Do vegetarians eat cheese?

In this brief guide, we’ll address the query: “Do vegetarians eat cheese?” Also, we’ll explore what cheeses may not be vegetarian friendly, what the differences between vegetarians and vegans are, and what cheese alternatives there are for vegetarians and vegans. 

Do vegetarians eat cheese? 

Depending on how stringent their convictions and diet are, vegetarians may consume some types of cheeses. 

As a general rule, vegetarians don’t condone the slaughter of animals for food. As certain products can be exploited sans the animal’s death, some vegetarians may consume products such as those that are dairy-based, and eggs. 

With this in mind, some cheeses may be off-limits to vegetarians. Namely, those that are manufactured with animal products. One such ingredient is rennet.

Rennet is a mixture of proteins that are harvested from the abomasum; which is the fourth stomach compartment of ruminant mammals. Typically, these proteins are extracted from veal and young unweaned animals. 

In the cheese making process, they’re used to separate milk into phases, namely; solid proteins from more aqueous ones (casein from whey, notably). 

As the extraction of rennet usually implies the slaughter of young animals, many vegetarians eschew consumption of cheese, whereas others may consume cheese made with plant-based rennet. 

It should, however, be noted that non-animal rennet may impart a different taste to a cheese, than that which is sourced from unweaned animals. 

What cheeses are not vegetarian-friendly? 

Cheese types made with rennet are not vegetarian friendly include Parmesan, Gruyere, Mimolette, Gorgonzola, Pecorino, Manchego, Emmenthaler, Camembert, Vacherin, and many others.

However, vegetarians that consume cheese may consume the following cheeses, as they’re made with non-animal rennet, or made with rennet substitutes: : 

  • Mozzarella
  • Ricotta
  • Cottage cheese
  • Feta
  • Cheddar
  • Cream cheese
  • Paneer, etc.

Certain cheeses, such as those who are fabricated with Denomination of Origin (DOI) cannot readily have their recipes altered to make them vegetarian-friendly, and their consumption may therefore remain off-limits to vegetarians. 

Therefore, we recommend that our readers do a bit of research if they’re looking to transition to a no-meat diet. 

What are the differences between vegetarians and vegans? 

Veganism is a stringent form of vegetarianism. 

Those who are vegans follow strict diets that eschew consumption of animal products and byproducts. 

As such, vegans do not consume meat (of any kind), seafood, dairy, eggs, honey or any product sourced from animals such as butter, lard, suet, etc. 

This dietary choice has spurred the development of a new line of products that are made with strictly plant-based ingredients, such as veganaise, plant-based butters. spreads, milk, cooking oils, etc. 

While veganism is one form of vegetarianism, there are others such as 

  • pescetarianism (those who eat seafood),
  • lacto-vegetarianism (those who eat dairy products that aren’t made with products from slaughtered animals),
  • ovo-vegetarians (those who eat eggs),
  • lacto-ovo-vegetarians (those who consume dairy products and eggs, but don’t condone animal slaughter.   

Whichever form of veganism a person decides to follow is a personal choice, fueled by their convictions, nutritional needs and personal circumstances.

What alternatives of cheese are there for vegetarians and vegans? 

Given the rise of vegetarianism in its many variations, the food industry has made it a point to manufacture plant-based cheese out of different products. 

Among the most popular ingredients vegan-cheese can be made of, there is soybeans (tofu), almonds, coconuts, cashews, aquafaba, potatoes, carrots, and various nuts. 

There are many recipes our readers can look up to find plant-based cheeses, and some popular types include mozzarella, cheddar, gouda, cream cheese, and others. 

It’s important that readers bear in mind that plant-based cheeses made in the style of those with DOI (denomination of origin) are marketed as imitations or types. 

This is because authentic cheeses are manufactured following original recipes, and any consignments made with variations of original recipes are no longer branded or commercialized under DOI terms. 

To summarize, whether or not vegetarians consume cheese is a matter of what vegetarianism they practice, and what type of cheese they’re offered

If you’re looking to transition to a plant-based diet, there are many resources and retailers that can provide ideas and products to help you adequately practice vegetarianism. 


In this brief guide, we have addressed the query: “Do vegetarians eat cheese?” Also, we have explored why some cheeses may not be vegetarian friendly, what the differences between vegetarians and vegans are, and what cheese alternatives there are for vegetarians and vegans. 


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