I should put “Parmesan cheese” in big quotations here, because this vegan version is definitely not cheese. Yet, it tastes quite similar to the real deal! I’m loving this vegan Parmesan cheese recipe and I think you will, too.
This vegan Parm is great sprinkled over savory meals in lieu of real Parmesan. Whether you’re vegan, dairy free, avoiding animal rennet, looking to limit your consumption of animal products, or just plain curious—this recipe is for you.
I’m not the first person to come up with a vegan Parmesan cheese substitute. I’ve tried several recipes over the years, but none quite hit the mark. When I was wandering around Whole Foods the other day, I came across a vegan Parmesan blend in the refrigerated section. It used hemp seeds instead of raw cashews like I’ve used before. I was intrigued.
I didn’t buy that vegan Parm, but the idea stuck with me until I couldn’t ignore it any longer. Hemp seeds seemed like a great choice since they’re tender, nutty, nutritious, and nut free (a bonus for my friends with nut allergies). Hemp seeds are also tiny, which meant that I could simply stir the ingredients together instead of making a mess in my food processor.
So, I bought some hemp seeds on another grocery store run, and came home and started experimenting. Bingo! Meet the best vegan Parm I’ve ever had. You’ll only need five ingredients for this dairy-free wonder.
Vegan “Parmesan” Ingredients
Hemp seeds have a slightly nutty flavor and tender chewy texture, which makes up for Parmesan’s similar qualities. Hemp seeds are very nutritious, offering polyunsaturated fat, protein, manganese, magnesium and more.
I bought my hemp seeds at Whole Foods in the supplement section, but they are less expensive on Amazon (affiliate link).
Nutritional yeast contributes cheese-like flavor and golden yellow coloring. Nutritional yeast is also loaded with B vitamins, which is why just 1 tablespoon of this vegan Parmesan accounts for roughly 50 percent of your daily suggested intake of vitamins B1, B2 and B6 (click the “nutrition information” label below the recipe for more exact details).
My favorite brand of nutritional yeast is Frontier Coop, for its superior flavor and small flake size. You can buy a big 1-pound bag of it inexpensively on Amazon. Another good store-bought option is Bragg’s. Do not mistakenly use brewer’s yeast here—they are not the same thing!
Garlic Powder and Onion Powder
These offer some extra flavor complexity that help make up for all the subtle flavors found in real Parmesan. Garlic and onion powder make this vegan Parm irresistible!
Real Parmesan cheese is quite salty, so salt is an essential ingredient for this vegan version! I used fine sea salt, but you can use regular table salt if that’s what you have.
Uses for Vegan Parmesan Cheese
You can sprinkle this vegan “Parmesan” with abandon all over your favorite Italian recipes, salads, cooked vegetables and more! Use it like you would use Parmesan (however, if you’re baking the recipe, you might want to reserve it for sprinkling until after it’s out of the oven for maximum flavor and presentation value).
You might also enjoy it in place of feta cheese, or any time you need some extra-savory flavor. Here are some ideas:
- Sprinkle vegan Parmesan over marinara sauce and pasta (for heartier options, check out my hearty spaghetti with lentils and marinara and vegan puttanesca with zucchini noodles).
- Omit the Parmesan cheese from basil pesto, then sprinkle vegan Parmesan on top of your pesto dish, to taste. It would be great on my double tomato pesto spaghetti recipe!
- Sprinkle it over roasted vegetables, like roasted broccoli or roasted cauliflower. You might also enjoy it over steamed or sautéed veggies.
- Take your vegan mac and cheese up a notch by topping it with a light sprinkle of vegan Parm.
- You might also enjoy it over homemade minestrone soup, or Italian chopped salad (in lieu of the provolone).
Please let me know how you like this vegan Parm in the comments! I’m excited to hear how you use it.
Easy Vegan Parmesan Cheese
- Prep Time: 3 minutes
- Total Time: 3 minutes
- Yield: ¾ cup 1x
- Category: Condiment
- Method: By hand
- Cuisine: Italian
Make this simple vegan Parmesan cheese recipe and sprinkle it over your favorite Italian recipes! This vegan Parm is made with hemp seeds, so it’s nut free. No food processor required—just stir together the ingredients and you’re done. Recipe yields about ¾ cup.
- ½ cup hemp seeds
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste
- Simply stir together the ingredients in a bowl or jar until they are evenly dispersed. Taste, and add more salt for more intense flavor (I usually add another pinch or so). You’re done!
- Store this vegan Parmesan cheese in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 months.