Is Mozzarella Cheese OK for Vegetarian?

Including Kraft and Belgioioso, most branded mozzarella cheese shelved in the USA is generally considered to be vegetarian-appropriate, as it is made using microbial-derived enzymes. Other ingredients include milk and salt, sometimes also lactic acid, cornstarch, and mold inhibitors, which are all acceptable for vegetarians.

The grey zone and debatable part is the rennet used. Rennet is an enzyme that helps the milk proteins bind together, which allows the cheese to set and hold its shape.

The microbial enzyme is usually labelled as ‘enzyme’, ‘non-animal rennet’, ‘non-animal enzyme’, ‘chymosin’, ‘vegetarian rennet’, ‘vegetarian enzyme’ and so on. These are essentially not from animals and are OK for many vegetarians. However, the microbial rennet gets bitter as it ages, but animal rennet doesn’t, therefore animal rennet is ideal for long-aged cheese like cheddar or parmesan. More importantly, the enzyme is cheaper and readily available all year round.

***Vegetable rennet (extracted from plants) is different, it’s ideal for vegetarians. Do not confuse it with ‘non-animal rennet’ which can be made from a microbial source.

Some mozzarella is NOT for vegetarians

It is important to note, however, that some brands of mozzarella cheese especially traditional European mozzarella like buffalo mozzarella may contain animal rennet, which is derived from the stomach lining of unweaned calves or other ruminant young animals. To determine if the brand you are considering is vegetarian-friendly, check the label for any reference to animal rennet. Usually, ‘Lipase’ and ‘Rennet’ labels mean it’s an animal-derived enzyme.

Mozzarella Alternatives for Vegans & Vegetarians

Some cheesemakers offer plant-based vegetable enzyme alternatives that provide a similar flavor and texture to mozzarella cheese, making them an ideal choice for those seeking a strict vegetarian option.

And some that did not use enzymes and animal-derived products including milk are classified as dairy-free & vegan-friendly, such as the Violife, Daiya and Follow Your Heart, which will be specifically marketed as vegan & vegetarian alternatives. The main ingredients used are corn or potato starch and flavorings, and will also include additives. See the image below.

The taste is varied depending on the type of ingredients used for manufacturing. Therefore, the reviews are usually mixed. These varieties should be clearly labelled and are a safe option for those who wish to include mozzarella cheese in their vegan diet.

Just be aware if you are allergic to nuts, soy or gluten. If you don’t mind nuts and are sensitive to lactose, try Miyoko’s vegan mozzarella. It’s made from cashew milk.

In a nutshell, if you are strictly following a vegan lifestyle and wish to ensure your mozzarella cheese is completely animal-free, you may want to seek out the vegan-friendly options mentioned above. Otherwise, you can try to make your own mozzarella to your liking as there are tons of tutorials, just search the web.

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