Nutritional yeast, commonly referred to as “nooch” in the vegan community, is an everyday kitchen staple used as a seasoning and food additive. It’s affordable, easy to find, and has a pretty long shelf life, making it a great addition to your pantry.
One of the most common questions I’ve been asked about nooch is, “Does nutritional yeast go bad?”
While nutritional yeast has a relatively long shelf life, it can and will go bad eventually. The average shelf life of nutritional yeast is around two years and can be extended by several months if it’s stored properly.
The expiration date should be clearly printed on the packaging as well if you’re in any doubt.
Nutritional yeast is one of my go-to seasonings when I’m looking for a cheesy, salty, and slightly savory flavor. I sprinkle it on my pasta, add it to soup, and even use it to season my popcorn!
Below, I’ll provide you with some helpful tips for storing your nutritional yeast and explain how to tell if your nutritional yeast has gone bad.
Even though it’s a living organism, nutritional yeast doesn’t have a central nervous system, meaning that it’s 100% vegan-friendly and safe to eat. It’s the same ingredient that’s used to help bread rise and to make beer, both of which are generally vegan.
Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the scientific designation for yeast, is grown in a vat. To start with, a small sample of yeast is fed a diet of glucose (usually derived from sugarcane, beet sugar, or blackstrap molasses).
As the yeast feeds on the glucose, the cells begin to replicate themselves. Eventually, the yeast is pasteurized and dried.
If you’d like to learn more about how nutritional yeast is made and processed, check out the following video! I learned a lot myself:
Since it’s fully dried and pasteurized, nutritional yeast can last for up to two years as long as it’s kept in the right conditions. So, what are the best conditions to help maximize your nooch’s shelf life? Keep on reading to find out…
As I mentioned, nutritional yeast can easily last up to two years when stored properly. However, when it’s not stored properly, this estimate can be cut in half, leaving you with a bad batch of nooch one year in.
When I first started my vegan diet (just over seven years ago), I wasn’t too savvy when it came to food storage. One evening, I sprinkled a generous portion over my pasta, not knowing that it had gone bad.
The ensuing stomach ache that came afterward was… well “one for the books,” as they say.
So, to help you avoid such unpleasantries, I’m going to give you a full breakdown of the best way to store nutritional yeast.
Nutritional yeast is best stored somewhere cool and dark. If your home is relatively cool (around 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit), then you should be able to get away with storing it in a kitchen cabinet.
That being said, I strongly recommend storing your nutritional yeast in the refrigerator to ensure maximum shelf life! This is especially true if you live in a warmer, more humid environment where the average room temperature is 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Why does it need to be kept somewhere dark? Well, sunlight and UV rays can cause ingredients to prematurely break down and oxidize.
Because of this, many nutritional yeast containers use amber or green-colored jars to package the yeast flakes to prevent UV rays from interfering with the freshness.
I still recommend putting your yeast in somewhere totally dark like the fridge or a cabinet, though.
Another useful tip for keeping your nutritional yeast fresh is to store it in an airtight container. While the yeast’s natural dryness helps prevent breakdown, the yeast is still vulnerable to oxidation if it’s exposed to too much environmental air.
If the yeast is exposed to the open air for too long, it will begin breaking down far sooner than expected. The same goes for many other cooking ingredients, such as spices, oils, and sauces. The best ways to keep your yeast airtight and fresh include:
- Keeping it in a tightly-sealed glass jar.
- Keeping it in a sealed, airtight ziplock bag.
- Keeping excess yeast in a vacuum-sealed bag.
Usually, I don’t go through my nutritional yeast fast enough to warrant vacuum sealing it. The yeast I buy typically comes in a nice glass jar anyways, which keeps it mostly airtight.
Even before I went vegan, I was always uncomfortable with the idea of waste. According to the USDA, 30-40% of all food in the United States is wasted.
Considering just how many people in the world go hungry every day, throwing away food always bothered me. That’s why I try to only buy what I know I can eat.
From time to time, we all make mistakes, though. Sometimes, we forget about that small jar buried in the back of our cabinet…
So, that being said, is it okay to eat expired nutritional yeast?
Generally speaking, if the yeast has been kept in an airtight container in a cool, dark environment, it should be safe to consume two to three months after the expiration date.
However, if it’s more than a couple of months old, I recommend purchasing a new batch. Eating spoiled yeast is a recipe for a bad stomach ache.
So, how do you tell if nutritional yeast has gone bad?
Well, like most foods, you can almost always tell by its smell and/or appearance.
Fresh, safe-to-eat nooch should have a flaky, powdery texture and a beautiful golden color. Once oxidation and spoilage sets in, though, the once golden color will begin to turn into a darker brown shade. Additionally, if moisture gets into the container, you may notice that the yeast looks less flaky and more clumpy.
Long story short, if your nutritional yeast looks dark brown and/or has a clumpy moisture-laden appearance, then it’s probably bad.
I know it sounds weird, but fresh nutritional yeast should smell like fish food. It smells a bit like algae, seaweed, and cheese all mixed together. To the inexperienced, this may seem like a warning sign at first. However, it’s perfectly normal and is how it should smell.
When nutritional yeast goes bad, however, the smell begins to change. Instead of smelling like fresh seaweed, it starts to smell like rotten fish and sardines.
Trust me, you’ll know the difference.
Compared to most of the other ingredients in my kitchen, nutritional yeast is typically the least of my worries. As long as it’s kept somewhere cool, dark, and dry it’ll last up to two years. Plus, I typically go through a jar of yeast every month, so it’s never been an issue for me.
For more great tips on vegan dieting and cooking, I encourage you to check out my vegan diet blog on Vegan Calm. I’m always adding new content to help fellow vegans along their journey. Until next time, keep calm and remember to eat your vegetables!