Don't Have Parmesan Cheese? Use These 6 Substitutes

I make it a rule never to turn down the hand-grated Parmesan cheese on top of whatever dish I've ordered at my favorite Italian restaurant. The hard cheese adds a sharp, salty taste that finishes the dish perfectly. When you're buying for meals at home, though, high-quality Parmigiano-Reggiano can get expensive. The cost of the real thing has led to some fakes being sold, or some already grated cheese being mixed with fillers. We've got a better answer: find a substitute for Parmesan cheese that costs less while serving the same purpose.

One reason Parmesan is so expensive is that its production is tightly controlled by the Italian government. But it's not the only hard, Italian cheese available. Other types of aged hard cheese bring the same flavor and texture to any dish at a fraction of the cost at the grocery store. Here are some excellent substitutes for Parmesan cheese.

Romano

substitute for parmesan cheese
Sarah Ramsey

Romano cheese can be made in Italy or elsewhere; you can tell what kind of milk the cheese is made with based on the name. Vaccino Romano is made with cow's milk, Pecorino Romano (the best-known Romano cheese) is made with sheep's milk, and Caprino Romano uses goat's milk. All of these are dense, crumbly hard cheeses with a tangy taste. Romano is a great Parmesan substitute to use in pesto.

Grana Padano

Grana Padano is another cow's milk cheese made in Italy and carefully controlled by the Grana Padana Consorzio Zanetti. It's aged a minimum of 18 months and, like Parmigiano-Reggiano, the real thing carries a stamp on the rind. Grana means grainy and that's exactly what Grana Padano is. It's a granular, crumbly cheese with a sweet, nutty flavor. There's also an American Grana made by BelGioioso (who makes several versions of a hard or semi-hard cheese that would work as a substitute for Parmesan cheese).

Asiago

substitute for parmesan cheese
Flickr: Rebecca Siegel

Asiago is a cow's milk cheese with a smoother texture than Parmesan, but it's still crumbly, which means it melts beautifully. The longer the cheese is aged, the more crumbly and sharper-tasting it gets. Personally, I like asiago better for many dishes like pizza and baked pasta.

Provolone

Provolone is often found in soft, round slices, and used for sandwiches. A semi-hard cow's milk cheese, provolone can be grated or torn and is exceptionally good in baked pasta and on pizza or flatbreads. It's buttery and a little sweet, with varying degrees of sharp and salty flavor based on where its made and how long it's aged.

Dry Jack

Monterey Jack is a semi-hard cheese, good for melting. Dry Jack is a variation that ages for at least 10 months and up to four years; during that time the cheese wheels get brittle, producing a crumbly cheese that has a texture similar to Parmesan but with the rich, earthy flavor of Monterey Jack. Use it on pasta dishes and casseroles, but also for omelets, quesadillas, and grilled cheese.

Vegan cheese substitutes for Parmesan cheese

If you're dairy-free, you can still get the savory flavor that comes with Parmesan cheese by using nutritional yeast (which is not the same thing as brewer's yeast or baking yeast). Nutritional yeast is deactivated yeast that is dried and sold in flakes. It has that umami or salty/savory flavor that mimics cheese.

No matter, if you're looking for a cheaper alternative or your grocery store, is out of the real thing, there are plenty of ways you can substitute for Parmesan cheese.

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