Parmesan cheese is a popular ingredient in many dishes, adding a savory and nutty flavor to pastas, salads, and soups. However, for those following a vegan diet or with lactose intolerance, finding a suitable alternative to traditional Parmesan cheese can be challenging. In this article, we will explore what Parmesan cheese is vegan and provide some delicious recipes that incorporate these alternatives.

What is Parmesan cheese?

Parmesan cheese is a hard, granular cheese that originated in Italy. It is made from cow’s milk and aged for at least 12 months to develop its distinct flavor and texture. Traditional Parmesan cheese has a rich umami taste with notes of saltiness and nuttiness.

Why is Parmesan cheese not vegan?

While many cheeses are made using rennet, an enzyme extracted from the stomach lining of calves or other young animals, Parmesan cheese specifically requires animal rennet to curdle the milk. This makes it unsuitable for those following a vegan diet.

What are the vegan alternatives to Parmesan cheese?

Fortunately, there are many plant-based alternatives to traditional Parmesan cheese that offer similar flavors and textures. Here are some of the best options:

  • Nutritional yeast: This deactivated yeast has a cheesy flavor that makes it an excellent substitute for grated Parmesan. It can be sprinkled on top of pasta dishes or used in sauces.
  • Cashew parmesan: This homemade alternative combines raw cashews with nutritional yeast and salt to create a savory topping for pasta or pizza.
  • Vegan parmesan: There are several brands of vegan parmesan available at health food stores or online retailers. These products are typically made from coconut oil, potato starch, and nutritional yeast.

Delicious vegan Parmesan recipes

Now that you know what Parmesan cheese is vegan, it’s time to put these alternatives to use in some tasty recipes. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Vegan spaghetti carbonara

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup cashew cream (blend soaked cashews with water until smooth)
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cashew parmesan for topping
  • Instructions:

    1. Cook spaghetti according to package instructions.
    2. In a separate pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
    3. Add cashew cream and nutritional yeast to the pan, stirring until combined.
    4. Drain the spaghetti and add it to the pan with the sauce. Toss until coated.
    5. Serve with a sprinkle of cashew parmesan on top.

    Vegan Caesar salad dressing

      1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
      1/4 cup water
      2 tablespoons lemon juice
      2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
      1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
      Salt and pepper to taste

    • Instructions:

      1. Drain the soaked cashews and add them to a blender with the water, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, mustard, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth.
      2. Use this dressing to top a classic Caesar salad of romaine lettuce and croutons. Finish with a sprinkle of vegan parmesan on top.


      While traditional Parmesan cheese is not vegan-friendly, there are plenty of plant-based alternatives available that offer similar flavors and textures. Whether you opt for nutritional yeast or homemade cashew parmesan, these substitutes can be used in a variety of delicious recipes to satisfy your cheesy cravings without compromising your dietary restrictions.