SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

December 6, 2012

Seek cheesy flavor? Add Yeast flakes


Flakes from yeast add flavor to any dish


MATTHEW MEAD ASSOCIATED PRESS Pumpkin soup with nutritional yeast flakes

How to get excited about nutritional yeast flakes?   The name suggests something that one needs either a prescription to get or a prescription to get rid of.

Worse, the appearance resembles that of yellow flaked fish food.    Yet the ingredient is worth considering anyway.

Nutritional yeast flakesaround for years, though all but unheard of outside the vegan world — are tapped to simulate the flavor of cheese. Vegans use them because the flakes are jammed with glutamates, the compounds that provide the savory goodness in steak and Parmesan.

The flakes are produced by growing, harvesting and drying a variety of yeasts different from the type used in baking.

The resulting powder is loaded with B vitamins; offers 2 grams of protein in each tablespoon; and has no fat, salt, sugar or gluten.       Yet it provides a flavor powerhouse.

The glutamates, or the chemicals that give monosodium glutamate its oomph, add a lushly savory, decidedly cheesy flavor to whatever they touch — which explains why vegans use them to create “cheese” sauces.

Still, not only vegans appreciate them.

  • Nutritional yeast flakes are usually found in the natural-foods section of a supermarket — sometimes in shaker-style canisters (with Bragg a popular brand) — or in the bulk-foods section.

So what should cooks do with them? In general, beyond the popcorn idea, they need to be added to a recipe with at least some moisture.

Some suggestions:

• Top popcorn. In a blender, combine a bit of kosher salt and a few tablespoons of yeast flakes. Pulse the mixture until it is finely ground; then toss it with buttered (or oiled) popcorn.

• Saute mushrooms. Cook small whole button mushrooms in a bit of olive oil. When the mushrooms are browned, season them with salt, pepper and yeast flakes. Saute them for a minute or two longer, or until the flakes are dissolved.

• Flavor chicken soup. To enhance the savory flavor of soup, add 1 or 2 tablespoons.

• Season ground meats. Saute lean ground beef; then add some yeast flakes, ground cumin, salt and pepper. Use the result as a taco filling or nacho topping.

• Season sauces. Saute cubed steak, chopped onion and minced garlic in a bit of olive oil. Just before the meat is done, add yeast flakes and a splash of broth or white wine to deglaze the pan and create a sauce. Season the result with salt and pepper.


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