’s a great alternative to nutritional yeast! You can either buy it pre-milled or make it at home — just use a dehydrator and some cooked chickpeas, or simply roast the chickpeas. Keep in mind that you won’t need to use too much chickpea flour if you’re using it as a substitute for nutritional yeast. For every cup of nutritional yeast, you'll only need ⅔ cup of chickpea flour.
The flavor is subtle and not overpowering. Admittedly, it lacks the cheesy taste found in nutritional yeast. However, you can enhance its flavor by adding other seasonings or letting it absorb the flavors of whatever dish you’re making.
Mushrooms are super good for you, and if you grind dried mushrooms into a powder, it makes for a surprisingly good nutritional yeast substitute. Besides its cheesy taste, nutritional yeast also offers delightful umami and nutty flavors. Dried mushrooms, with their umami richness and earthy goodness, serve as a suitable replacement.
You can substitute dried mushrooms for nutritional yeast on a one-to-one basis. However, dried mushrooms won't provide the creaminess that nutritional yeast has to offer. Instead, you can use them as a topping or grind them into a powder, as mentioned before. And yes, this substitute is vegan!
White Miso Paste
If you happen to have white miso paste on hand, it serves as an excellent alternative to nutritional yeast. White miso paste is made from soybeans, which means it’s vegan and vegetarian-friendly.
Like nutritional yeast, white miso paste is bursting with umami flavor, and it even has a hint of nuttiness to it. Admittedly, it does lack cheesiness, but you may be able to make up for that with other seasonings.
You'll only need to use a small amount of white miso paste — approximately one-third of the amount of nutritional yeast that the recipe you’re following calls for. For example, if a recipe calls for one tablespoon of nutritional yeast, you only need to use one teaspoon of white miso paste.
Now, if it’s nuttiness you’re after, ground cashews are the way to go when it comes to nutritional yeast substitutes! You can also use cashew flour, though it may not be as flavorful as ground-up cashews. Cashews are vegan, so you may prefer to use them over, say, Parmesan cheese.
Ground cashews are both cheesy and nutty — the only problem is that they lack the umami flavor of nutritional yeast. This can be remedied by adding a little bit of soy sauce to your dish (depending on what you’re making, of course).
You can swap ground cashews for nutritional yeast at a one-to-one ratio, so you won’t have to worry about doing any confusing conversions. The less math, the better! That’s what we always say!
Alright, so as we mentioned before, this substitute is not vegan. Parmesan cheese also contains dairy, so just keep that in mind. We’re including this one, though, because it’s incredibly similar in flavor and texture to nutritional yeast.
If you’re not vegan and a recipe you’re following calls for nutritional yeast, you can certainly use Parmesan cheese as a substitute. It’s a bit saltier than nutritional yeast, but other than that, the similarity in flavors is uncanny.
You can also use vegan Parmesan cheese (which is available at most grocery stores). Most vegan Parmesan is actually made using nutritional yeast, though, and if you’re going to the store, you might as well get some nutritional yeast while you’re there!
In terms of flavor, coconut aminos make an excellent substitute for nutritional yeast, especially if you’re looking for a vegan, dairy-free option. Coconut aminos are in a liquid form, though, so they’re best suited for recipes with a liquid base, such as soups and sauces.
To replace nutritional yeast, use only half of the required amount of coconut aminos. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast, use 1.5 teaspoons of coconut aminos. Be careful not to use too much, though — you don’t want to accidentally make your dish too sweet!
In general, brewer’s yeast makes for a great alternative to nutritional yeast. Like nutritional yeast, it’s vegan and boasts a nutty, earthy flavor. Some feel like it tastes a bit too much like beer — but honestly, if you like beer, that’s not a bad thing.
Either way, it’s a great option if you find yourself in a pinch and the recipe you’re following only calls for a small amount of nutritional yeast. If you decide to give it a try, keep in mind that you will need to do some conversions.
If you need to replace one tablespoon of nutritional yeast, use two teaspoons or less of brewer’s yeast. You may be able to overpower the “beer” flavor by putting in some additional seasonings. This will work particularly well if you’re making a sauce or stew.
Yes, we know — vegemite isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and it’s not especially common in the United States. Maybe your Australian friend sent you a jar of vegemite, though, and you’re not sure what to do with this strange but delicious vegan paste.
Surprisingly, vegemite is a darn good substitute for nutritional yeast. What is vegemite, you might ask? Great question. Speaking of brewer’s yeast, vegemite is a paste that’s made from leftover brewer’s yeast.
Keep in mind that vegemite is stronger in flavor than nutritional yeast, so you’ll only need to use a small amount if you’re using it as a substitute. If a recipe calls for one tablespoon of nutritional yeast, for example, you’ll only need to use two teaspoons of vegemite.
Vegetable Bouillon Powder
If you’re following a recipe that only calls for a small amount of nutritional yeast, you can totally use vegetable bouillon powder in a pinch. Nutritional yeast and vegetable bouillon powder are similar in texture, and both pack a powerful umami punch. Vegetable bouillon powder is also vegan!
Needless to say, this particular ingredient is a little, well, powdery. You’ll probably want to use it in a hot dish — like stew or soup — so that the granules dissolve. We’d highly recommend it, though. It’s salty, savory, and delicious!
Looking for some easy vegan recipes to make at home? Check out our awesome air fryer vegan recipes!