Parmesan Cheese – Vegetarian or Not?

There is a lot of confusion surrounding Parmesan cheese – is it vegetarian or not?

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The answer is that it depends on the brand. Many people mistakenly believe that all Parmesan cheese contains rennet, but this is not always the case.

Some brands of Parmesan are vegetarian.

So if you are looking for a vegetarian alternative to Parmesan, your best bet is to check the label before you buy.

Why is Parmesan not vegetarian?

The main reason is that some brands of Parmesan cheese contain animal rennet. Especially the real, hard Italian Parmesan known as Parmigiano Reggiano – It is never vegetarian. But the generic store-bought parmesan or grated parmesan might not.

Read Parmesan vs Parmigiano Reggiano.

Parmigiano Reggiano has to follow the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) rules in order for it to be fire-branded with “Parmigiano Reggiano”. One of those rules is that only calf rennet must be used.

Rennet is a set of enzymes that are traditionally obtained from the stomach lining of ruminant mammals, and it’s used to help curdle milk and make cheese. Without rennet, parmesan can’t be made. But there are some replacement. Read below.

So, if you are a vegetarian or vegan and you want to avoid Parmigiano Reggiano.

Fortunately, nowadays there are many commercial brands that produce Parmesan with microbial rennet or mainly the Fermentation-Produced Chymosin (FPC, may simply label as “enzyme” or “chymosin”) from fungus. Technically, it’s not an animal product.

However, since It involved genetic modification of animals’ stomach cells, some may not consider it to be vegetarian (1).

Some of the popular Parmesan brands that fall into this category include Sartori Classic Parmesan, Coles Parmesan cheese, Perfect Italiano Parmesan, Belgioioso Parmesan, and Kraft Parmesan cheese.

Tesco parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano), on the other hand, is made with animal rennet and it’s not vegetarian. But they have a vegetarian version too.

What is the difference between Parmesan and vegetarian Parmesan?

The main difference is that Parmesan contains animal rennet, while vegetarian Parmesan uses non-animal rennet. Non-animal rennet may derive from plants, microbial, or the debatable FPC enzyme. Most of the brands today are using chymosin.

Other than that, Parmesan and vegetarian Parmesan do not have significant differences and are very similar in taste and texture.

Are there Vegetarian Parmesan Substitutes?

There are some vegetarian parmesan out there you can buy, for example, Belgioioso parmesan has a vegetarian version.

Also, there are some vegan Parmesan cheese brands on the market that use plant-based ingredients like nuts and soy to create a cheese that tastes similar to Parmesan.

Some of the popular vegan Parmesan cheese and brands include nutritional yeast flakes, Go Veggie Vegan Grated Topping, and Parma Vegan Parmesan.

You can also make your own vegan Parmesan cheese at home using ingredients like cashews, almonds, nutritional yeast flakes, and salt.

Which Parmesan cheese is halal?

Most of the commercial and traditional parmesan brands are non-halal. Miller’s Parmesan cheese is a halal parmesan according to the HalalHaram. Kraft and Perfect Italiano both have their halal parmesan version too. For Parmigiano Reggiano, San Pier Damiani is halal.

Other brands such as Floridia Cheese, Emborg, and Tre Stelle.

If you want to buy a halal version of Parmesan cheese, please look for brands labeled with certified halal logos.


  1. VRG – Microbial Rennet and FPC
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