Is Parmesan Cheese Made From Dairy?

When it comes to cheese, Parmesan is often considered one of the most popular and versatile options. But have you ever wondered if Parmesan cheese is made from dairy? Let’s delve into the details and explore the origins of this delectable cheese.

The Origins of Parmesan Cheese

Parmesan cheese, also known as Parmigiano-Reggiano, hails from Italy and has a rich history dating back to the Middle Ages. It originated in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna, and Mantua, where it was initially produced by monks in monasteries.

The Manufacturing Process

To make Parmesan cheese, dairy plays a vital role. The process begins with high-quality cow’s milk sourced from local farms. The cows graze on lush green pastures, consuming a natural diet that contributes to the distinctive flavor of the cheese.

The Ingredients:

  • Fresh cow’s milk
  • Rennet (an enzyme used to curdle the milk)
  • Salt

The Steps:

  1. The milk is heated and then slowly acidified with natural whey cultures.
  2. Rennet is added to coagulate the milk, forming curds.
  3. The curds are cut into small pieces and left to rest for about an hour.
  4. Next, the curds are cooked at a high temperature to encourage further separation of whey from solids.
  5. The solid curds are then placed in molds and pressed to expel any remaining whey.
  6. After pressing, the cheese is placed in a brine solution to develop its unique flavor.
  7. Finally, the Parmesan wheels are aged for an extended period, typically between 12 to 36 months, to achieve their characteristic texture and taste.

Is Parmesan Cheese Suitable for Vegans or Lactose-Intolerant Individuals?

Unfortunately, Parmesan cheese is not vegan-friendly or suitable for individuals with lactose intolerance. As mentioned earlier, it is made from cow’s milk that undergoes a complex process involving rennet and fermentation. Rennet is an animal-derived enzyme traditionally used in cheese-making.


If you are a vegan or lactose-intolerant, you can explore alternative options like plant-based cheeses or lactose-free cheeses that aim to replicate the taste and texture of Parmesan without using dairy ingredients.

The Versatility of Parmesan Cheese

Parmesan cheese is incredibly versatile and can be used in various culinary applications. Its rich umami flavor makes it perfect for grating over pasta dishes like spaghetti carbonara or sprinkling on top of a fresh salad.

Here are some popular uses of Parmesan cheese:

  • Topping for pizza and pasta
  • Incorporated into risottos and soups
  • Enhancing the flavor of sauces and dressings
  • A garnish for roasted vegetables

In Conclusion

To summarize, Parmesan cheese is indeed made from dairy. The manufacturing process involves cow’s milk, rennet, and salt, resulting in a cheese with a distinct flavor and texture. While not suitable for vegans or lactose-intolerant individuals, Parmesan cheese remains a beloved ingredient in many classic dishes.

So, the next time you savor the nutty, savory taste of Parmesan cheese, you can appreciate the craftsmanship and tradition that goes into its production.