Is Cheese Vegetarian?

Cheese is usually a staple found within many vegetarian diets, due to its versatility. However, did you know that some cheeses are not actually vegetarian?

One of the most well-known cheeses this applies to is Parmesan, but actually, it’s not the only one.  

What Makes Some Cheese Non Vegetarian?

To explain this, we need to understand how cheese is made.

Cheese is made by adding rennet to milk. Rennet is an enzyme, with the active compound chymosin, which coagulates the milk, forming curds and whey. The source of rennet? Newly-born calves’ and goats’ stomach lining, (Vegetarian Society, available here) which means that essentially, cheese which uses calf or goat rennet are not vegetarian friendly.

By definition, lots of traditional cheeses are not vegetarian because they are only allowed to be called by that name if they have used the traditional method and ingredients, which includes calf rennet. One such example of this is Parmesan.

What Other Cheeses Contain Animal Rennet?

Examples of other well-known cheeses which have to use animal rennet and, therefore, cannot be vegetarian include:

Parmesan (Parmigiana Reggiano)
Grana Padano
Pecorino Romano

As with most things, it’s always wise to check the label first and there are vegetarian alternatives, such as Italian hard cheeses.

Vegetarian Alternatives

It is possible to buy cheese which is made from plant-based rennet, either from vegetables and microbial.

The packaging will have ‘Vegetarian’ written on it, if it is vegetarian friendly or there will be a green ‘V’. If it doesn’t say something along these lines then the chances are that it may contain animal rennet, so, it is important to read the labels and note that it can vary from brand to brand as well.


Daisy, MSc PGDip ANutr, is a Registered Associate Nutritionist with a Master's Degree in Public Health Nutrition, and a Post Graduate Diploma in Eating Disorders and Clinical Nutrition, both of which are Association for Nutrition (AFN) accredited. She, also, has a BSc degree in Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience; and has completed an AFN accredited Diet Specialist Nutrition course.

Daisy has worked for an NHS funded project, the Diabetes Prevention Programme; and shadowed a nutritionist in Harley Street. 

About Lucy Bee Limited

Any information provided by us is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. We always recommend referring your health queries to a qualified medical practitioner.

Lucy Bee is a lifestyle brand selling food, skincare and soap products all completely free from palm oil and with minimal use of plastic. Lucy Bee is concerned with Fair Trade, organic, ethical and sustainable living, recycling and empowering people to make informed choices and select quality, natural products for their food and their skin.

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