If you've been seeing and hearing a lot about nutritional yeast lately, you're not alone. We broke down what it is and how to use it on your fave foods.

bobs red mill nutritional yeast
Photography by Jennifer Causey
| Credit: Photography by Jennifer Causey

You may have seen it on the ingredients list for vegan cheesy crackers. Or maybe your vegetarian friend can't stop talking about it. But what the heck is nutritional yeast, and how does it even work? Not to be confused with the stuff that causes bread to rise, nutritional yeast (also known as "hippie dust") is an inactive cultured strain of yeast with a cheeselike flavor. Not only does it taste good but it's also, well, nutritional, says Sheela Prakash, a registered dietitian and a recipe developer. "One tablespoon contains three grams of protein," she says. "If you buy the fortified kind, it's also a good source of vitamins and minerals, particularly iron, and it's one of the few meatless sources of vitamin B12." You can find it in flakes or powdered form, but no matter the type, be sure to eat nutritional yeast raw because cooking it can break down the B vitamins. Try sprinkling some on pizza right out of the oven, toss yeast with pasta just before eating, or shake a few flakes over salad for a totally not-sad desk lunch.