Parmigiano Reggiano vs Cheddar

Parmigiano Reggiano is crowned to be the “King of Cheeses” and can only be made in a specific region in Italy.

The manufacturing procedure is strictly controlled under a set of rules implied by the EU and Italian DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) legislation.

In the US, people are often confused about the “Parmesan” cheese and the real Parmigiano-Reggiano, in which both are essentially not the same.

Cheddar, on the other hand,

is one of the most popular cheese in the US.

Like Parmigiano, it comes with a hard texture and often used in many dishes. Below, we will list out some similarities and differences between these two most sought-after cheeses.

Parmigiano ReggianoCheddar Cheese
OriginParma, Emilia Romagna, Italy.Cheddar, Somerset, England.
TextureHard, firm, grittyHard, slightly crumbly
TasteRich, sharp, savory, fruity/nuttyMild, sharp, light bitter, tangy
ColorPale yellow, strawPale yellow, orange, white
Source of MilkItalian red cow’s milkCow milk
PasteurisationNoFrequently
Lactose Content<1 mg<1 mg
Histamine (mg/kg)Up to 581 mg/kgUp to 2100 mg/kg
Aging Time12-36 months 3-24 months
Calories per 100g402 kcal403 kcal
Price per pound$11 (Get one via Amazon)$5.36

The Origin and History

The origin of Parmigiano Reggiano can be dated back to as early as 476 AD during the Middle Ages (5th – 15th centuary), in a region around the Parma and Emilia Romagna.

It was the monks who started the practice and eventually become the well-known Parmigiano Reggiano.

Given the close ties with French and local dialect, the cheese is later known as Parmesan.

Cheddar, or Cheddar cheese, has a historical record since the 12th century in a region called Somerset in southwest England.

There is evidence suggesting that could be the Romans who brought the recipe from Franch.

See comparison with mozzarella here.

How it’s Made

Parmigiano Reggiano DOP is made of unpasteurized Italian red cow’s milk, in particular, whole milk mixed with skimmed milk.

Starter whey, salt, and calf rennet (therefore not vegetarian, see why here) are added in the manufacturing process.

The cheese will be aged for a minimum of 1 year, and up to a maximum of 3 years. After that, the cheese will be classified as follow:

  • Minumum – 12 months
  • Vecchio – 18-24 months
  • Stravecchio – 24-36 months

Cheddar is not a DOP product, so, different places may have different methods/ingredients to prepare them.

But most commonly, it’s made from pasteurized (sometimes unpasteurized) cow’s milk. Starter, salt, and rennet (can be either vegetable or animal rennet) added in the process (1). Eventually, the cheese will be left aging for 3 – 24 months, depends on the variety.

Texture and Taste

Parmigiano Reggiano and Cheddar are both the hard cheese. See soft cheese comparison, feta vs cream cheese here.

For texture, Parmigiano is firm and solid whereas Cheddar is hard but slightly crumblier.

Both are giving a strong, sharp, sweet, gritty, and pungent taste.

However, Parmigiano Reggiano has an extra fruity/nutty taste goes with your tongue.

Given a longer aging time, Parmigiano is having a stronger savory (umami taste), tangy taste compared to Cheddar, or the bitterness some say. The taste is corresponding to the level of peptides formed during the aging process.

For color, they both shared a similar straw-like pale yellow colors.

The color is slightly different from place to place though, which can be due to the different ingredients used, bacteria involved, and manufacturing procedure.

How and When to Use

Parmigiano Reggiano is often grated over the Italian dishes, soup, risotto, pasta, salad, roasted, or eaten on its own.

The rind can be used in making the soup creamier and tastier. Here are some of the recipes for making use of Parmigiano Reggiano in the kitchen.

As for Cheddar,

there are literally hundreds of ways to enjoy this cheese with.

You can use it for dessert, sprinkle atop dishes, paired with crackers and biscuit, mixed with salad, used as a sauce, go with pasta, pizza, sandwich, soup, you name it.

Nutrition information

The nutrition info can be varied for different variety and producers of the cheese.

Below, I sum up the standard nutrition value obtained from the USDA for Cheddar cheese (2), and nutrition data from the Parmigiano Reggiano official site, which corresponds to the USDA data (3).

Parmigiano Reggiano per 100gCheddar Cheese per 100g
Water (g)31.436.75
Protein (g)32.422.87
Energy (kcal)402403
Fat (g)29.733.1
Carbohydrate (g)03.37
Sugar (g)00.48
Lactose (mg)<1<1
Calcium (mg)1155710
Phosphorus (mg)691455
Sodium (mg)650653
Iron (mg)0.20.14
Zinc (mg)0.43.64
Cholesterol (mg)8399
Vitamin A (µg)430337
Vitamin B-12 (µg)1.71.1
Vitamin K (µg)1.62.4
Vitamin E (mg)0.550.71

By comparing the Parmigiano Reggiano with Cheddar cheese, the data showed that Parmigiano contains lesser fat and sugar, and having a higher protein and calcium.

Likewise for the other minerals and vitamins as stated above.

Due to the breakdown of lactose into lactic acid by the bacteria, both of these cheeses are having a very low lactose content (<1mg).

In fact, most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate up to 24 g of lactose (or 2 cups of milk), according to Dairy Nutrition.

These cheese are very safe to eat.

Histamin

As for people with histamine intolerance, both of these cheeses are not recommended to eat.

Since the fermented and aged food usually come with a high level of histamine, as stated in the table above, Cheddar and Parmigiano Reggiano may contain up to 953 mg/lb and 264 mg/lb of histamine respectively.

It also depends on how long they have been aged.

I gathered more information about histamine intolerance here in this article.

Price

Depends on aging time, the price of Parmigiano Reggiano can be anywhere from $11 up to $34 per pound. Likewise, the normal Cheddar can cost you an average of $5-7 per pound, but with a longer aging time, the price can get really expensive, such as this one.