The intense tangy flavor and soft texture make goat cheese one of the most popular varieties of cheese.
However, if you’re following a vegetarian diet, you might not be sure whether you’re allowed to eat it or not.
So, is goat cheese vegetarian? Unfortunately, no, some varieties of goat cheese are made with animal rennet which inherently makes them non-vegetarian.
However, the good news is that many companies are switching to plant-based rennet, making their products vegetarian-friendly.
Keep reading to find out more.
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Can Vegetarians Eat Goat Cheese?
If you’re new to vegetarianism, you might not know that most cheese varieties aren’t vegetarian-friendly as they contain an animal byproduct known as rennet.
Animal-based rennet is an essential part of the traditional cheese-making process.
It combines enzymes in the stomach lining of a ruminating calf, ewe, or kid. The enzymes are called chymosin and pepsin, and their purpose is to thicken the milk into curds.
However, not all cheese is made the same way. Plant-based rennet makes it possible for some varieties of cheese to be safe for vegetarian consumption.
Typically, plant-based rennet comes from carbon thistle, artichokes, or nettles. A thickening enzyme similar to chymosin is extracted from these plants by soaking them in water.
Therefore, the crucial part of looking for a vegetarian option is to find goat cheese without rennet, or more specifically, goat cheese made from plant-based rennet.
Traditionally, French goat cheese manufacturers almost exclusively used animal rennet.
On the other hand, British goat cheese and modern varieties use vegetarian rennet.
Therefore, the quickest and safest way to know if your desired goat cheese is vegetarian is to check the label.
Can Goat Cheese Be Made Without Rennet?
As a general rule of thumb, hard cheeses are made with rennet, while soft cheeses are not.
Soft goat cheese may be the most widely used variety, but goat’s milk can also be used in many hard cheeses. For that reason, the best approach is to judge it on a case-by-case basis.
If you’re looking for convenience, you can purchase vegetarian goat cheese from your local supermarket. However, you can also make goat cheese without rennet at home.
Most homemade goat cheese recipes are reasonably easy to make and require few ingredients.
They’re usually made from various nuts like cashews or a nut combination.
Additionally, they’re vegan-friendly.
Note that the nuts should always be soaked in water before blending them. This makes for an easier blend and a softer and lighter texture of the final product.
What Brands of Goat Cheese Are Vegetarian?
The FDA doesn’t require cheese manufacturers to state what type of rennet they’re using in a product.
However, if a manufacturer goes through the extra steps of using plant-based rennet, they’re likely to specify it on the product.
Check the label for “non-animal enzymes,” “thistle rennet,” “plant rennet,” or “vegetable rennet” signs to be sure your goat cheese of choice is vegetarian.
In comparison, cheeses with animal-based rennet can often have vague labels.
For example, they may read “traditional rennet” or “animal enzymes,” which always refer to the animal-based rennet.
If the label states “enzymes” or “rennet,” with no other indication on the packaging, you can safely conclude that cheese was made using animal rennet.
Additionally, there are a few more ways to ensure your chosen goat cheese is vegetarian:
- Some products include “Cruelty-Free,” “Vegetarian,” “Vegan,” or “Animal Friendly” labels on the packaging.
- Check for “Microbial Rennet” among the ingredients. Microbial rennet is produced from fungi, mold, or yeast. This type of rennet is also vegetarian-friendly. Note that the microbial rennet makes the cheese taste more bitter, with the bitterness intensifying the longer the cheese is aged.
- Kosher dairy products are all vegetarian. When in doubt, look for the “OU” symbol on the packaging. This indicates that the product doesn’t contain dairy or dairy derivatives.
- The UK requires vegetarian cheeses to be labeled as such. Therefore, these products will be marked with “V” on the packaging.
As more people turn to vegetarianism, the food industry makes finding a good variety of vegetarian products increasingly easier.
Here are some brands and products to consider when looking for vegetarian goat cheese:
Laura Chenel offers a wide selection of goat milk products. They’re all made with local, fresh milk and use only vegetarian-approved rennet.
If you need the goat cheese for spreads and dips, you should go for the Fresh Goat Cheese, available in five varieties.
Top your salads with the Original Log and replace cream cheese with the Spreadable Goat Cheese. Or, try one of their six Flavored Logs to add a twist to the original flavor.
Finally, pick one of the three available flavors of their Marinated Goat Cheese for a flavor boost.
365 by Whole Foods Market
This brand offers several goat cheese alternatives in its assortment.
Depending on your needs, you can opt for Mild Goat Cheese Slices, Goat Cheese Log, or Shredded Goat Cheese. All the products are made with microbial enzymes.
If you’re looking for cheddar-type goat cheese, check out Alta Dena. Their dairy offer includes Goat Milk Cheese made with microbial enzymes.
The product is aged over 60 days and consists of no added colors or preservatives.
Spero Foods produces The Goat Creamy Cheese that tastes like the real deal.
This goat cheese alternative is made from organic sunflower seeds and contains no nuts, soy, or preservatives.
It can be served on crackers and toast, in sandwiches and pasta, or as a salad topper.
Grounded offers Hemp Seed Goat Cheese in its assortment, a great alternative if you’d like to avoid enzymes altogether.
This product is made from hemp seeds and marinated in garlic, lemon, and thyme.
It has a semi-firm and silky texture, and it’s a perfect addition to pasta dishes, salads, or pizzas.
If you’re in the mood for semi-soft goat cheese, consider Coach Farm.
Their Triple Cream Goat Cheese is a decadent treat with a smooth texture and a slightly tangy flavor.
Goat cheese is well-loved for its distinctive flavor and texture. So, it’s no wonder you don’t want to give it up when quitting meat and its byproducts.
Luckily, there are several excellent options for goat cheese without rennet or with vegetarian-approved rennet.
So now that you know what to look for, one glance at the label will quickly answer your “is goat cheese vegetarian” question.