Parmesan for Lactose Intolerance: Considered Dairy?

For those with lactose intolerance, Parmesan cheese may be a hard dairy not to avoid.

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This is because Parmesan is often considered a “hard cheese” and therefore contains low lactose. Thanks to the bacteria in parmesan, much of the lactose is broken down and eliminated during the long aging process.

That said, not all Parmesan cheese is created equal.

Some brands are known to have slightly higher levels of lactose, we will talk more about it below.

Is Parmesan Cheese Dairy? Have Lactose?

The simple answer is yes, Parmesan is a dairy product. If you are vegan or vegetarian, please read this article for substitutes.

Parmesan is made from cow’s milk and contains high levels of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin A. It is also a source of calcium, protein, and fat. Read this article to learn more about whether is parmesan the healthiest cheese.

However, Parmesan cheese is also containing lactose.

Lactose is a sugar found in milk and other dairy products that some people have difficulty digesting.

Depending on the brands and ages, Parmesan cheese can have anywhere from 0.01% to over 5% lactose content. That’s equivalent to 1-5 grams of lactose for about 7 tablespoons (100 grams) serving of parmesan.

Parmesan has minimum aging of 10-12 months. Typically, the aged parmesan 24 months or older will have a lower lactose content than the 10 or 12 months parmesan.

Is Parmesan Hard to Digest?

But for the most part, Parmesan is a dairy cheese that is easy to digest. The proteins and lipids structure of Italian cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano hydrolyzed by enzymes (1) into low molecular sizes – a process similar to predigestion – therefore, easy to be digested and absorbed by our body later on.

The Best Brands of Lactose-Free Parmesan

The older the parmesan, the lower the lactose content.

For example, the 24-month Parmigiano Reggiano (real parmesan) from Italy has lesser than 0.01% lactose. Virtually no lactose! As for the other Parmesan cheeses, such as Kraft USDA and Belgioioso USDA were all contained 0 grams of carbohydrate according to USDA – suggesting no lactose in them technically.

Many others may have about 3-4% lactose, including Stella USDA and USDA.

This means that even though Parmesan is technically a [low] lactose product, it can be safe for people with lactose intolerance to eat in moderation.

Parmesan can be expensive to buy, read why. So If your budget allows, we recommend getting the real Parmigiano Reggiano from iGourmet like this one, where It’s a popular choice on Amazon, sold by a reputable brand, and contains virtually no lactose.

Thank you for reading!


  1. Igourmet – 24 months Parmigiano Reggiano Nutrition Information
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