PSA: Parmesan Cheese Is Not Vegetarian
In case you're unaware, Parmesan cheese is not vegetarian
Parmesan cheese, celebrated for its rich, nutty profile, is commonly found in a lot of Italian food. This includes pastas, pizzas, varieties of breads, risotto, and more.
Other dishes that enjoy a generous pinch of Parmesan are roasted potatoes, salads, vegetables, shrimp, and chicken.
It's versatile and delicious. :')
What makes Parmesan unsuitable for vegetarians is the use of rennet, an enzyme derived from the stomach lining of young calves
Most animal rennet is taken from the stomach of young, unweaned calves. These animals are slaughtered for meat production (in this case, veal) and rennet is a byproduct.
Traditional Parmesan, also known as Parmigiano-Reggiano, begins with fresh cow's milk, bacterial cultures, and the introduction of rennet to coagulate the milk, which form curds.
These curds then undergo a meticulous ageing process, typically for 24 to 36 months, although some Parmesan cheeses are aged up to 40 to over 100 months. This ageing process is what develops the cheese's distinct flavour.
But don't worry, there are other options and Parmesan alternatives for vegetarians
Popular vegetarian options are made with microbial or vegetable rennet. These include Gran Moravia and Old Winchester Cheese, which mimic Parmesan's robust taste without the use of animal rennet.
Graviera and Asiago are also examples of vegetarian-friendly cheeses and share similarities with Parmesan in taste and texture.
For vegans, who do not consume both animal rennet and dairy, there are plant-based Parmesan alternatives! Cashew-based Parmesan, nutritional yeast blends, or commercial vegan Parmesan products offer the desired umami kick without using any animal byproducts.
For Muslims, there are several halal-certified Parmesan cheese brands to choose from
Just check for the halal stamp on the packet before purchasing. Alternatively, you can enjoy the vegetarian-friendly options too.
Be sure to check the ingredients list to see if your Parmesan cheese includes animal rennet before purchasing :)