The umami-rich science of nutritional yeast, marmite, and vegemite

Yeasts are one of the most powerful workhorses in research and the food industry. Simply put, yeast is a single-cell fungus that is round or oval in shape, sometimes looking like the cartoon character shmoo.

In grad school, I worked in a lab that used baker’s yeast to study cancer. We also tinkered with yeast genetics to produce large quantities of proteins to use in our experiments.

As cooks, many of us are familiar with baker’s yeast and brewer’s yeast, aka Saccharomyces cerevisiae (note, there are other species of yeast used to produce alcohol). While they’re both strains of yeast, they behave a bit differently and are also genetically distinct.


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