If you’re a vegetarian, you may have wondered if there is a vegetarian version of Parmesan cheese. After all, Parmesan is a staple in many dishes and is often sprinkled on top for added flavor. The good news is that there are several options available for vegetarians who want to enjoy the taste and texture of Parmesan cheese without compromising their dietary restrictions.

What is Parmesan Cheese?

Parmesan cheese is a hard, granular cheese that originates from Italy. It’s made from cow’s milk and has a distinct nutty flavor.

The cheese is aged for at least 12 months, which gives it a hard texture and sharp taste. It’s commonly used in pasta dishes, salads, and on top of pizzas.

Why Isn’t Parmesan Cheese Vegetarian?

The reason why traditional Parmesan cheese isn’t considered vegetarian-friendly is because it contains an ingredient called rennet. Rennet is an enzyme that’s extracted from the stomach lining of calves, lambs, or goats. It’s used in the cheesemaking process to coagulate the milk and form curds.

Since rennet comes from animal sources, it’s not suitable for vegetarians who avoid eating animal products. While some brands may use microbial or vegetable-based rennet instead of animal-based rennet to make their cheeses, traditional Parmesan cheese isn’t typically made using these alternatives.

Vegetarian Alternatives to Parmesan Cheese

1) Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese with Microbial Rennet: Some brands of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese use microbial rennet instead of animal-based rennet in their production process. This type of cheese has the same texture and flavor as traditional Parmesan but is considered vegetarian-friendly.

2) Grana Padano Cheese: Grana Padano Cheese is another Italian cheese that’s similar to Parmesan but is made using vegetable-based rennet. It has a slightly milder flavor than Parmesan but can be used in the same way.

3) Parmesan-Style Cheese: Many brands make a vegetarian version of Parmesan cheese that’s made using plant-based ingredients. This type of cheese is typically labeled as “Parmesan-style” or “vegetarian Parmesan” and can be found in most health food stores.

How to Use Vegetarian Parmesan Cheese

Vegetarian Parmesan cheese can be used in the same way as traditional Parmesan. It can be grated on top of pasta dishes, salads, and pizzas for added flavor. It can also be used as a garnish for soups or sprinkled on top of roasted vegetables.


In conclusion, traditional Parmesan cheese isn’t considered vegetarian-friendly due to the use of animal-based rennet in its production process. However, there are several vegetarian alternatives available that offer the same taste and texture as traditional Parmesan. Whether you choose to use a brand that uses microbial rennet or opt for a plant-based version, you can still enjoy the taste of Parmesan without compromising your dietary restrictions.