Vegetarian cheese lovers may be surprised to learn that not every cheese out there is 100% vegetarian friendly. There are many products out there that, at a glance, seem like they are vegetarian – but are not. Upon further inspection, rennet is an ingredient in cheese that is often animal based.

Cheese can be categorized into two kinds – acid or rennet coagulated cheese. Cheeses made with acid are inclusive of lemon juice, vinegar or similar acidic elements to help in the coagulating of the milk. Queso fresco and cream cheese are examples of cheese made with the acidification process.  Cheddar, Swiss cheese and most other types of cheese are; however, non-vegetarian as they often contain animal rennet in the coagulation process.

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The cheese making process involves some animal unfriendly elements – animal rennet. Rennet is an enzyme that is found in the lining of a cow or a goat’s stomach, and the enzyme is added to milk, assisting in the proper coagulation – a process in cheese making that separates the curds from whey.

Some cheese making recipes do not call for the use of rennet, and a good substitute can be found in acids like vinegar or lemon juice, but sadly, a lot of the loved and preferred cheeses contain animal rennet.

Rennet is now made available in different forms, and there is actually vegetable based rennet now available but, some cheese manufacturers still prefer to have their cheeses made using animal rennet. And even worse, some of the packaging of these cheeses do not include the exact kind of rennet used, so vegetarians could have been eating food that goes against their ethics for years without even knowing.

Cheeses containing rennet

The majority of cheeses that are made using animal rennet are originally European cheeses. Some cheese companies have switched their procedure to include vegetable-based rennet to provide an option to vegetarian customers. However, a lot of cheese manufacturers still stick to using animal cheese rennet to make their cheese, and some even slyly fail to include this ingredient on their ingredient list.

  • Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Manchego
  • Gruyere
  • Gorgonzola
  • Emmenthaler
  • Pecorino Romano
  • Grana Padano
  • Mimolette
  • Boucheron
  • Camembert
  • Vacherin

All of these cheeses may be delicious and well-loved but, vegetarians may not be too pleased to hear that they all are made using animal rennet. Having one of the best cheese makers can help you make most of these cheeses at home.

Cheeses made without rennet

Although coagulating cheese with animal rennet is one way to get it to curd, using acids like vinegar or lemon juice, culture, or with heat is another highly effective way.

Non-animal Rennet

  • Cheddar
  • Colby
  • Feta
  • Mozzarella
  • Swiss
  • Provolone
  • Monterey Jack
  • Ricotta Cheese
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Cream Cheese

Cheeses made with Acid

  • Queso Blanco
  • Paneer
  • Ayib
  • Bayaslag
  • Chhena
  • Cream cheese

If you have been eating some of these cheeses without a clue all along, now you know. If you are raising vegetarian kids, you can teach them about rennet. And now, you can act like you never found out and keep consuming in the bliss of ignorance, or you can make the choice to completely avoid these cheeses from now on.

Or, you can make the choice to indulge yourself in some of these certified non-animal rennet cheeses.