It is safe to say that parmesan’s popularity reaches far beyond the borders of Italy. We already know and love grated parmesan, but did you know that parmesan rind can provide even more flavor and aroma?
Using parmesan rind in cooking is a secret well-known among Italian chefs. But it seems that more and more people are discovering its role in flavor development.
Adding parmesan cheese rind to your sauces and soups is one of the easiest ways to obtain that cheesy aroma and flavor.
However, can we achieve the same results with other ingredients? Let’s talk about some of the best substitutes for parmesan rind.
The best substitutes for parmesan rind
Table of Contents
Let’s start with briefly defining a cheese rind, as many people aren’t used to incorporating it in their cooking.
The rind is the hard, protective layer around the cheese that is significantly denser than the cheese itself.
In many cases, the parmesan cheese rind gets thrown away as it doesn’t grate as easily. It also has a chewier structure, and the color is darker than the cheese itself.
What’s more, this tough protective layer around a block of parmesan cheese is usually considered inedible.
In theory, it can be consumed – but it is the tough, chewy texture, and the intensity of savory flavor and aroma that can be off-putting for many people.
So, how can you use your parmesan cheese rind if you cannot grate it or melt it? Cheese rind requires no special preparation, as you can simply just add it to your dish while it is cooking.
You can think of parmesan rind as a spice or a herb such as a rosemary branch. You can stick it into your stew to release its aroma, and then remove it once the dish is cooked.
The best thing about using parmesan rind in your cooking is that it won’t melt. You can keep it in for as long as it takes to develop the desired taste and aroma.
Aside from the dominant, aromatic parmesan smell, the rind will also infuse it with rich, savory, umami flavors, contributing to the overall complexity of the dish.
It is an ideal addition to your pasta sauces, soups, dips, and pretty much any tomato-based dish. When adding parmesan rind, it is important to adjust other seasonings you may use, as it is very fragrant and savory.
Another great use of parmesan rind is making parmesan broth. It can be used as a base for many dishes, including soup, sauces, stew, and risotto.
All you need to do to get a flavorful batch of parmesan broth is combine a few parmesan rinds with your favorite veggies (onion, garlic) and herbs (oregano, bay leaves, peppercorns).
Cover the mixture with water, then let it simmer for 1-2 hours. Finally, strain it as you would any other broth once it has reduced.
Another reason not to throw away parmesan rinds is that they can also be grilled – as long as you don’t mind their tough, chewy texture.
What could replace an ingredient as versatile as parmesan rind? Let’s see what could be the best parmesan rind substitute.
1. Parmesan cheese
Needless to say, parmesan cheese is the best substitute for parmesan rind. It has that unique parmesan flavor and you won’t be forced to try other types of cheese.
However, keep in mind that grated parmesan cheese is not nearly as aromatic and flavorful as parmesan rind. Also, it will melt and alter the texture of the dish.
Grated parmesan can be added both while the dish is cooking, or grated on top of it, but keep in mind that it will melt if the dish is hot.
Also, the pre-grated parmesan from the bag will never deliver the same level of flavor and aroma as freshly grated parmesan.
2. Pecorino Romano rind
Pecorino Romano is an extremely savory, salty cheese made of sheep milk. It usually has a very thin, natural rind that is packed with a salty, sharp flavor and intoxicating aroma.
This replacement for parmesan rind can be used the same way you would use parmesan rind: in sauces, soups, stews, as well as grilled.
Keep in mind that Pecorino Romano rind is usually softer than parmesan rind. It can even be added to salads – especially Caesar’s.
Another difference between Parmigiano Reggiano rind and Pecorino Romano rind, besides the texture, is that the latter is much saltier, whereas parmesan has a sweeter, nuttier flavor profile.
3. Gruyère rind
Gruyère is a popular Swiss cheese made from cow’s milk, and it is quite firm, so its structure resembles parmesan cheese.
Another important similarity between parmesan and Gruyère is that this parmesan rind alternative also offers a nutty, savory, umami, slightly sweet flavor, and a strong aroma.
Gruyère rind can be used in place of parmesan rind in all your favorite dishes, including soups, pasta sauces, and stews.
Any dish that lacks depth and complexity can be completely transformed by adding a Gruyère rind during cooking, even for a couple of minutes.
Gruyère is an absolute staple in many cuisines and dishes, including world-famous French onion soup.
4. Grana Padano rind
This hard cheese from cow’s milk has a hard, natural rind that can substitute the rind of parmesan in any dish. They have quite similar properties too.
Grana Padano is, in fact, one of the best choices when it comes to replacing Parmigiano Reggiano in your cooking.
However, this parmesan rind substitute is a bit milder than the parmesan. The intensity of flavor and aroma, just like with any other cheese, will depend on the duration of the aging process.
Grana Padano rind is packed with a savory, nutty flavor, and just like parmesan rind, it is too chewy and tough to be snacked on, but it makes a perfect addition to dishes such as brothy beans, soups, and stews.
5. Cheddar rind
Cheddar is one of the most popular cheese varieties, and it comes in many different shapes and flavors. If you intend on using cheddar rind in your cooking, make sure to go for a well-aged cheddar.
Aged cheddar is packed with savory flavors, and it has a distinctive nutty aroma that resembles parmesan rind. Younger cheddar, on the other hand, tends to be quite mild, and the rind isn’t as tough and flavorful.
Needless to say, when shopping for cheddar, as well as any other cheese, if you intend on using the rind it is necessary to look for natural-rind options only, as wax ones (or any artificial material) cannot be used in cooking.
6. Soy parmesan
Soy parmesan is your best bet when it comes to a vegan substitute for parmesan rind. This parmesan usually doesn’t have a thick layer of rind, so you will have to use the cheese itself.
Nevertheless, it is a great way to add a bit of rich, creamy texture and slightly sweet, nutty flavor to your vegan dishes.
Keep in mind that soy parmesan is usually nowhere near as savory as parmesan rind, so you want to adjust the seasonings accordingly – especially salt.
7. Asiago rind
Asiago is a cheese very similar to parmesan when it comes to flavors. However, you’ll notice that aged asiago isn’t as sweet as parmesan, but it certainly has a very complex flavor profile.
As always, if you intend on using asiago rind in your cooking, it is recommended to go for a well-aged asiago, as it is jam-packed with savory, nutty, smokey flavors.
Keep in mind that younger asiago will have a very thin, predominantly mild rind that can be snacked on or served on your cheese plates or as a salad garnish.
Well-aged asiago rind, on the other hand, is just as chewy and tough as parmesan rind – and just as flavor-packed and aromatic.
8. Manchego rind
Just like parmesan rind, manchego rind is also quite chewy, hard, and even though it is edible – it is not very appealing.
However, it is a perfect addition to your cooked dishes as it is packed with a smokey aroma and savory flavor.
This Spanish cheese has a unique fruity note, distinctive sweetness, and a savory, yet grassy flavor. The older the cheese – the more complex the flavor and aroma of the manchego rind.
9. Sapsago cheese
Sapsago cheese may not be the best choice when it comes to adding it while the dish is cooking. However, as it is a flavoring cheese, you can mix it into the dish or sprinkle it on top of a prepared dish.
It is important to note that this cheese is quite pungent, with a dominant sweetness, and a rich, savory flavor.
It isn’t a cheese you’d serve on a cheese plate as it doesn’t taste as good on its own, but it combines perfectly with other flavors and aromas when added to dishes.
10. Époisses rind
Époisses belongs to the washed-rind category, which is a very specific type of cheese. All cheese types in this category have a very mild, subtle taste, but a fragrant, dominant aroma.
Époisses rind will add a very characteristic, slightly acidic, nutty aroma to your dish, without altering the taste. It is on the so-called smelly side, and certainly, not everyone’s number one choice.
How to choose a parmesan rind substitute
When it comes to replacing parmesan rind in your recipes, Pecorino Romano rind, Gruyère rind, and Grana Padano rind provide a very similar flavor profile and that characteristic aroma.
However, if you’re looking to achieve the taste most similar to what a parmesan rind would provide, and your focus isn’t on the texture of the dish, you can simply use freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Soy parmesan is the best choice when it comes to plant-based diets, even though it does lack depth and complexity both in aroma and flavor.
For a fuller taste and a fragrant aroma, you want to choose well-aged cheddar, asiago, and manchego rind, while sapsago can add a very interesting pungent note to a cooked dish or salad.
Finally, if you’re looking for a dominant cheesy aroma that will instantly fill up the room, Époisses rind is the parmesan rind substitute you’re looking for. However, keep in mind that, even though its aroma is very powerful, the flavor is on the mild side.
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