Brie’s smooth inside and bloomy white rind of French cheese make it a delicacy of extravagant luxury.
Due to the enzyme, rennet, it’s often a debate as to whether certain cheeses are considered vegetarian. So when it comes to Brie, is Brie cheese is vegetarian?
Traditionally made Brie cheese is not suitable for vegetarians as it contains animal rennet. However, vegetarian rennet is available and can be used as a substitute.
Read on as I discuss Brie cheese to help clear up this common confusion.
Can Vegetarians Eat Brie Cheese?
Brie cheese has long been appreciated for its distinctive flavor since it was first created in the 7th century.
It’s one of France’s most delicious cheeses and their top cheese export.
However, vegetarians cannot appreciate traditional Brie due to the animal rennet ingredient.
What Is Animal Rennet?
Rennet is derived from an organic substance that contains the chymosin or rennin enzyme.
It’s usually found in the lining of the fourth stomach of young calves, goats, and lambs.
Rennin is only available in these animals while their main diet is milk, and it disappears once they start to eat primarily grass.
The enzyme curdles milk as part of digestion and milk absorption; hence it is only found in the stomach of young diary-consuming ruminants.
The enzyme is removed from the abdominal lining of a slaughtered animal by washing and drying the lining.
When Brie is made, rennet and other enzymes are added to the milk to help it thicken and speed up the curding process.
On the other hand, vegetarians can eat Brie cheese when a vegetarian type of rennet is added. More on this later.
Can Brie Cheese Be Made Without Rennet?
Rennet is an essential ingredient in the general cheesemaking process.
And although there are types of Brie cheese with very little rennet, it is necessary for the milk curding process.
However, rennet is also taken from plants or can be genetically modified.
If this type of rennet is added, the Brie is vegetarian. Here are the two vegetarian types of rennet.
Generally, plant-based rennet for cheese is derived from nettles, cardoon thistle, or artichokes.
These plants are soaked in water to separate a thickening enzyme comparable to chymosin.
Many customary Portuguese and Spanish cheeses are made with plant rennet.
However, using plant-based rennet is not as common with many cheesemakers as the animal-based rennet.
The cheesemaker needs to be particularly careful when making Brie using plant-based rennet as it can produce inconsistent results, among many other reasons.
Various types of plant rennet can also positively or negatively affect the flavor.
Certain molds (fungus) include enzymes comparable to chymosin, and these enzymes are extracted in a lab to create microbial rennet.
However, like plant-based rennet, microbial rennet is not commonly used due to yielding inconsistent results.
It’s also complicated to use in the cheesemaking process, and the outcome can be an unpleasant flavor.
Microbial rennet can be genetically engineered.
The production of genetically modified rennet involves taking chymosin chromosomes from an animal’s abdominal cells and adding them to yeast cultures, acting as the host.
This host culture boosts new chymosin enzyme growth, and the new rennet enzymes are removed and purified.
Although this process involves using an animal cell, some still believe it to be vegetarian-friendly.
Genetically modified rennet is the creation of enzymes from an animal cell. Due to inconsistent results, this type of rennet in Brie cheese is pretty rare.
What Brand of Brie Cheese Is Vegetarian?
Many U.S. Brie cheese producers have moved from animal rennet to plant-based or microbial rennet as vegetarian-friendly foods grow popular.
Here are some brands of vegetarian Brie cheese to consider.
Future of Cheese
Future of Cheese is a Canadian vegan company that sold out of its plant-based “Ripened Brie” in less than 24 hours of its pre-sale launch.
Their cashew-based vegan cheese is a plant-based take on the traditional ripened Brie cheese.
Jule’s Foods has perfected their creamy, luscious, melty, attractive vegan Brie.
Over the years, their sought-after Brie has gone from California-based high-end restaurants to multiple independent grocers nationwide and online retailers.
This company is well-known for its vegan meats and strong cheese game. They’ve been featured on the hit Food Network show “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.”
Their creation of a medley of “cheese-free cheeses” includes Brie. In addition to nationwide shipments, they distribute their delicious cheeses to food stores from California to New York.
Check online to find the nearest store to you. Alternatively, you can drop by their deli in the Minneapolis area.
How to Find Out if Cheese Contains Vegetarian Rennet
The Food and Drug Administration does not expect cheesemakers to state the type of rennet they’ve used.
On the other hand, rennet from animal chymosin or rennet is typically called “traditional rennet” on cheese labels.
If the cheesemaker has gone the extra mile to procure plant-based rennet, they’ll likely advertise it on their cheese labeling.
Plant-based rennet is typically described as “thistle rennet,” “vegetarian rennet,” or “plant rennet.”
To be safe, consider buying your cheese from a reputable cheesemonger.
They should be experienced in advising you on the Brie not made from animal chymosin or rennet.
Brie is a soft-ripened French cheese. Its delectable smooth and creamy melt-in-your-mouth texture makes it a delicacy among cheese lovers.
Today, we’ve found that the good news is Brie can be made as a non-vegetarian and vegetarian cheese.
Unfortunately, traditional Brie uses animal-based rennet, making it unsuitable for vegetarians.
The genetically engineered version of rennet, microbial rennet, is where new chymosin enzymes are essentially grown and purified.
But using this type of rennet can produce an unpleasant flavor and is rare.
However, there is a plant-based brie where the rennet is taken from cardoon thistle, nettles, or artichokes.
This version is becoming quite popular as vegetarian food alternatives become more widespread.