Nutritional yeast is one of those common vegan-food ingredients that has become more readily available in the last few years. This is a good thing considering how hard it is to capture the unique umami, cheesy, nutty flavor of nutritional yeast using a different vegan alternative.
Luckily, for those times when you can’t find nooch, there are some substitutes that do come close.
Below, we have 10 of the best nutritional yeast substitutes that will work in a pinch. Many of them are staples in the typical vegan home and all are available at local health food stores.
Nutritional Yeast Alternatives
Nutritional yeast gained popularity in the vegan community for its unique ability to replicate the savory flavor of cheese. This vegan alternative also boasts a number of health benefits that make it especially desirable. In fact, it is one of the few reliable non-animal food sources of vitamin B12.
But, if you’re struggling to find nutritional yeast or just happen to run out mid-recipe, don’t fret. There are a few vegan food alternatives out there that come close to replicating its unique flavor profile.
Here are my top ten recommendations for substitutes to replicate the cheesy, nutty, umami-like flavor of nutritional yeast.
1. Brewer’s Yeast
Both brewer’s yeast and nutritional yeast are made from a yeast species called Saccharomyces cerevisiae. So it makes sense that one would be a decent substitute for the other.
While nutritional yeast is made specifically for use as a food ingredient, brewer’s yeast is actually a by-product of the beer brewing process. For this reason, this dry yeast has a noticeable beery flavor and a slightly bitter taste. But, like nutritional yeast, it does a good job of thickening sauces.
For this reason, brewer’s yeast is my number one recommendation for use as a nutritional yeast replacement in cheesy vegan sauces.
2. Yeast Extract
Another yeast product that works well when you’re plum out of nutritional yeast is yeast extract, also known as marmite or vegemite.
This dark brown spread is most commonly used in the UK and Australia, but you can find it at some supermarkets in the US. Like dried brewer’s yeast, yeast extract is a byproduct of beer brewing. But unlike brewer’s yeast, it has a more savory flavor and fewer bitter notes.
Because it is only available in a sticky, spreadable form, it is not a good option for garnishing dishes. But it works wonderfully as a nutritional yeast alternative in recipes and sauces.
3. Soy Sauce
When it comes to adding some umami oomph to vegan dishes, nutritional yeast isn’t the only candidate. Soy sauce (and tamari) has long been celebrated as a vegetarian umami flavor enhancer.
Of course, soy sauce also comes with a hefty dose of salty flavor that nooch doesn’t. When using it in a recipe, this is easy to overcome simply by cutting the amount of salt added. You’ll also want to use about half as much soy sauce in the recipe as you would nutritional yeast, due to its stronger flavor.
4. White Miso Paste
Miso paste is another umami staple in Asian culture. This sticky paste is made from fermented soybeans, which also means it comes with a hefty dose of probiotics and is a good source of vitamin K.
All types of miso paste have that signature umami flavor, but white miso paste is the best choice for substituting nooch. It has a nuttier flavor profile and a milder taste. Like soy sauce, the umami flavor in miso is much more concentrated than in nooch, so you only need about a third as much in your recipe.
5. Coconut Aminos
Coconut aminos is a liquid flavor additive that looks very similar to soy sauce. But it doesn’t have nearly as much of a salty taste as the better-known condiment and has a slightly sweet finish. Like nooch, it has a unique nutty taste and savory flavor that makes it a decent vegan substitute.
If you are eating a restricted diet or have food allergies, coconut aminos is a good choice. This food is gluten-free, soy-free, and yeast-free. It is made from fermented coconut tree sap and has a high amount of the amino acid, glutamate, which gives it that signature umami flavor.
Because it’s a liquid, it is best suited for use in sauces and within recipes. The flavor isn’t as intense as others on this list, but the added sweetness and saltiness mean you should start sparingly and increase as needed.
A similar option to coconut aminos is Bragg Liquid Aminos. This product is made from fermented soybeans but has a very similar flavor.
If you’ve ever made vegan cheese sauce, then you know how well cashews and nooch go together. This nutritious nut provides a creamy texture to the sauce while bringing its own hefty dose of nutty flavor.
When you’re out of nutritional yeast, cashews can be used to create a decent topper for pasta, steamed veggies, and more. Used alone, you’ll get the nuttiness and a bit of an added crunch. Used with garlic powder, brewer’s yeast, and a little salt, and you’ll have something similar to a parmesan substitute that would usually be made with nooch.
7. Dried or Fried Onion Flakes
For those nooch recipes that are a touch on the indulgent side, fried onion flakes can make a great substitute. These crispy flakes have the right texture to replace nooch flakes and a ton of that savory goodness. But they also pack a fair amount of fat and take extra time to prepare.
You can also use dried onion flakes in place of nooch. Again, the texture is about right and you get the savory aspect of onions.
But it comes with an added tangy flavor and you miss out on those cheesy undertones. But, in a pinch some onion flakes will do, just make sure you don’t overdo it!
8. Dried Mushrooms
Mushrooms might sound like an odd choice for a nooch substitute, but don’t forget, like yeast, mushrooms are a type of fungus.
The four types of mushrooms that work best in place of nutritional yeast are porcini, oyster, shiitake, and chanterelle. Each of these has a distinct earthy savoriness that can also be found in nooch. The overall effect is more broth or meat-like than cheesy, which works better in some situations than others.
You can buy your mushrooms pre-dried or dry them yourself. In either case, use a coffee grinder to pulverize them into a powder before adding them to your recipe in place of nooch.
9. Chickpea Flour
Like nutritional yeast, chickpea flour is packed with B vitamins and protein. In powdered form, it also captures the texture of powdered nooch perfectly.
What chickpea flour lacks are the cheesy taste and umuminess. Browning the flour before use will help bring out a touch of that savoriness and a lot of nutty and earthy undertones. Mixing the browned powder with a little onion powder and brewer’s yeast makes for a very noochy topper for pasta, popcorn, and other savory snacks and dishes.
10. Vegan Parmesan Cheese
Back when nooch first took the vegan world by storm, commercial vegan cheese was still relatively hard to find. Today, there are so many vegan cheese brands that finding vegan parmesan is almost as easy as finding nutritional yeast.
If your grocer is out of the latter but flush in the former, then you’ve got a great nooch substitute right there.
More so than standard vegan cheeses, vegan parmesan has that slight bitterness and extra savory flavor that makes for a great topper. It also works pretty decently in many cheese sauce recipes.
What Is Nutritional Yeast?
Nutritional yeast is a product derived from yeast cultured in a high sugar medium then deactivated and dried. Nutrients added to the culture, and sometimes during the drying process, give this product a unique nutritional profile that makes it a healthy and tasty addition to a vegan diet.
Nooch is low in fat and carbohydrates and a great source of protein. Unlike brewer’s yeast, which is a byproduct of brewing, nooch is produced specifically for use as a condiment. This means the flavor is the most important aspect of its creation and can differ slightly by brand.
Looking for the best tasting nooch? Here are our favorite nutritional yeast brands.
Nooch can be used as a topper for steamed vegetables, pasta, and salty snacks. It is also a common ingredient in dairy-free sauces and savory vegan recipes.
No, cornstarch does not make a good substitute for nutritional yeast. While this yellow powder may look similar to powdered nooch, the flavor profile is very different.
Additionally, cornstarch is a powerful thickener. While nooch has a slight thickening effect in sauces, cornstarch will rapidly soak up all the liquid in your recipe causing an intense textural change.
No, flour does not make a great substitute for nutritional yeast. Like cornstarch, flour lacks the umami, cheesy taste of nooch. Almond flour provides the nuttiness and could be used in a pinch, but most grain flours are not going to bring the right texture or flavor to your recipe.
If you do happen to have some nutritional yeast on hand, be sure it give this easy cheese sauce a try. It might not work with all of the substitutions above, but you never know unless you try!
Nutritional Yeast Cheese Sauce
- Combine all the ingredients in a sauce pan and whisk together over high heat until it reaches a boil.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1-2 minutes until the sauce thickens. Serve warm.
About the Author
Sara Seitz is a freelance writer living with type 1 diabetes. Her search for better health and better control of her blood sugars led her to a plant-based diet. When she isn’t experimenting with new vegan recipes, she’s helping spread the word about how plant-based is better for people and the planet. More articles by Sara.