What Is Torula Yeast?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

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Torula yeast is a type of yeast, one of about 1,500 types of tiny, single-celled fungi. Edible torula yeast grows on wood alcohols. When deactivated and dried, it looks like a tan powder and can be packaged and sold in health and nutrition stores. It adds a smoky, umami flavor to foods.

Fast Facts

  • Other Uses: Additive in many pet foods
  • Replacement: Common swap for MSG
  • Nutritional Information: Gluten-free

What Is Torula Yeast?

Torula is also known as candida utilis. This type of yeast is a byproduct of the paper industry. During the process of turning wood into paper, torula yeast grows on waste sulfite liquid from the wood pulp. From there, it can be taken and dried into a powder.

Once dried, torula yeast is a tan color and tastes somewhat meaty. It may have a negative connotation because it is used in dog food but is now being added to human food. It's rich flavor and umami aspects make is a popular replacement for MSG.

Torula Yeast vs. Other Yeasts

Torula yeast is deactivated yeast. The more well-known type of deactivated yeast is nutritional yeast, which has also been killed by heat and can no longer produce carbon dioxide or reproduce. It does maintain its flavor and nutrients. As a result, nutritional yeast can be used to add protein to foods or shakes. It's also a common flavoring agent. There are many different strains of deactivated yeast, and each has a somewhat different flavor. The flavors range from nutty, creamy, and rich.

Some popular active yeasts include brewer's yeast and baker's yeast. Brewer's yeast, which produces carbon dioxide, is used to make beer. It's also a powerhouse of essential nutrients including protein, vitamin B, and chromium. Baker's yeast is a similar organism that feeds on sugars to produce carbon dioxide. It's the ingredient that causes bread to rise.

Torula Yeast Uses

Since it is rich in glutamic acid, torula yeast lends a smoky, savory umami taste-profile to foods. As veganism and vegetarianism have grown in popularity, food producers began using torula yeast to mimic the flavor of meat (in veggie burgers, for example) without adding any animal products. Like all yeasts, torula also adds a good deal of nutrition to foods. It can also thicken foods such as protein shakes and dips.

Due to its meat-like taste, it's often used as an additive to pet food, and since it contains high levels of nutrients such as zinc, vitamin B, and amino acids, it is sometimes used as a supplement for puppies.

How to Cook With Torula Yeast

Sold in powdered form, torula yeast can be sprinkled into food. It can be mixed into sauces or dressings or sprinkled onto cooked grains, veggies, snacks, popcorn, or other dishes. It adds a meaty flavor, so it is often included in premade meat-free burgers or meat-free sausages.

What Does It Taste Like?

Torula yeast has a strong, rich flavor. It is known as an umami-rich flavor, which is known as a savory taste. Because this yeast is consumed in a powder format, it needs to be added to other foods to be enjoyed.

Torula Yeast Substitutions

Torula yeast has also become a popular replacement for the flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG) among manufacturers marketing "all-natural" products. MSG, in powdered form, was used for decades to enhance the flavor of meats, sauces, and other dishes. It's a chemical additive with no nutritional value, making it a questionable food for many people interested in natural nutrition. Perhaps more significantly, it can also cause mild or severe allergic reactions including headaches and disorientation. Torula yeast does many of the same things that MSG did for many different foods. It ensures that flavor and aroma are not lost during the cooking process. It also improves the texture and flavor of many foods ranging from sauces to chips to soup.

If you don't want to use torula yeast, you can consider adding MSG but be aware of its risks. Another option is to use nutritional yeast which has a less meaty flavor. Or leave out the yeast altogether.

Torula Yeast Recipes

It may be easier to find recipes that include nutritional yeast and then swap the yeast for torula yeast for a richer flavor. Try these:

Where to Buy Torula Yeast

Torula yeast can be found in some health food stores and online retailers. It's sold in a powder form in sealable bags or jars. It's sold by the ounce in sizes like 4 ounces and 24 ounces and retails for about $1 per ounce. Speak to a health food store if you are interested in buying in bulk.

Storage

If you plan to use torula yeast within two months, it can be stored in a cool, dark, indoor pantry. For longer-term storage, keep it in a refrigerator, where it will last for up to two years. Avoid any moisture, so keep your torula yeast in a sealed container.

Nutrition and Benefits

Torula yeast is a food-grade product, which means that for the vast majority of people, it is safe and tasty. It also provides a significant source of nutrition. The protein content in torula yeast can be as high as 60 percent. It contains B-complex vitamins and amino acids, it's low in salt, and also contains unsaturated fatty acids.