What can You substitute for parmesan cheese?

In this article, we will answer the question “What can I substitute for parmesan cheese?” and discuss what are the particularities of parmesan cheese and differences between the cheese types.

What can You substitute for parmesan cheese?

To substitute parmesan cheese, the most recommended cheese varieties are the so-called Mexican cheese Cotija and the Algerian cheese Klila and the Italian cheeses Gran Ovino, Grana Padano and Pecorino Romano (1,2,3).

These cheese varieties are classified as extra-hard cheeses, similarly to parmesan cheese. Extra-hard cheeses should contain a very low moisture content and a high amount of proteins and fats, which is achieved by a long ripening process (4,5).

What characterizes parmesan cheese?

Parmesan cheese is characterized by the unique improved flavor and texture, which are a result of the production process.

Parmesan cheese and other extra-hard cheeses are produced by a fine cutting of the cheese curd, the use of high temperatures of coagulation, which leads to the formation of a very dry cheese, with a brittle and grainy texture and low springiness. 

Added to that, the long ripening process of 6 to 24 months results in the breakdown of the milk fat into free fatty acids, responsible for the flavor and aromatic compounds. 

A high digestibility is also due to the prolonged ripening process, in which the milk casein is cleaved and generates amino acids with improved health properties. In addition, lactose is converted by the lactic acid bacteria, resulting in the absence of carbohydrates in the cheese (1,2,3,5,6).

As an example, while mozzarella cheese is characterized by a milk, blanc and milky flavor having about 20% fat, parmesan cheese is known to have a strong flavor and about 30% fat (5).

The nutrients in 100 g parmesan cheese compared to other cheese types are shown in the table below (6):

Cheese varietyMoisture (g)Protein (g)Fat (g)Calcium (mg)
Parmesan30.6 34.9 291200
Emmental35.7 28.729.7970
Mozzarela 49.8 25.121590
Brie48.6 19.326.9540

What are the possible substitutes for parmesan cheese?

The possible substitutes for parmesan cheese are all the extra-hard cheese varieties. The most common extra-hard cheeses originate from Italy, however, some other less known cheeses can be used in the place of parmesan, such as the Algerian Klila and the Mexican Cotija.

The characteristics of these cheese varieties are described below: 

Cotija cheese

Cotija cheese is a substituted product for parmesan cheese which generally originated from Mexico. Cotija cheese is also known as “Parmesan of Mexico” due to the intense flavor and pungent aroma (3).

Cotija cheese contains a high amount of salt and is characterized by the addition of lipase during its production process.

Pecorino cheese

Pecorino is an Italian extra-hard cheese produced with raw ewe milk. It has a ripening period of about 9 months and can have different origins, including Sicily and Sarda (1).

Because it is produced using raw milk, it may represent a source of pathogenic bacteria. Studies reported that a high number of bacteria was found in this cheese. 


Klila is a cheese produced in Algerian for many centuries. It is an extra-hard cheese made with sheep, goat or cow milk and has a very intense flavor and grainy texture (3).

This antique but unknown cheese contains a high amount of protein 29.88% to 71.37%, whereas the fat content can vary significantly, from 9.54% to 29.33%. The salt concentrations are relatively low and vary from 0.33 to 1.70%.

Other FAQs about Parmesan that you may be interested in.

Can I use mozzarella instead of Parmesan?

Does parmesan cheese need to be refrigerated?

Why doesn’t parmesan cheese melt?


In this article, we answered the question “What can I substitute for parmesan cheese?” and discussed what are the particularities of parmesan cheese and differences between the cheese types.


  1. Gaglio, Raimondo, et al. Transformation of raw ewes’ milk applying “Grana” type pressed cheese technology: Development of extra-hard “Gran Ovino” cheese. Int J Food Microbiol, 2019, 307, 108277. 
  2. Benamara, R.N., Benahmed, M., Ibri, K. et al. Algerian extra hard cheese of Klila: a review on the production method, and microbial, organoleptic, and nutritional properties. J. Ethn. Food, 2022, 9, 41. 
  3. Clark, Stephanie, et al., eds. The sensory evaluation of dairy products. Springer Science & Business Media, 2009.
  4. Popović-Vranješ, Anka, et al. Production Of Hard Cheese For The Russian Market. Thematic Proceedings: 153. 2016.
  5. Woo, A. H., and R. C. Lindsay. Concentrations of major free fatty acids and flavor development in Italian cheese varieties. J Dairy Sci, 1984, 67, 960-968.
  6. Feeney, Emma L., Prabin Lamichhane, and Jeremiah J. Sheehan. The cheese matrix: understanding the impact of cheese structure on aspects of cardiovascular health–a food science and a human nutrition perspective. Int Jo Dairy Technol, 2021, 74, 656-670.

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