I was first introduced to nutritional yeast when I first began to dabble in veganism, 3 years ago – lamenting the devastating loss of cheese from my life and wondering how I might ever be able to replace it.
Upon hearing of my dilemma, my seasoned-pro-vegan friends gushed so emphatically about this ‘miracle’ of cheesy goodness, shoving containers of it into my arms so vehemently that even as a devout dairy addict, I decided it must be worth a fair chance.
I have to tell you, though – taking my first tentative whiff of the yellow flakes, my curiosity quickly dissipated. It smelled like feet. Not the kind of cheesy you want smothering your pasta. I began to wonder, as I set to work whipping up my first cashew-based cheese sauce, whether the enthusiasm of my more experienced vegans was based on some suppressed desperation for the real thing.
I made cauliflower cheese as my first meal… and honestly? It tasted like feet.
To say my dreams were crushed was putting it mildly, and I put it up in my cupboard to sit there, unopened again for years.
Recently though, I discovered a cheese sauce calling for nutritional yeast. Intrigued just by how delicious it looked, I read on – and in doing so, changed my opinion of nooch for good. Because this wonderful blogger had pointed out the (now) glaringly obvious point, that cheese is salty. So, for any dish calling for nooch, you need just a little dash of something salty in there to give it that cheesy taste. Being health-conscious, I’d omitted it from my sad, gym-bag-scented cauliflower cheese to its downfall. I tried again, making a cheese sauce with just a tiny splash of soy sauce – and it was delicious.
Not to mention, fortified nooch is full of folate, zinc, iron, selenium and amino acids and B vitamins such as B12 (though, more research is needed on the safety of B-fortified foods).
The reason I’m telling you this story, is that a plant-based, whole foods diet – that is, minimising processed food and animal protein, and getting plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes – is absolutely wonderful for your health, but can lead to initial challenges in the kitchen if you’re used to a typical Western diet. You’ll be cooking with unfamiliar foods, creating unfamiliar flavours. The beauty of eating this way is in experimentation, in playing with new flavours and new ideas, in reading blogs and finding recipes and disproving society’s perception that we basically eat rabbit food. So, enjoy it – and explore.
And when things taste weird, or like feet – don’t give up on them. Just try them in a different way – It’s all part of the adventure.
Everybody needs comfort food sometimes…
Jen’s nutritious, delicious, non-feet-tasting cheese sauce
- 1 good-sized potato, sliced (not peeled! Leave all those just-under-the-skin nutrients right where they are!)
- Half an onion, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 1tbsp soy sauce
- 1 cup vegetable stock (bonus points for making your own)
- Lightly fry the onion and garlic until they start to brown (you can use water or a small tsp of oil for this)
- Boil the potato in the stock until it’s nice and soft – keep the cooking water
- Add potato, stock, nutritional yeast, onion and garlic to the blender and blend on full until smooth
- Add soy sauce to taste – you want to balance the flavour with the salt content to keep it healthy (ish).
- Drizzle generously over a bowl of roasted veggies and enjoy!
Jen’s ridiculously easy, cheesy, cauliflower bites
- 1 head of cauliflower, chopped into bitesize pieces
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 2tbsp oil
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees – with the baking tray in there heating too
- Whisk together the oil and soy sauce, and coat the cauliflower pieces
- Coat cauliflower with nutritional yeast and sprinkle any extra over the top
- Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and delicious