With its cheesy, nutty taste, flaky yet unobtrusive texture, and a motherlode of vegan B vitamins, it’s no surprise that nutritional yeast is a staple in the wellness world’s pantry. Nutritional yeast—or “nooch,” as the kids call it—can be taken as a supplement, added as a topping on food, or used to make yummy sauces for alfredo and mac and cheese. But as with all popular items, there are a lot of brands out there vying to make the best one. We tested the top options, evaluating taste, texture, price, and nutrition facts. The top pick? Red Star Nutritional Yeast, which offered the best nooch at an affordable price, to boot.
The best nutritional yeast, ranked:
Red Star Nutritional Yeast
- Fortified nutritional yeast in flake form
- 8 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, 60 calories, 5 carbs, 30 milligrams of sodium per each 1.5- tablespoon serving
- No funky aftertaste
- In a convenient shaker bottle
- No organic or non-GMO certifications
Of all the nooch I tried, Red Star’s was the tastiest. It has a pleasant, nutty taste and leaves no funky, lingering memory like some other options. This makes it an easy top pick. It smells much cheesier than other brands we tried, making it a great addition to cheese-inspired dishes, like cheddar popcorn or a cheesy orzo—and I did a blind taste test with both. Sprinkled on freshly popped popcorn, Red Star not only tasted the best, it also mixed well too, since it comes in mini-flake form. The same goes for the orzo: I cooked it as normal, and then added a couple tablespoons to my dish. My results? Creamy, thick pasta with a savory, cheese-adjacent flavor. Red Star is the only brand we tested to list amounts of zinc (20% DV per serving) and selenium (32% DV per serving). Red Star also has slightly higher fiber content compared to most others we tested.
Red Star comes in a convenient plastic shaker bottle, similar to most seasoning shakers you get from the grocery store. Because the yeast flakes are so tiny, it was fairly easy to shake out of the bottle, giving me very minimal mess. Red Star claims that it is vegan, gluten-free, and kosher. According to the ingredient list, there are no added flavors, colors, or preservatives, just dried yeast and vitamins. It’s fortified with important B vitamins and a great source of fiber. (As a dietitian, I’m always telling my clients to eat more fiber—not only does it help you stay regular, it can help manage blood sugar and cholesterol.)
Red Star doesn’t have any non-GMO or organic certifications. If that’s important to you, you may prefer an option from Frontier Co-op or Bragg.
Best Unfortified Nutritional Yeast
Frontier Co-op Nutritional Yeast
- Unfortified nutritional yeast in mini-flake form
- 70 calories, 7 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, 7 grams of carbs per each 2-tablespoon serving
- Neutral taste
- Mixes well
- Bag option isn’t resealable
Frontier makes non-GMO unfortified nutritional yeast, meaning the only ingredient is inactive dried yeast. We talk about fortified versus unfortified more below, but unfortified yeast is a great natural source of B vitamins and protein—it just doesn’t have quite as much as the fortified options. If you currently take a multivitamin, Frontier might be a great option to prevent an overload of vitamins and expensive pee. (Same thing that can happen with greens powders.) Frontier’s yeast has a very faint cheese smell and taste. It blended well with the orzo , providing earthy, pleasant cheese undertones. If you want to mix things up, the company also offers different flavors like nacho spice blend, dill and vinegar, and Himalayan sea salt and vinegar. Unfortunately, if you opt for the bag over the shaker, it isn’t resealable, so you’ll have to use a bag clip or put it in a separate container to prevent making a mess.
Other Nutritional Yeast To Consider
Bragg Nutritional Yeast
- Fortified nutritional yeast in powdered form
- 5 grams protein, 40 calories, 3 grams of carbs, 20 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of fiber per each 2-tablespoon serving
- Comes in resealable bag
- No noticeable aftertaste
- Not great as a topping
Bragg’s products (like its trademark apple cider vinegar) are a staple in many households, including mine. Its nooch didn’t disappoint. The fortified nutritional yeast has no added colors or preservatives and it’s pretty affordable. It’s also non-GMO, kosher, and comes in a resealable bag or shaker bottle. (I tried the resealable bag).
Opening the bag, you’ll get a whiff of a faint cheese aroma. The actual flavor is similarly mild, and doesn’t have a “floury” or chalky aftertaste, so that’s a plus. After trying it with popcorn and orzo, I found that personally, I prefer it more as a cooking ingredient than as a topping. Its flavor is so faint, it didn’t give popcorn much pizzazz, but it paired well with orzo pasta. Still, it’s nutrient-packed with protein, fiber, and B vitamins, so you can’t go wrong however you choose to use it.
What Is Nutritional Yeast?
Nutritional yeast is a type of strain from the plant species Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the same yeast also used to make breads and beer. Nutritional yeast is Metabolites “Yeast Protein as an Easily Accessible Food Source” View Source and supplement: the yeast cells are killed during manufacturing, making it inactive. This means,it won’t cause bread to expand, so you can’t use it for leavening purposes. It’s made up of Handbook of Food Bioengineering: Diet, Microbiome and Health “Chapter 9 - Nutritional Yeast Biomass: Characterization and Application” View Source and easy to identify by its dark yellow flakes.
Both fortified and unfortified blends are rich in naturally-occuring minerals such as chromium, selenium, zinc, iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese. Nutritional yeast is also naturally rich in Harvard School of Public Health “B Vitamins” View Source . Because nutritional yeast is so rich in plant proteins, vitamins, and minerals, it’s popular among plant-based eaters and those with dairy intolerances. It’s most commonly added to foods like popcorn, eggs, salads, and rice, but you can also add it as a cheese replacement for pasta dishes.
Is Nutritional Yeast Healthy?
Bodies need protein, vitamins, and minerals. Nutritional yeast is rich in all three, which means it can certainly be a healthy addition to your diet—especially if you’re a vegan or vegetarian, lactose intolerant, or have high protein needs.
Let’s dive into specifics. Protein is made up of tiny amino acid chains, which we need for proper muscle growth and development. Plus, protein helps our body build and maintain our muscle and bone strength. B vitamins help release energy from carbohydrates and fats, and help transport oxygen around the body. Cyanocobalamin, vitamin B12, is mostly found in meat, fish, and dairy, so it can be Nutrients “Vitamin B12 among Vegetarians: Status, Assessment and Supplementation” View Source . Minerals like chromium and selenium are needed for maintaining normal glucose levels and for immune function.
As with all supplements, chat with a healthcare provider before implementing a new one into your diet.
How Much Nutritional Yeast Should You Eat Per Day?
Based on the nutritional yeast brands we tested, 2 to 4 tablespoons is the average serving size for most nutritional yeast. This is also the Nutrients “Saccharomyces cerevisiae Yeast-Based Supplementation as a Galactagogue in Breastfeeding Women? A Review of Evidence from Animal and Human Studies” View Source , or how much of a nutrient you should stick to per day. In this, you get about 5 to 8 grams of protein, 40 to 60 calories, 3 to 5 carbs, 2 to 4 grams of fiber, and zero grams of fat. Unfortified nutritional yeast has about 35% of thiamin, 45% of niacin, and 30% of pyridoxine in about two tablespoons. With fortified nutritional yeast, you can expect to get about 520% of your daily thiamin needs, 480% of riboflavin, 220% of niacin, 90% of folate, and a whopping 630% of cyanocobalamin.
If you’re thinking that these percentages sound like… a lot, don’t fret: B vitamins are StatPearls Publishing “Biochemistry, Water Soluble Vitamins” View Source , so they don’t get stored in the body. They have to be absorbed in water first. Then your body takes what it needs, and gets rid of the rest in your urine. Still, you should pay attention to vitamin and mineral intake, as getting too much can cause unpleasant side effects.
National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements “Niacin” View Source , for example, has a UL of about 35 milligrams per day and one serving size of fortified nutritional yeast (two tablespoons) provides just that, 35 milligrams. If you exceed the UL of some nutrients, like niacin, you may experience unpleasant side effects like flushing of the face along with burning and itching sensations.
Nutritional yeast is not a common allergen, but anyone with a yeast sensitivity should exercise caution before adding it to their diet.
Is Fortified or Unfortified Nutritional Yeast Better?
Most nutritional yeast is fortified, which means vitamins and minerals are added during the manufacturing process. Unfortified nutritional yeast should only have one ingredient: Inactive dry yeast. Unfortified yeast is still a natural source of B vitamins and other minerals—it just doesn’t have as many compared to that in the fortified version. Both fortified and unfortified have similar amounts of protein.
The type of nutritional yeast you pick should depend on your needs. If you currently take a multivitamin that contains vitamins and minerals, you may want to be cautious when adding fortified nutritional yeast to your diet. If your multivitamin has upwards of a 100% daily value of, say, niacin, and you’re also eating a serving of fortified nutritional yeast daily, you could be exceeding the UL. (You’ll probably just pee out the excess, though.) On the other hand, if you have a vitamin or mineral deficiency, fortified may be a better fit for you. It’s best to consult with a healthcare provider to determine your needs.
What Does Nutritional Yeast Taste Like?
Nutritional yeast has an earthy, cheese-adjacent smell and taste. On its own, it tastes like aged cheese with some nutty undertones (like almond and cashew). Because most nutritional yeast comes in the form of flakes, you need an adhesive, like an oil or sauce for it to bind. Otherwise, you’ll find a big pile of it at the bottom of your dish (like I did when I tried to initially add some on top of plain popcorn).
Is Nutritional Yeast Gluten-Free?
Yup, nutritional yeast is gluten-free. Foods “Analysis of Gluten in Dried Yeast and Yeast-Containing Products” View Source that nutritional yeast products contained “gluten at a level below the 20 mg/kg threshold” as defined by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO). So although there may be small trace amounts, it is labeled as gluten-free.
Brewers’ Yeast vs. Nutritional Yeast: What’s The Difference?
Speaking of gluten, buyers should be aware of the differences between nutritional yeast and brewer’s yeast supplements. Technically speaking, nutritional yeast is gluten-free. It’s typically grown on molasses, and is fermented, filtered, and dried into yeast flakes designed to be used as a food additive. Brewers’ yeast, on the other hand, contains high amounts of residual gluten from grains like barley and wheat. Brewers’ yeast has leavening power—and its flakes are very much alive and active—so it’s typically used in baking and in wine and beer production. This is important to know for anyone with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity. Brewers’ yeast also Urologic nursing “Brewer's/baker's yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and preventive medicine: part I” View Source (with the Mount Sinai “Brewer's yeast” View Source ) but it’s very bitter in taste, so you probably don’t want to add it to your popcorn.
How We Found The Best Nutritional Yeast
Meet Your Guinea Pig
I’m Sequoia Ridley, a registered dietitian nutritionist with almost six years of nutrition education experience. As a wellness dietitian, I focus on nutrition for disease prevention and for the best quality of life. I have experience working as a nutrition educator for USDA nutrition programs, as well as in outpatient hospital settings. I’ve also written for publications like VerywellFit.
Our Testing Process
After researching and sifting through customer ratings and reviews, we identified five promising nutritional yeast products, which the Nessie ordered these for testing. After receiving our packages, I did two different tests. First, I conducted a blind taste test with the yeast on top of freshly popped popcorn. In small bowls, I sprinkled about one teaspoon of yeast on top (about one teaspoon) and designated my husband as the taste-tester. I also did a separate test with freshly cooked orzo pasta and mixed the nutritional yeast with it in separate small bowls. I rated the yeast on smell, taste, texture, nutrition, and mixability.
I also took a close look at what is (arguably) the most important thing: the actual nutrition content of nutritional yeast. I spent several hours reading nutrition labels, diving into studies, and researching industry guidance on nutritional yeast consumption.
The Nutritional Yeast Buying Guide
Which Features Matter Most When Buying Nutritional Yeast?
When purchasing your nutritional yeast, you want to consider:
- Taste and Texture: Do you like the way it tastes? Does it blend well with food? Some nutritional yeasts are milder in taste while some others offer a stronger cheesy flavor.
- Nutritional Value: Per serving, nutritional yeast, whether fortified or not, should contain:
- 7 to 8 grams of protein
- 2 to 4 grams of fiber
- 50-70 calories
- 15 to 30-milligrams of sodium
- No more than 10 carbs
- Ingredients: Unfortified nutritional yeast should only have inactive yeast as the sole ingredient. Fortified nutritional yeast will have that same ingredient, plus added B vitamins like cyanocobalamin and riboflavin. There shouldn’t be any preservatives like silicon dioxide (unless it’s flavored).
- Price: Nutritional yeast is relatively affordable. Buyers should expect to spend about $5-$7 per five-ounce portion, and about $15-$18 per pound.
Nutritional Yeast You Can Skip
Anthony’s Nutritional Yeast Flakes
- Fortified nutritional yeast in flake form
- 60 calories, 8 grams of protein, 30 milligrams of sodium, 5 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber per each 2-tablespoon serving
- Blends well
- Bad aftertaste
- Must buy in bulk
Anthony’s passed the blend test and mixed well with the orzo. At $18 per pound, it’s slightly more expensive than other options, but still reasonably affordable. Smell-wise, it was fine and had a slightly aged cheese aroma. Unfortunately, Anthony’s fell short in the taste department. After our taste tests with popcorn and orzo, we were left with a very strong artificial woodsy aftertaste that I can only describe as being similar to tree bark. (Not that I know from personal experience, but, you know, what I imagine tree bark would taste like.)
Bob’s Red Mill Nutritional Yeast
- Fortified nutritional yeast in the form of large flakes
- 8 grams of protein; 60 calories; 25 milligrams of sodium; 5 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber per each ¼-cup serving
- Chalky taste
- Larger serving size
Bob’s Red Mill nutritional yeast also fell short of the top spot due to its taste. Upon opening the resealable bag, we got faint whiffs of aged cheese. It passed the blend test with the orzo but left a chalky, almost floury aftertaste. Fortunately, the aftertaste dissipated pretty quickly, but still not something I wanted more of. Still, at $7 for five ounces, it’s a pretty affordable option. Established in 1978, Bob’s Red Mill has been a staple in the baking products industry, so we respect the brand for sure. I wanted to like this one since I’ve used—and really liked—its other products in the past. But as far as the nooch, I have to pass.