I absolutely can't stand the flavor of parmesan cheese. Unfortunately, it is a very important ingredient in Italian cooking. What is a good substitute? It can't be anything that even resembles parmesan. Despite the fact that I love cheese, no feta or blue or any of that strong stuff.

Note by the moderators If you want to suggest a cheese with a similar flavor, there is a separate question for that. Look at the answers there, and if your suggestion is not already listed, add an answer to that question. This question is for food with different flavor only.

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    Parmesan is added to these dishes for the sole reason that it tastes like parmesan. I don't think there are criteria under which we can suggest a substitution - if we suggest things which taste similarly to it, your food won't taste good to you. If we suggest things which taste differently, then we must start randomly pointing at ingredients, none of which is a good substitution. If you want your food to not taste like parmesan, leave it completely out. If you want your food to have a distinctive flavor which is not parmesan-like, pick something which in your opinion fits a particular dish.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Feb 11, 2014 at 17:08
  • Cynthia, am I right that it's a particular strong cheese aroma that you dislike, not just the salty and umami flavor of the cheese? (Umami is the rich, savory, "meaty" taste that you find in things like meat/broth, mushrooms, tomatoes, seaweed, and hard cheeses.) Parmesan isn't just to make things taste like parmesan; it has core flavors that are present in other ingredients too, so this is actually answerable.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Feb 11, 2014 at 23:22
  • And for the record, here's exactly what happened with this question: the OP was somewhat vague, and didn't return. I made my best guess about her intent (not at all a wild guess), and adopted the question, turning it from something that people wanted to close into a specific, answerable question that has produced useful answers. As it says in the body, this question is not about substituting other cheeses, and there's already a question about that. So if you want to suggest a cheese, there's a place to post - but it's not here.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Feb 14, 2014 at 21:52

4 Answers 4


A common replacement for Parmesan among vegans is to use a combination of kelp powder, nutritional yeast, and ground sesame seeds and walnuts, and salt. It works in about anything that won't require the cheese to melt. The kelp and nutritional yeast provide umami, the seeds and nuts provide a nutty flavor and some fat, and the salt... well, adds the missing saltiness. It hits most of the same notes as Parmesan without having the "funk".

  • And parmesan only sort of melts to begin with, so this sounds like a great substitute!
    – Cascabel
    Commented Feb 13, 2014 at 8:00
  • Yep, hacked walnuts - they aren't just a hippie parmesan substitute, they are actually found in a delicious chinese noodle recipe called "kindling noodles", which is probably where some western vegan got the idea from. Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 8:10

You can use crumbs; it's called "the parmesan of the poor" and can be some kind of substitution. :)

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    This gets you the texture but I don't think it gets you as much of the flavor as it could.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Feb 13, 2014 at 21:02
  • @Jefromi in the moderator note there is mentioned "This question is for food with different flavor only." so.. second thing, this substitution was used in typical italian poor-mans dish :/
    – sebpa
    Commented Feb 14, 2014 at 10:13
  • There are multiple components to the flavor: the aged cheese flavor (what we're trying to avoid) and the salt and umami (good).
    – Cascabel
    Commented Feb 14, 2014 at 21:56
  • 1
    I think that if you made breadcrumbs that were sauteed in olive oil or butter, this could work pretty well. (ie, actually making breadcrumbs, not using the sawdust replacement from the store)
    – SourDoh
    Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 15:34

You can certainly make some substitutions, though it of course won't be the same. If parmesan was really a critical ingredient of the dish, you should probably find something else to make. But if it's just an accent, I would try to substitute something a bit of salt plus something else umami-rich.

Salt's easy enough. My best guess for the umami would be mushroom powder. The flavor will hopefully fit with most Italian dishes you're trying to make, and it's not so overwhelming a flavor that it'll compete with the dish. Nutritional yeast might also be a good option, or even plain MSG.

Beyond that, there's a list of umami-rich ingredients here, but I think I've picked out the best few. A lot of them won't work well for you, since you want something pretty dry (like the parmesan). And a few of the others, like nori (seaweed) might add an unwelcome flavor.


If you're "sprinkling" it on top of a dish, here is an alternative recipe my mother makes:

Farmesan (aka Sprinkle Cheese)


  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1 cup brewers Yeast
  • 2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. Pulse almonds in blender or food processor until they're crumbly like a parmesan.
  2. Add the other ingredients and process until integrated.

Sprinkle on anything you would have put parmesan on. Great on pasta, veggies, etc.

  • Can you please clarify the units used in the recipe?
    – JohnEye
    Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 15:31
  • @JohnEye Done. Units expanded. 1cup = 48 teaspoons, but adjust to your liking.
    – beausmith
    Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 10:00
  • 2
    Thanks for maintaining the answer more than four years after it was posted ;-)
    – JohnEye
    Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 10:37

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