Food short on flavor? Nooch to the rescue

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

Many of the foods we eat have been rebranded by marketers. Chinese gooseberries became kiwis, and dolphinfish are now mahi-mahi. (Who wants to eat Flipper?) These name changes were made to increase product sales.

Rarer, though, is when consumers give a nickname to a beloved product. Affectionately dubbed nooch, nutritional yeast has been reborn for the Instagram era.

Nutritional yeast begins from the same yeast used to make bread and beer. It is then heated, pasteurized and dried, thus killing the live bacteria that are used to leaven bread. The result is a yellow, flaky powder with a cheesy, nutty, savory flavor. The process deactivates the yeast, breaking down the cell walls and releasing amino acids, including glutamic acid. These naturally occurring glutamates create an umami bomb. Think MSG without the sodium.

Nutritional yeast was first developed as a health product. One tablespoon of nutritional yeast contains 30% to 180% of the recommended daily allowance for B vitamins. During the 1960s an ’70s it was widely embraced by the hippies. One fact that remained a secret was that it tasted good.

Fifty years later, nooch has gone mainstream. Health benefits have been forgotten. Sprinkled over anything from salads and popcorn to pasta and rice, it is the je ne se quoi ingredient that gives a subtle, savory flavor boost to any dish. Bon Appetite magazine called it “nature’s Cheeto dust.”

Nutritional yeast gives food a flavor boost and a big helping of B vitamins. As a dressing, it’s a savory umami bomb.

Below is a recipe for nooch dressing. It calls for tamari, which is similar to soy sauce but is less salty and does not contain wheat. The dressing should please all eaters, as it is both vegan and gluten free. It is very versatile and can be used on salads, roasted vegetables and grain bowls or as a dipping sauce for a crudités platter.

Nooch Dressing

3/4 cup nutritional yeast

1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup tamari

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

11/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

11/2 teaspoons honey

1/2 cup neutral oil (safflower or sunflower)

Put all of the ingredients in a blender except the oil. Blend a few seconds. With the blender still running, slowly pour in the oil. Blend until smooth.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.