Nutritional Yeast Is My Fregan Recipe Secret Weapon (Mushroom Onion Casserole Recipe)

In my quest to east healthier and give up certain things as a flexitarian (or as I just made up: Fregan), I have developed an arsenal of special ingredients like smoke salt, onion and pepper water (from their jars); none are as useful and versatile as nutritional yeast.

Sometimes mistakenly called brewer's yeast, nutritional yeast is known mostly as a popcorn topping, or to vegetarians and especially vegans as a cheese substitute, but it has so many more uses. 

I used to in three ways in one recipe I just created that is both vegan and gluten-free:
Mushroom Onion Casserole with Crispy Tofu.

I'll try to be curt about my love of nutritional yeast, and get to the recipe ASAP. I know I personally hate recipe posts where you have to scroll through pages and pages of expounding on the recipe and then the play by play with copious photos of cooking (I'll do that too, but after the recipe).

Nutritional Yeast, from the same family as baking and brewing yeasts, was developed specifically as a food product, and is no longer 'live' when you buy it. It's main usage is as a substitute for cheesy flavor: sprinkle on dry like Parmesan (as on popcorn), combine with soaked cashews to make a cheese substitute. When I first got it that was my main purpose and I've made my fair share of soft 'cheese' and warm cheesy dip and mac and 'cheese' with it. It's not just a flavor profile replacement either, it has fiber, but more importantly protein and B vitamins which are found in meat and can be missed in a vegan diet.

My secret weapon

Once I purchased some and saw the consistency and flavor, my mind raced with possibilities to use it. Sure it's 'cheesy' but it's really just an umami flavor. And the powdery consistency makes it useful as a replacement for other ingredients, even flour (especially as a coating). I have made crispy tofu just  by dredging it in the yeast instead of flour and baking or frying - do the same with cauliflower, it can be used to thicken soups and gravies (making a great vegan gravy), add it to vegan scramble (instead of the hard to find kala namak/black salt).

RECIPE: Mushroom Onion Casserole

As may casseroles are, this is a flexible recipe, as many of mine are, its a base that you can riff off of to make other versions, simply by swapping out various ingredients. I'll try to note them as I go along. Most importantly, if you are not gluten-free go ahead and swap out any gf flour or ingredient for regular one.

At its core, this is a baked grain and protein recipe. Feel free to change up the grains and the protein. My selections were made to try to amp up the protein in it in lieu of a usual meat product.

Here's the basic recipe, so you can get to it. Photos will follow.

  • 1 cup white or brown rice
  • 1/4 cup lentils or split peas (whatever you have in the house or prefer, great source of veg protein)
  • 2 tbsp quinoa (you can skip if you want, but it adds more fiber and protein)
  • 2 tbsp Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 package onion soup/dip mix (Simply Organic and other brands are gluten-free)
  • 2 cups mushroom broth
  • 1 celery stalk (diced)
  • 1/2 small onion (diced)
  • 1 1/2 cup mushroom broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 4-5 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
(if not vegan, use chicken
  • 1/2 block extra firm tofu, water pressed out (or tempeh, or portabello mushrooms, squash, whatever you want)
  • Smoke salt (if you don't have smoke salt or smoked salt, can use salt plus smoky paprika, a dash of liquid smoke, or just skip)

'Egg wash'
(if not vegan use an actual egg wash)
  • 1 tbsp flax seed
  • 1 tsp Nutritional Yeast
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1/2 cup Schar gluten free bread crumbs (make your own, find another brand, if not gf use regular crumbs)
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free flour (your choice, I used rice flour)
  • 1 tbsp Nutritional Yeast
  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Combine the dry and wet Grains ingredients in a casserole dish. Add mushrooms and onions on top.
  • Cover and cook for 25 minutes.
  • While grains are cooking, prepare the Tofu.
    • Press tofu to remove excess moisture.
    • Cut into whatever size pieces you want, I cut in half, in half again and in hald again to make 8 slices.
    • Season the tofu.
    • Combine egg wash ingredients and let sit 5 minutes or more.
  • 'Bread' the tofu with standard breading practice.
    • One dish of flour, one with egg wash, one with breading.
    • Dredge tofu in flour.
    • Moisten in the 'egg' wash.
    • Coat in the breading.
  • Add the tofu to on top of the grains, cover and bake an additional 10 minutes.
  • Remove cover from dish
  • Set oven to Broil (Light)
  • Sprinkle entire dish with Nutritional Yeast
  • Broil, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes (until tofu coating is golden brown).

Putting it together

If you want the obligatory food blog recipe photos, here they are:

Grains with liquid and mushrooms & veg
ready to bake

Tofu prepped

Breading process: flour, wash, breading

Grains baked with tofu starting to 
be added

Final product after broiling,
ready to dish out


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