Is there vegetarian cheese?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Is it vegetarian cheese?” and will discuss what vegetarian cheese is available in the market.

Is there vegetarian cheese?

Yes,  there is vegetarian cheese. Cheese is non-vegetarian because it contains dairy products and animal rennet. But vegetarian cheese is also available in the market which is made up of microbial rennet like cream cheese, ricotta, paneer, etc.

What makes cheese non-vegetarian?

“Rennet” or “animal enzymes” used in cheese making to help in the coagulation of milk, or to separate milk into solid curds, are not vegetarian.

Rennet, which is very important during cheese production, is involved in milk coagulation and proteolysis during cheese ripening. Proteolysis by rennet affects cheese flavor and texture. Calf rennet is the most commonly used rennet during cheese production. However, calf rennet can be substituted by plant and microbial rennet. Microorganisms including Rhizomucor pusillus, R. miehei, Endothia parasitica, and Irpex lactis have been extensively used as sources of microbial rennets (1).

Thistle and other plant species (e.g., pineapple, papaya) that also contain proteolytic enzymes, specifically aspartic proteases, are also capable of coagulating milk. The main enzymes of thistle responsible for coagulation are cardosins A and B, and their activity is similar to chymosin and pepsin, two enzymes located in the stomach of ruminants (2).

To tell whether the cheese is vegetarian, how do you know?

Rennet is usually used to make most hard cheeses, such as Parmesan, Cheddar, Manchego, Pecorino Romano, and Swiss, but certain soft cheeses aren’t (scroll down for five you can try). However, a growing number of cheeses are being produced using enzymes that are not generated from animals.

Vegetarian rennet.

Due to a rise in demand, several major brands are switching to non-animal rennet alternatives. As mentioned above, plants, such as thistle, and many microorganisms produce proteolytic enzymes that are able to coagulate milk proteins in a similar way as animal rennets. Popular cheeses made with vegetable rennet in Portugal include Serpa cheese, Azeitão Cheese, Évora cheese, Serra de Estrella cheese, Nisa cheese, and Castelo Branco cheese. Popular cheeses made with vegetable rennet in Spain include Torta del Casar cheese, La Serena cheese, Añejo de los Pedroches cheese, and Flor de Guía Cheese from the Canary Islands (2).

Besides, calf rennet usage currently represents only 20-30% of milk-clotting enzymes and fermentation produced coagulants comprises 70–80% of the global market for coagulants. Microbial coagulants, nowadays mainly originating from Rhizomucor miehei, are animal rennet substitutes used for almost 40 years. Advances in separation and purification technology are responsible for a significant improvement of these enzymes which are accepted by vegetarians. These enzymes do, however, differ in molecular structure and in proteolytic activity, and there are still reports that cheese yield and cheese quality is negatively affected (3).

Vegetarian and rennet-free cheeses brands

Vegetarian choices are available from several major brands. There are a few things to keep in mind:

·         Organic Valley

·         Applegate

·         Horizon

·         Amy’s

·         Laughing Cow

·         365 Whole Foods

·         Trader Joe’s

·         Cabot

·         Tillamook

·         Cypress Grove

·         BelGioioso

·         Nancy’s

If you’re looking for a veggie-friendly Parmesan cheese, the following are good places to start. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese must include calf rennet in order to be termed Parmigiano-Reggiano per European Union regulation. Several Parmesan products can be manufactured using vegetarian rennet, such as the Vegetarian Parmesan created by BelGioioso.

What to consider when you dine out?

When dining out, do you have any questions about what to do? Sometimes, things are straightforward: According to Largeman-Roth, you should presume that cheese has been manufactured with animal rennet until the restaurant takes the trouble to indicate that it has been made using veggie rennet.

Choose a cheese that does not use rennet as a typical method of production. Check out the following section for more delicious recommendations!

Vegetarian cheese options available in the market

When it comes to the labeling​ of​ vegetarian cheese, most of the world​ does not require that products be labeled with which type of rennet was used​. Currently, the only country in the world that requires vegetarian cheeses to be labeled as such is the UK. Any cheese that qualifies as vegetarian must be labeled with a V. In the U.S., there are no such requirements. Consumers must either check with the manufacturer individually or find a reputable list of vegetarian cheeses (4).

Even though you should always check the ingredient list, certain varieties of cheese are almost risk-free due to the manufacturing process. Certain cheese varieties do not involve the use of enzymes, and the milk coagulation is triggered by an acid either generated in situ by an added culture. The coagulation of milk at ambient temperatures is accomplished using lactic acid produced as a result of fermentation with lactic acid bacteria. Cottage cheese, quark, and cream cheese are examples of this type of acid coagulated cheeses (5).

It is common practice to substitute rennet for vinegar, lemon juice, or bacterially generated lactic acid in the production of these cheeses. This helps make loose curds that may either be left in the milk or molded into a soft, pliable cheese.

Fresh mozzarella

With fresh mozzarella, you don’t have to say no to pizza night. A 1-ounce portion of this cheese contains 15% of the recommended daily intake (RDA) of calcium, making it a great source of calcium.

Cottage cheese

It is a kind of fresh cheese that is made of curds. Cottage cheese is a product that has had very mild fermentation treatment. It is produced by incubating (fermenting) the standardized and pasteurized skim milk with the starter lactic acid bacteria to produce enough acid and appropriate pH for the curdling of milk (5).


Ricotta has a bland to slightly cooked but pleasing flavor. Its texture is soft and creamy. It is consumed as such as a spread and may be used as a replacement for cream cheese or sour cream in dips. It is basically a non melting cheese. Its major use is in the cooking of Italian cuisine (for example, lasagna and ravioli) and confectionery (5). There are several health advantages to eating ricotta in addition to its decadently creamy texture. There are several benefits to whey protein, which is one of the most quickly and readily absorbed and used kinds of protein. Also, a 1-ounce portion provides around 25% of the RDI for calcium. 


Paneer is produced with milk, a little amount of vinegar or lemon juice, and salt. With a creamy, mild taste, it complements spicy ingredients. While it isn’t readily accessible in the United States, making it yourself is a cinch. Paneer is an acid-coagulated product of hot milk. It resembles tofu in appearance and texture, but possesses a distinct flavor of its own. Paneer offers outstanding non melt functionality because of its ability to withstand cooking and frying temperatures. The Pure Foods Act of India requires paneer to have not more than 70% moisture and not less than 50% fat on a dry matter basis (5).

Other FAQs about Cheese that you may be interested in.

What does asiago cheese taste like?


In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Is it vegetarian cheese?” and discussed what vegetarian cheese is available in the market.


  1. An, Zhigang, et al. Characteristics of miniature Cheddar‐Type Cheese made by microbial rennet from Bacillus amyloliquefaciens: A comparison with commercial calf rennet. J food sci, 2014, 79, M214-M221.
  2. Carrascosa Iruzubieta, Conrado Javier, et al. A study of vegetable (thistle) rennet in the production of Flor de Guía cheese. J invest biom biofarmac, 2020.
  3. Jacob, Mandy, Doris Jaros, and Harald Rohm. Recent advances in milk clotting enzymes. Int j dairy technol, 2011, 64, 14-33.  
  4. Labeling Requirements for Vegetarian Cheese Demystified. Enzyme Innovation. 2018.
  5. Chandan, Ramesh C. Cheese varieties made by direct acidification of hot milk. Handbook of food products manufacturing 1, 2007, 635-650.