Your guide to glutamate (+vegan queso salsa dip)

On savory flavor

There are many foods and food components that make food taste savory – that rich, complex taste that’s independent of salty, and sometimes described as “meaty,” and known as “umami.”  One molecule that contributes to those flavors is glutamate – an amino acid that’s found in meat, cheese, and even vegetables including mushrooms, broccoli, and tomatoes.  (Read more here about sensitivity to glutamates, MSG, and the low-glutamate diet for people who are sensitive.)  It’s also found in nutritional yeast, a flaky protein and vitamin-rich product made from yeast cells (I’d write a whole article about its uses, history, and nutritional properties, but this blog post does that quite nicely!).

A word about yeast & yeast extract:

In full disclosure, I was sponsored to help create that video – and I’m grateful to be given a platform for the message!

I was really excited to see my friend Elaine post a recipe that uses nutritional yeast and is both Superbowl friendly and genuinely healthy!  The yeast provides that cheesy flavor, while the creamy texture and cheddar color come from tahini and carrots, respectively.  And it’s nut-free for those concerned about allergies!



picture from EatingByElaine


I decided to do mine with another twist, and sub canned tomatoes and chiles instead of soy milk for a Ro’tel-esque spin.  And let me tell you: this tastes AWESOME.  It even got the boyfriend seal of approval to bring to his friend’s Superbowl party today (which is not a healthy foodie oriented kind of crowd).


Have you used nutritional yeast before?  Any other recipes I should know about?  Without further adieu, here’s the recipe – enjoy!

Vegan queso salsa dip (adapted from EatingbyElaine)


  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup fresh, room temperature tahini (runny is best, Soom brand is excellent)
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • ½ large lemon, juiced
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 can (15oz) diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • Garnish: sprinkle of paprika, sliced green onions, fresh cilantro


  1. Bring a small pot of water to a rolling boil and add carrots
  2. When carrots are cooked (soft to a fork, ~10 minutes), drain and add them with all other ingredients except tomatoes to a high speed blender and puree until smooth
  3. Fold in tomatoes and chiles with a spatula
  4. Serve warm with chips or veggies and garnish with sliced green onions, paprika and fresh cilantro. You may want to microwave just before serving.


Simplest (and most delicious) avocado bean dip

This week I’ll be posting a number of avocado-based recipes* as entries to a contest sponsored by the California Avocado Commission, and I’m kicking it off with the easiest recipe in my arsenal.  Despite being quick to pull together (if you can open a can, you can make this recipe), this is one of my core go-to recipes for entertaining because it’s what I call “unreasonably good” – that is, you don’t expect it to taste as awesome as it does because there are only 4 ingredients.  But these 4 come together perfectly to make a scoopable dip that is ideal for a summer barbeque, and loaded with nutrients most other dips lack.

Let’s start with the avocado: it’s botanically a fruit, though its nutrient composition varies distinctly from most other stone fruits because it is very high in fat (mostly monounsaturated) instead of carbohydrates.  It also has a whopping 9g of fiber per avocado, which means it will digest slowly.  And of course, being a fruit, contains a good amount of vitamins, A, C and K and potassium.

The other ingredients – black beans, corn, and lime juice – all contribute unique attributes and complementary nutrients that help knock this out of the park.  The beans: more fiber, protein, and iron.  The corn: carbohydrates, crunch, and sweetness, and the lime juice: a zingy flavor and some extra vitamin C (which enhances absorption of iron when consumed together).  As you can see from the nutrition facts label below, the balance of macronutrients means you can eat this as a dip…or with a spoon as a side, or even a meal (which, truthfully, I just did).

Enough talk!  Except – this is also CHEAP to make!  Total cost for my ingredients is $3-4.


  • 1 15-oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 12-oz can of fresh corn (or two ears, with kernels removed)
  • 1 avocado, diced in its skin and scooped out
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mixing gently with a spoon until evenly blended.

all ingredients, before mixing…

IMAG2705 And, done!

Nutrition facts for the entire recipe…divvy as you see fit!

*I received free samples of California Avocado mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by California Avocado and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.