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Whether you're vegan or simply looking for a healthy new way to season your food, nutritional yeast is the way to go.

Vegan and craving something with a rich umami punch? Allergic to dairy but still yearning for something cheesy? Turn to nutritional yeast, a flavor-packed solution to your hankering that’s referred to affectionately as “nooch” by its devout fans. What is nutritional yeast? It may not have a sexy name or appearance (it comes in “beige flake” and “chunky yellow powder” forms), but it brings something to the table that’s missing in a lot of animal product–free food. Sprinkle it on, knead it in or blend it up and watch the magic unfold.

Nutritional yeast is made from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a strain of yeast that grows rapidly. The yeast is fed with cane or beet sugar until it’s expanded enough to harvest, then it’s killed — or made “inactive” — with high heat, dehydrated, processed and packaged.

You’ll see nutritional yeast called for in vegan recipes that list cheese as an ingredient (like pesto), sprinkled on kale chips for a flavor boost that doesn’t add sodium, or used to pump up a healthy green soup that could benefit from a little something special. Pick up a jar or shaker at your local health food store and discover your favorite use for this ultra-versatile ingredient.