Are you ready to add some ‘nooch’ to your diet?

Behold, the power of rebranding. “Nooch,” the hot new ingredient that’s forecast to be popping up on more menus this year, is actually not new at all. It’s the slang, shortened term that’s gaining traction as the new name for a long-time staple in vegan diets: nutritional yeast.

Nutritional yeast has been a poster child for the iconic hippy, vegetarian lifestyle, and it has been used for decades by health-food store patrons. It comes in a flaky or powdery form, similar to Parmesan cheese, and can actually resemble fish food, which admittedly is part of the image problem. However, we may be entering a perfect storm for the rise of this humble ingredient: a surging interest in plant-based diets, a desire for more umami flavors and a quirky new rebranding means that nooch may be ready for prime time.

So what exactly is nooch? It’s the same kind of yeast you would use for baking, except that it’s grown on molasses and pasteurized, which deactivates it. Historically, nutritional yeast has been used to boost nutrition, mainly in vegetarian diets. However, the flavor profile is why nooch is gaining more attention in the culinary world.

“Due to its rich amino acid profile, it has savory umami characteristics and salty notes which is useful in many dishes,” explains chef and dietitian Michele Redmond, owner of The Taste Workshop in Arizona. She offers her recipe for Garlic and Walnut Herb Sauce with Nutritional Yeast.

One of the more popular ways to use nooch is to sprinkle it on popcorn, since it gives a cheesy, salty flavor. In fact, nooch can be used in place of sprinkled cheese in a number of ways — on top of salads, vegetables or pasta dishes.

Why bother? Two tablespoons of nooch deliver nine grams of complete protein and four grams of fiber, all with very little fat and sodium. It’s also a good source for many of the B vitamins, as well as minerals like selenium.

Here are some more ways to cozy up to nooch, straight from the kitchen of dietitians:

“I use it most as a substitute for cheese, particularly Parmesan. I put it in my pesto and in my polenta and it gives it a richness that would be missing otherwise.” — Lea Crosetti Andes, owner of

“I LOVE nutritional yeast! I often make mashed cauliflower and add Greek yogurt, sriracha and a nice amount of nutritional yeast. I love the nutty, cheesy flavor. I have also used it sprinkled on roasted broccoli or in a ‘mock’ mac and cheese.” — Stacey Wiesenthal, health and wellness manager at Continental Services in Troy, Michigan. Try her mashed cauliflower.

“I love adding nutritional yeast to marinated kale. It provides a great taste and texture similar to a Caesar salad, with significantly less calories.” — Mandy Unanski Enright of the blog “Nutrition Nuptials”

“Personally, I can’t get enough of the taste! It has a nutty, umami taste similar to Parmesan cheese and I use it as a substitute wherever you would normally use grated cheese. I make a cheese sprinkle by pulsing together almonds, cashews, nutritional yeast and garlic powder.” — Alex Caspero of “Delish Knowledge.” She uses the fine powder to top everything from pasta and pizza to popcorn.

“My favorite way to enjoy it is at breakfast in my savory oatmeal or on scrambled eggs. Sometimes I use it to replace half the shredded cheese in a recipe, or just to take a recipe and kick it up a notch.” — Katie Goldberg, private practice based in Chicago

More from U.S. News

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Are You Ready to Add Some ‘Nooch’ to Your Diet? originally appeared on

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