The online magazine
for vegetarians, vegans
& the veggie-curious

 

recommendations
  • Leiths Vegetable Bible
    Leiths Vegetable Bible
    by Polly Tyrer
  • Rose Elliot's New Complete Vegetarian
    Rose Elliot's New Complete Vegetarian
    by Rose Elliot
  • Delia's Vegetarian Collection
    Delia's Vegetarian Collection
    by Delia Smith, Victoria Wood
  • Good Food: 101 Veggie Dishes
    Good Food: 101 Veggie Dishes
    by Orlando Murrin
  • Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook
    Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook
    by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Terry Hope Romero
Sunday
Feb132011

Is Cheese Vegetarian?

A Quick Guide

Cheese sometimes gets a bad press because of its relatively high fat content but it is very high in protein and is therefore a useful addition to a lacto-vegetarian diet.

Many cheeses are vegetarian, but some are not suitable for a vegetarian diet if they have been produced using animal rennet. Vegetarian cheeses use veggie rennet in the production process, but non-veggie cheeses use rennet derived from animal slaughter.

Some cheeses in particular are always produced using traditional methods, which include the use of animal rennet e.g. parmesan – this means that these cheeses are never vegetarian.

Often supermarket own-brand versions are veggie. Remember to check the label to make sure that the cheese you are eating is suitable for vegetarians.

Brie

What is it? A French cow’s milk cheese, with a soft and creamy texture. Produced and sold in a wheel or as a wedge. You can eat the rind.
Is a veggie version available? Yes, check the label.
Serving suggestion: Lovely on its own with crackers and grapes or fruit/chutney.

Camembert

What is it? A French cow’s milk cheese with a soft, creamy texture, similar to Brie. Usually sold wrapped in paper inside a wooden or cardboard box. You can eat the rind.
Is a veggie version available? Yes, check the label.
Serving suggestion: Bake whole in the oven in the wooden box and serve melting with breads and crudités.

Cashel Blue

What is it? An Irish cow’s milk semi-soft blue cheese with a mature flavour that gets stronger as it matures. Produced in wheels or wedges.
Is a veggie version available? Yes, check the label.
Serving suggestion: Add to a salad or use with walnuts in a tart.

Cheddar

What is it? English cow’s milk semi-hard/hard cheese. Yellow or white cheese, ranging in flavour from mild to sharper for extra mature varieties. The most popular cheese in the UK, traditional cheddar is slightly crumby, although modern mass-manufactured versions tend to have a creamier texture.
Is a veggie version available? Yes, check the label.
Serving suggestion: Add to an omelette, make a cheese sauce or use to top a pasta or vegetable bake.

Cheshire

What is it? English cow’s milk semi-hard, moist and crumbly cheese. Available in white, red and blue varieties.
Is a veggie version available? Yes, check the label.
Serving suggestion: Perfect in sandwiches with roasted red peppers or tomatoes.

Cottage Cheese

What is it? A soft, white, cow’s milk cheese with a very mild flavour and lumpy texture. Relatively low in fat. Sold in tubs, often with added ingredients such as chives or pineapple.
Is a veggie version available? Yes, check the label.
Serving suggestion: The dieter’s favourite! Spread onto crispbreads with crunchy salad vegetables or fruit.

Cream Cheese

What is it? Soft, white, cow’s milk cheese with a mild flavour. Available in low-fat versions. Sold in tubs, sometimes with added herbs or garlic.
Is a veggie version available? Yes, check the label.
Serving suggestion: Spread on bagels or use as an ingredient in cheesecake.

Creme Fraiche

What is it? The French version of soured cream, this is a soft, thick, cow’s milk cheese with a faintly sour taste.
Is a veggie version available? Yes, check the label.
Serving suggestion: Use in soups or sauces or serve with fruit or on top of puddings for dessert.

Edam

What is it? A pale yellow, semi-hard, Dutch, cow’s milk cheese with a smooth, mild, sweet flavour and a lower fat content than Cheddar. Sold covered in red wax.
Is a veggie version available? Yes, check the label.
Serving suggestion: Edam melts well and can be used in any recipe calling for cheddar e.g. cheese on toast.

Emmental

What is it? A swiss, hard, cow’s milk, yellow cheese with a faintly fruity and nutty flavour. Recognisable for its holey appearance.
Is a veggie version available? Yes, check the label.
Serving suggestion: Use in cauliflower cheese or add to a frittata.

Feta

What is it? Greek cheese made with sheep’s milk or a mixture of sheep’s and goat’s milk. A soft crumbly cheese with a slightly salty flavour.
Feta has been afforded ‘Protected Designation of Origin’ (PDO) status since 2002, meaning that it must be produced in a traditional way. Some non-traditional types can be found in the supermarket under the name of ‘Greek-Style Cheese’ or ‘Salad Cheese’.
Is a veggie version available? Yes, check the label.
Serving suggestion: Use in a Greek salad, or with filo-pastry and spinach in a Spanakopita (spinach pie).

Halloumi

What is it? A Cypriot sheep and goat’s milk cheese with a very mild but salty flavour (some versions are also made with cow’s milk). A hard cheese which holds its shape when cooked, making it suitable for frying or grilling.
Is a veggie version available? Yes, check the label.
Serving suggestion: Thread onto skewers with vegetables and barbecue, or fry slices and serve on top of roasted Mediterranean veg.

Manchego

What is it? A Spanish sheep’s milk cheese with a hard, mild, buttery and slightly nutty flavour. Colour ranges from white to pale yellow and aged versions have a more peppery flavour. Do not eat the rind.
Manchego has PDO status meaning that it has to be produced using traditional methods, including using barrel-shaped moulds.
Is a veggie version available? Usually not. (Although vegetarian rennet is permitted in production, so check the label and if you’re very lucky you might find a veggie version. Unlikely though.)
Serving suggestion: Serve alongside olives, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers and breads for a tasty veggie antipasto plate.

Mascarpone

What is it? Italian soft, white, cow’s milk cream cheese that doesn’t use rennet in production. Made in a similar way to yoghurt, it’s more a cream than a cheese.
Is a veggie version available? Yes, production doesn’t use rennet, so all mascarpone should be vegetarian.
Serving suggestion: An essential ingredient in tiramisu or use it in cheesecake or in cake-baking.

Mozzarella

What is it? Italian white semi-soft cheese, made from water buffalo’s milk or cow’s milk. It has a creamy, mild flavour, and is uniquely stretchy, making it perfect for pizza.
Mozzarella di Buffala Campara is a particular type of mozzarella, which is always made from water buffalo’s milk and has PDO status.
Is a veggie version available? Yes, check the label.
Serving suggestion: Serve with pasta and tomato sauce, on top of pizza, or in a simple Insalata Caprese – salad of mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and olive oil.

Paneer

What is it? Indian semi-soft, non-melting cow’s milk cheese. Rennet is not used in its production, making it perfect for veggies.
Is a veggie version available? Yes, production doesn’t use rennet, so all paneer should be vegetarian.
Serving suggestion: Use in curries e.g. in a Mattar Paneer, or use in a spinach dish such as Saag Paneer.

Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano)

What is it? Italian hard cheese with a grainy texture and intense flavour. Parmesan has PDO status and must be produced in the traditional way, which involves using animal rennet – this means that parmesan is never vegetarian. Similar non-traditional cheeses include ‘pasta cheese’ or ‘Italian hard cheese’, and some of these are vegetarian.
Is a veggie version available? Parmesan is never vegetarian. But veggie alternatives are available e.g. ‘Not just a pasta cheese’ or ‘Pamazano’.
Serving suggestion: Sprinkle over pasta dishes or add to vegetarian Caesar-style salad. Parmesan is also a key ingredient in pesto.

Ricotta

What is it? Soft, white, Italian creamy cheese, with a mild, slightly sweet flavour. Used in many Italian desserts such as cheesecake. Ricotta is relatively low in fat compared with mascarpone.
Is a veggie version available? Yes, check the label.
Serving suggestion: Use in veggie lasagne or as a filling for ravioli.

Stilton

What is it? English semi-soft, blue cheese with a strong smell and flavour. Its PDO status means that only cheese produced in Derbyshire, Lancashire and Nottinghamshire, produced using traditional methods, can be called Stilton.
Is a veggie version available? Yes, check the label.
Serving suggestion: Broccoli and stilton soup for starters, or serve with pears for dessert.

 

The UK Vegetarian Society is currently running a ‘Say Cheese’ campaign to highlight the fact that many restaurants are still using parmesan in their dishes and labelling them as vegetarian. For more information or to get involved in the campaign visit www.vegsoc.org

Note: Pregnant women are advised to avoid eating ripened soft cheeses e.g. Brie or Camembert. If you are pregnant please take advice on your diet from your doctor.

Coming soon! Vegan alternatives to cheese.



Reader Comments (1)

Thanks for this info. I wished there was something positive like this for us poor italians. There is virtually no 'veggie' cheese available (except of mozarella from PENNY).
December 20, 2012 at 12:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterRanbir

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.