Ricotta is a fresh and creamy cheese used in both savory and sweet dishes.
If you follow a vegetarian diet, you might not be sure if there’s space in it for this Italian delight because of the rennet factor.
Because of this, is ricotta cheese vegetarian? The short answer is that Ricotta cheese is vegetarian. It’s among the soft cheeses that rarely use animal-based rennet in the cheese-making process.
However, you can always see if your cheese of choice is vegetarian by checking its label.
Keep reading to find out more.
Can Vegetarians Eat Ricotta Cheese?
Animal-based rennet is an enzyme obtained from the stomach lining of young ruminants, most frequently calves.
The enzyme serves as a thickening agent, turning the milk into curds.
When thickened, the milk is separated into curds and whey. The curds are solid, and most cheese varieties are made by pressing and forming them.
Whey is the liquid left behind when the curds are separated, and it makes the basis for ricotta cheese with a small number of curds.
Soft cheeses like ricotta are traditionally made from whey, so they practically never contain animal rennet, meaning they are vegetarian-friendly.
Can Ricotta Cheese Be Made Without Rennet?
Generally speaking, hard cheeses like cheddar, Emmental, and Pecorino Romano are made using animal-based rennet.
As ricotta cheese is considered a soft cheese variety, it’s most commonly made without animal-based rennet.
However, if you want to be 100% sure, check the product’s label when buying ricotta at a store.
You can also make homemade ricotta cheese without rennet. Most recipes are reasonably easy to follow and require few ingredients.
This usually includes milk and lemon juice as a natural coagulating agent. You can also make homemade ricotta cheese using whey.
Making your own ricotta might require more effort than fetching it from the store, but the fresh flavor makes it worthwhile.
What Brands of Ricotta Cheese Are Vegetarian?
Although animal rennet isn’t traditionally part of the ricotta-making process, you can never be too sure. When in doubt, check the product’s label.
The FDA doesn’t require cheese manufacturers to declare what type of rennet they use in a product.
As a result, cheeses containing animal-based rennet usually don’t make this clear on the packaging. If the label reads “traditional rennet” or “animal enzymes,” you’ll know for sure.
But some products only feature descriptions like “enzymes” or “rennet.” In this case, it’s safest to assume they are of animal origin, making the cheese in question not vegetarian-friendly.
On the other hand, ricotta can include rennet but still be vegetarian. This is made possible by plant-based rennet.
Typically, plant-based rennet comes from carbon thistle, artichokes, or nettles.
When a cheese manufacturer uses plant-based rennet, they’re likely to state it on the label. If its label says “non-animal enzymes,” “thistle rennet,” “plant rennet,” or “vegetable rennet,” the ricotta cheese is vegetarian.
Depending on the product, you can spot a few more labels or symbols that help you determine if the cheese is vegetarian:
- Look for “Cruelty-Free,” “Vegetarian,” “Vegan,” or “Animal Friendly” labels on the packaging.
- Check if “Microbial Rennet” is among the ingredients. Microbial rennet is an enzyme extracted from fungi, mold, or yeast, and it’s also vegetarian-friendly. However, it isn’t widely used, as cheese made from microbial rennet can develop a bitter taste over time.
- Kosher dairy products are all vegetarian. Consuming milk and meat products together is a prohibited food practice in Judaism, so kosher cheeses are made with no animal products. They are marked with “K” or “OU” symbols on the packaging.
- When in the U.K., look for the letter “V” on the packaging. This symbol signifies that the cheese in question is vegetarian, as it is required by law to label all vegetarian products.
Fortunately, finding vegetarian ricotta isn’t as challenging as finding vegetarian hard cheeses. Here are some brands to consider:
This brand offers an award-winning Ricotta Con Latte product made from the highest quality cow’s milk and whey.
It has a soft and creamy texture and a fresh and milky taste.
Add it to lasagna, calzone, or cheesecake to add richness, or pair it with berries and granola for a healthy breakfast.
Dragone ricotta cheese comes in two forms – part-skim and whole milk ricotta.
The former is an excellent choice for recipes that call for ricotta stuffing, while the latter acts as a fantastic cooking cheese.
Frigo is a manufacturer offering a wide selection of cheeses.
You can choose from three types of ricotta cheeses. If you’re using ricotta for cooking, choose the Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese.
When making a ricotta stuffing, go for the part-skim ricotta cheese or the light ricotta cheese, with 50% less fat.
Grande Cheese Company
Grande Ricotta is made from fresh whole milk and sweet whey. It’s available in four styles, designed to meet various culinary needs.
The first one, Prima Dolce, is reminiscent of the traditional hand-dipped Italian ricotta, and it features a creamy and smooth texture.
Sopraffina blends well with herbs and is ideal for cooking and baking.
Tenera is best used for pies and spreads due to its smooth texture.
Finally, Del Pastaio is dense and perfect for pasta dishes.
Stella Ricotta Cheese is rich in flavor and soft and creamy in texture.
It’s best used for making cheesecake, stuffing cannoli, replacing mayonnaise, or thickening sauces.
It might be hard to swear off ricotta cheese with so many delicious dishes to prepare. However, even if you’re avoiding eating meat and its byproducts, you can enjoy cooking with ricotta.
Ricotta cheese without rennet is reasonably easy to find, considering its traditional production.
When in doubt, answering the “is ricotta cheese vegetarian” question is as easy as reading the label.
Now that you know what to look for, your search for the perfect vegetarian ricotta will soon end.