What's in your cheese? A warning to vegetarians.

A guide to buying and making vegetarian friendly cheese that does not include animal rennet.

Some may not be aware that certain cheese is NOT suitable for vegetarians and contains an ingredient found in animals.

Which types of cheese are NOT vegetarian friendly?

  • Parmesan cheese is never vegetarian. Cheeses from a specific location need to follow a consistent recipe to be recognised as having specific names. In the case of Parmigiano-Reggiano, or Parmesan cheese, this means always using animal rennet.
  • Grana Padano
  • Roquefort
  • Gorgonzola. You can substitute blue cheese with alternatives such as vegetarian Dolcelatte.

The key ingredient to watch out for in cheese is animal rennet. Food labelling laws in the UK mean that labels do not always require processing agents to be listed, of which animal rennet is one.

What is animal rennet and why is not suitable for vegetarians?

  • The traditional source of animal rennet is the stomach lining of calves. The lining contains chysomin, a naturally occurring enzyme, which helps digestion and milk absorption.
  • The enzyme is extracted from the stomach lining of the slaughtered calf, by washing and drying the lining. It is then softened in a solution of brine, or boric acid, for four-to-five days, before being ready to use in a cheese recipe.

The answer?

Here at Eat Drink Dine we have sourced cheese recipes that will ensure a safe eating experience for all Vegetarians. The recipe below will take no more than 10 mins and will yield a great tasting cheese with no animal additives.

1. Make your own Vegan Cheese by following our recipe.

Our favourite option to circumvent the animal additive cheese is to make our own. Our recipe is only going to take 10 mins and uses a nut based ingredients list with all vege friendly additions. View Our Vegen Friendly Parmesan Recipe


2. Purchase Vege-safe cheese brands or alternatives.

  • Twineham Grange Italian-style Hard Cheese
  • VBites Dairy-Free Italian Hard Style Cheezly
  • You can also buy supermarket versions of vegetarian Italian-style hard cheeses. Just check the label to be sure it is veggie.

3. Use Vege Rennet alternatives

  • Vegetarian rennets are either vegetable-based (made from plants such as figs, nettles and thistles), microbial (produced using moulds and fungi sources) or made using genetically modified rennet.
  • A high percentage of hard cheese made in the UK is produced using chymosin produced in genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). For example, chymosin can be made by the genetic modification of the yeast Kluyveromyces lacti. To do this, the genetic code, or DNA, for chymosin is isolated from calf cells. This DNA acts as a template. A copy is produced and is inserted into yeast cells, which are cultivated and allowed to grow in a suitable environment. The chymosin produced by these cells is identical to the animal protein and the cheese itself is not made using a GMO but rather a product of this, the enzyme.

4. Buy these variations of cheese that are always vegetarian

  • Here are a few cheeses that do not use animal rennet in the cheese-making process, so are always vegetarian. These include paneer and cottage cheese.
  • Artisan cheeses from specific areas, such as Cornish Yarg, which is wrapped in nettles, Colston Basset Stilton from Nottinghamshire and Lord of the Hundreds, an English ewes’ milk cheese, are always made using vegetarian rennet.
  • Some British Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) cheeses are always suitable for vegetarians. They include Beacon Fell traditional Lancashire Cheese, Buxton Blue, Dorset Blue, Dovedale Blue, Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar, Single Gloucester, Staffordshire cheese, Swaledale cheese, Swaledale ewes cheese, Traditional Ayrshire Dunlop, Traditional Welsh Caerphilly and Yorkshire Wensleydale.

Vegetarian Society
Published on:
February 10, 2020
Original Eat Drink Dine Content

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