By Clay Allen Rogers
March 3, 2020
With a 40 percent growth in menu mentions over the past year,* nutritional yeast (more casually known by its street name “nooch”) is being put to good use by more chefs intent on delivering a nutritious punch of flavor. Whether used as an addition to a purée of cashews and seasonings to create a vegan “cheese” or as a topping for pastas, salads and soups, the golden flakes deliver an umami-rich boost of flavor. They also supply all nine essential amino acids, B vitamins and multiple trace minerals.
Vegan consumers may be hailed as the early adopters of “nooch,” ushering the ancient yeast from the back of the health food store and into innovative menu items, but its application does not favor any one diet. The umami factor of nutritional yeast makes it a favorite for both vegans and meat-eaters alike.
“Nooch” serves two main purposes on today’s menus: as a primary ingredient in plant-based cheese alternatives and as a seasoning for items that call for the cheesy, nutty, umami flavor it delivers. Applications range from a finish atop avocado toast to a coating for deep-fried potato wedges, such as those offered at The Grey Market in Savannah, Ga.
The flakes make their way into Truffle Mushroom Risotto, along with seasonal vegetables, hemp milk and a cauliflower purée, at The Blackbird in Asheville, N.C., and in a vinaigrette over the Root Vegetable Char at Gather in Yarmouth, Maine. At the growing burger concept Burger Patch in Sacramento, Calif., the vegan Patch Burger is seasoned with nutritional yeast, providing a signature yet nostalgic taste. In a period when healthful menu items cannot afford to compromise on flavor, nutritional yeast is a big win-win.
5 ways to add “nooch” to the menu:
- Mix into a purée of soaked cashews or other nuts to add cheesy flavor to a dairy-free sauce or dip
- Use in a salad dressing—alongside apple cider vinegar, coconut aminos, and garlic, for example—for a healthy dose of signature flavor
- Blend with seasonings and herbs to add depth to a rub or marinade for meats or tofu
- Work into mashed potatoes or roasted veggies for a nutritional boost of flavor
- Sprinkle atop pasta, loaded fries, chicken wings, pizza or toast builds for an umami kick
*Source: Datassential 2020