Having a good parmesan substitute can be handy, especially since the cheese is used in so many recipes. It is a versatile ingredient, but not everyone can enjoy it due to dietary or lifestyle restrictions. Luckily, there are a few alternatives that are just as tasty.
What Is Parmesan?
Parmesan is an aged hard cheese from Italy made with cow’s milk. Authentic parmesan is made in only a few provinces in Italy – even if you would follow the same recipe in your country, it cannot be classified as Parmesan.
Common Uses for Parmesan
- Topping – it is most often found as a topping on pasta dishes or bread but can be used as a topping on veggies or meat.
- Soups or risottos – it is added into soups or risottos to add a rich, salty flavor to the dish.
- Sauces and dips – parmesan adds a great nutty and salty flavor to sauces and dips, complemented by fresh veggies or crunchy snacks.
11 Best Ingredients for Parmesan Substitute
Dairy Substitutes for Parmesan
1. Grana Padano
Grana Padano is a cheese that is also made in Italy and resembles the strong nutty flavor you would get from Parmesan. It is softer than parmesan, which is ideal to use in sauces but works well as a topping too. Hillside Grocer explains the main differences between the cheeses.
Asiago is slightly nuttier and sharper than Parmesan, according to Masterclass. Both kinds of cheese receive DOP certification and work well as a substitute for each other. You can use it in a 1:1 ratio.
3. Pecorino Romano
Pecorino Romano cheese is almost the same in texture and age as Parmesan, with the main difference being it is made from sheep’s milk, whereas Parmesan is made with cow’s milk, according to Food Network. It is slightly stronger in flavor and is ideal as a topping on a pasta dish.
Mozzarella is notably more soft and much milder than Parmesan, but it does add creaminess to any sauce or risotto since it melts easily. Since it is much milder than parmesan, you might need to add a bit more salt to achieve a similar result. Pediaa explains the main differences between the two Italian kinds of cheese.
If you’re looking to explore cheeses from other regions of the world, Manchego is a Spanish cheese with a flavor profile similar to Parmesan but milder. Lively Table mentions that Manchego is also a great replacement for white-aged cheddar in their pine room salad.
6. Sap Sago
Sap Sago is a cheese made in Switzerland and is a great low-fat replacement for Parmesan. It has a nutty flavor but is pungent with herby tones. Start with half the amount of parmesan you would have used. Gourmet Sleuth describes the cheese in detail.
Cojita is a Mexican cheese that is similar to Parmesan and often added to Mexican street corn as a sharp and tasty topping. It is softer and saltier than parmesan but makes for a convincing substitute. Food Struct compares the nutritional information of both kinds of cheese.
8. Aged White Cheddar
Although the flavor profiles are quite different, aged white cheddar is one of the more affordable substitutes for Parmesan. It has a sharp taste and originates from Cheddar England. Diffen explains the differences between the two kinds of cheese.
Substitutes for Parmesan That Are Dairy-Free
9. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast is a vegan staple since it will add a nutty, cheesy flavor to any dish without any dairy and is low in calories. It is high in vitamins and protein, so it is a healthy alternative to Parmesan. It is best used in sauces or bases, as opposed to topping. Start with a small amount first, as the taste of it is strong. Healthline mentions the benefits of nutritional yeast.
10. Soy Parmesan
Soy Parmesan is a great dairy-free alternative to regular parmesan, it is almost as salty as Parmesan but is not as rich. It is best used in sauces where you won’t notice the difference as easily. If you’re curious about making your own, Minimalist Baker has a quick recipe to try.
11. Breadcrumbs in Olive Oil
Although this will not add the cheesy flavor to your dish, if you need a salty and crunchy topping to your salads that is dairy-free and healthy, try making some toasted breadcrumbs in olive oil sprinkled with salt, using the recipe from The Spruce Eats.
How to Choose a Substitute for Parmesan
- Other cheeses – if you are choosing another cheese, ensure you understand its flavor profile. Parmesan is nutty, aged, and slightly salty. So choosing a cheese similar to parmesan would be your best bet.
- Dairy-free – Of course, if you have dietary restrictions or allergies, you’d need to choose a dairy-free alternative to parmesan.
- Nutritional yeast – whilst the flavor of nutritional yeast is convincing, it’s best to add it into your dish, as opposed to being used as a topping, since the texture won’t be great.
- Vegan cheeses – be mindful that some vegan alternatives to parmesan might include other allergens, most commonly cashews and coconuts. They’re usually creamy and ideal to use in sauces or mashed potatoes.
Tips for Parmesan Substitution
- Texture – if you’re looking for the same texture as Parmesan as a topping, use a hard cheese replacement.
- Flavor – aged cheeses or nutritional yeast is a good replacement for Parmesan, as they most likely will have the same nutty flavor profiles as Parmesan.
- Parmesan rind substitute – many recipes mention adding a parmesan rind in the sauce to add the flavor of Parmesan, and you can simply add the rind of another hard cheese or Parmesan itself. It is simply a cost-effective way to use the rind.
Closest Cheese Substitute for Parmesan
The closest cheese substitutes for parmesan are Grana Padano, Asiago, and Pecorino Romano. Both Grana Padano and Asiago share parmesan’s nutty flavor, and Pecorino Romano has a similar texture to parmesan.