Eating out as a vegetarian one is often faced with a poor selection of meals which are mostly cheese or dairy based. On a typical menu of over twenty items, with each dish being a particular treatment and presentation of one animal or another, there would be maybe two menu items that are advertised as being suitable for vegetarians.

These two items would invariably be some kind of vegetable bake, pasta or a risotto; they would feature cheese or dairy as their main protein; and they would have a spurious assortment of vegetables inserted into the recipe as a replacement for their meat-based relatives in the chef’s menu book.

The chef knows that vegetarians like to eat vegetables and that if she can’t use meat at least she can use cheese. And as a nice way of topping off a meal, why not use slices of that ‘posh’ cheese – Parmesan?

Unfortunately nothing indicates that a chef knows nothing about vegetarians more than their use of Parmesan cheese. Parmesan cheese is NOT vegetarian. Parmesan cheese is protected by law and can only come from Italy and it has to be made in the traditional way – the traditional way being with the use of animal rennet. So, to repeat, Parmesan cheese is NOT vegetarian.

Now some cheeses are vegetarian, some cheeses are not. When eating out I assume that if a meal is labelled vegetarian then the chef knows his business and that the cheese used in it is vegetarian.

When I see a Vegetarian meal that has got Parmesan on it then I know the meal is not vegetarian and that the chef knows nothing about vegetarians …as I hope you appreciate, this can get frustrating.

[MP. March 2010.]

7 Responses to “Parmesan cheese is NOT vegetarian”

  1. Helen Says:

    I’m with you 100% I am sick and tired of having the ‘Parmesan’ conversation with people, thankfully Ive not had the ‘but you eat fish don’t you’ conversation. There is a pub near me in Wetherby (sub of Leeds) that does think fish is vegetarian, we saw V next to fish on the menu,we didnt go in!

  2. Peaches White Says:

    Only Parmesan that is made in Italy under the regulations of that government needs to contain rennet. The stuff made elsewhere which is called parmesan doesn’t need to contain rennet, since it isn’t regulated by those laws. Therefore there are a few brands of the parmesan type cheese in the US that are vegetarian.

  3. veggieopolis Says:

    Hi Peaches, Thanks for the comment.

    In the UK and Europe ‘Parmesan’ is a protected name and can’t be used by any other ‘parmesan type cheese’. Part of its Protected Designation of Origin status means that Parmesan must be made with the traditional ingredients associated with it – which, in this case, include non-vegetarian calf rennet: therefore Parmesan cheese is not vegetarian.

    This issue was reported on recently in The Guardian where Ali Schofield wrote in her article:
    No parmesan please, we’re vegetarian about the confusion of chefs and restauranters about Parmesan and vegetarian cheeses.


  4. Andy Says:

    A simple substitute for Parmesan is Old Winchester. It is cheaper and equally as delicious as Parmesan, plus it is vegetarian!

  5. Andy Says:

    I understand the frustration but there’s no need to be rude. You just make the rest of us vegetarians look bad.

  6. connor rennie Says:

    To be honest I find your opinion to be frankly quite disgusting. It is not up to anyone other than you to ensure that you are eating vegetarian foods. This is a life choice you have made and restaurants should have no obligation to cater to your particular requirements. You have a right to be a vegetarian but remember that doesn’t mean everyone else should have to pander to your needs.

  7. veggieopolis Says:

    Thanks for your comment Connor.
    This post was about the limited choice of menu items offered to vegetarians:- menu items that are advertised, labeled or indicated to be “Suitable for Vegetarians” – and how the use of Parmesan cheese means that these items are NOT Suitable for Vegetarians as so offered, advertised, labeled or indicated.
    I have edited the post in italics to make this a bit more clear.
    Peace Out.

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