Don't Have Parmesan Cheese? These are the 10 Best Substitutes

From alternate cheeses to vegan substitutes.

Who among us can resist adding freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top of delicious Italian favorites? From pasta and pizza to Caesar salad, Parmesan adds additional flavor (plus it's so fun to grate the cheese over a dish). Parmesan is a hard cheese with a sharp, salty taste we all recognize. When you're looking for a cheaper alternative, the answer isn't very clear. What is often called "parmesan cheese" is sometimes completely artificial or previously grated cheese mixed with fillers. 

If you're a big fan, you know that high-quality Parmigiano-Reggiano can get expensive. One reason Parmesan is so expensive is that its production is tightly controlled by the Italian government. It's only produced in particular areas in northern Italy using cow's milk and specific processes.

We've got a better answer for you — find a substitute for Parmesan cheese that costs less while serving the same purpose. Other aged Italian hard cheeses have very similar flavors and textures and cost a fraction of the price. Our list includes creative substitutes for Parmesan cheese, which you can use when you're out. Once you've discovered these other unique cheeses, you may even end up choosing them over Parmesan.

Here are 10 excellent substitutes for Parmesan cheese for your next meal.

1. Romano Cheese

Pecorino Romano (the best-known Romano cheese) is made with sheep's milk. Other Romano cheeses include Vaccino Romano, which is made with cow's milk, and Caprino Romano, made with goat's milk. Each variety is a variation of this dense, crumbly hard cheese that offers a tangy taste. Romano is an ideal Parmesan substitute to use when making pesto.

2. Grana Padano

Grana Padano is another cow's milk cheese made in Italy and is also regulated by the Grana Padana Consorzio Zanetti. It's aged a minimum of 18 months and, like Parmigiano-Reggiano, the real thing carries a stamp on the rind. Grana means grainy, and that's exactly what Grana Padano is. It's a granular, crumbly cheese with a sweet, nutty flavor. There's also an American Grana made by BelGioioso (who produces other hard cheeses that make good substitutes for Parmesan cheese).

3. Asiago

Asiago cheese is a cow's milk cheese with a smoother texture than Parmesan, but it's still crumbly, which means it melts beautifully. The longer the cheese is aged, the more crumbly and sharper-tasting it gets. While Asiago works as an excellent substitute for Parmesan cheese, we prefer Asiago for particular dishes like pizza and baked pasta.

4. Provolone

Provolone is often found in soft, round slices and used for sandwiches. A semi-hard cow's milk cheese, provolone, can be grated or torn. It tastes exceptionally good in baked pasta and on pizza or flatbreads. Provolone's flavor is buttery and somewhat sweet, with varying degrees of salty flavor based on where it's made and its age. Try using smoked provolone to add another layer of nutty flavor to whatever dish you're cooking.

5. Dry Jack

Monterey Jack is a semi-hard cheese that is known for its melting abilities. Dry Jack is a Monterey Jack variation that is aged anywhere from 10 months to four years. Within that period, the cheese wheels get brittle, which produces crumbly cheese with a texture similar to Parmesan. It imparts the rich, earthy flavor of Monterey Jack and best fits pasta dishes and casseroles. Dry Jack also makes omelets, quesadillas, and grilled cheese taste their best.

6. Feta Cheese

Feta is saltier than typical parmesan cheese and won't melt as well, either. What you can expect from feta is an intense boost of flavor to any dish you're preparing. It works particularly well in certain salads (think walnut and apple) and as a topping. Greek and Bulgarian feta is the best known worldwide, though its flavor is quite strong. If you're looking for more mild feta cheese, try French feta, which is less salty and a bit more creamy (aka less crumbly).   

7. Goat Cheese

When you try fresh goat cheese, you may find it's less salty and more tangy than parmesan cheese. Goat cheese is super creamy and soft, but doesn't melt all that well. You can adjust the seasoning or other ingredients in your recipe, depending on the flavors you're going for. While most of us use fresh goat cheese, aged goat cheese is a less common option. Its consistency more closely matches parmesan cheese, so it may be worth looking for. 

8. Ricotta Salata

The first time we heard about Ricotta Salata, we were surprised to find out it's not like traditional ricotta. Its texture and salty flavor is similar to parmesan, although ricotta salata is more crumbly (similar to a firm feta). Ricotta salata fits recipes like salads or pasta, but could be too mild if you're looking for that true sharpness found in parmesan. 

9. Gruyere Cheese

Gruyère isn't as hard a cheese as parmesan, but its flavor closely matches up to parmesan's sharp, nutty taste. Avoid Gruyère when melting is your number one goal — it's best folded into classics like French onion soup. Gruyère also adds tons of flavor to baked recipes like a strata, lasagna, or mac and cheese. 

10. Vegan Cheese Substitutes For Parmesan Cheese

If dairy-free, you can still get the savory flavor of Parmesan cheese by using nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is not the same as brewer's yeast or baking yeast but is a dried deactivated yeast usually sold in flakes. It's a favorite among vegans for its umami or salty/savory flavor that mimics the taste of cheese.

Some swear the best Parmesan cheese substitute is actually raw cashews! This vegan Parmesan cheese is made in the food processor and is a great alternative to real cheese. It works in many recipes, like vegan mac and cheese.

Whether looking for a cheaper alternative or you're out of the real thing, there are plenty of mouthwatering substitutes for Parmesan cheese.

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