Vegetarian Rennet… Making sure your cheese is 100% veggie-friendly

22 Jun

You have to give it to Whole Foods for always being progressive when it comes to catering to a vegetarian audience. Whole Foods is expensive, but they make up in their attention to the needs of their consumers.

I am cheese lover… I think if you’re an avid reader of this blog you might already knew that. Look at the Tag Cloud on your right…  And it’s a challenge for me when I am buying cheese to make sure the cheeses I buy are vegetarian. I read all the labels and make sure the cheeses I buy at home are free of animal-based rennet.

I remember once at Murray’s Cheese at Grand Central Market when I asked one of the attendants if they had any rennet-free cheeses and she politely, but surely said: “Without rennet, cheese can’t be made. All cheeses have rennet in them.”  The words stabbed me like a dagger in my heart… WHAT!?!? That ALL CHEESES HAVE RENNET???? Impossible!! We used regular cheeses at the yoga center and if those cheeses have rennet, why are we using them constantly???

The girl at Murray’s was not that far off reality… Because rennet is an enzyme used to coagulate milk into curds that are turned into cheese… and the animal-based rennet is derived from the stomachs of baby calves. Not nice… the thing is that there is animal-based rennet and vegetarian or microbial rennet. The difference is the latter 2 are the only ones suitable for a vegetarian diet.  Apparently, most commercial cheeses use enzymes or rennet derived from fungi or bacteria making them suitable for vegetarians.

Artisanal cheeses, clinging to tradition, usually use animal-based rennet. And what I love about Whole Foods is they now label their cheeses letting their customers know which cheeses are OK for vegetarian consumption. Check out the photos here of cheese labels stating if they have Vegetarian Rennet or Traditional Rennet.

Also, the Whole Foods 365 Brand also mentions in their packaging when their cheese is Vegetarian… Until know, the only brands I knew included in their labeling they do not use animal rennet were Cabot and Tillamook Cheese (although the do use animal rennet in 2 varieties only… always read the labels or their websites).

I believe with time, vegetarian food shopping will become easier and easier with the availability of products suitable for our lifestyle. I am sure this came about due to the amount of people asking the same question over and over again. “Does this cheese contain animal-rennet???”

BTW, can u tell I am into goat cheeses????

Now, as a vegetarian, I can shop for cheeses more at ease … and you can too!!!


15 Responses to “Vegetarian Rennet… Making sure your cheese is 100% veggie-friendly”

  1. violarulz/ducksandbooks June 29, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    some of Organic Valley’s cheeses (and all of their milks and creams) are veggie friendly too, and any cheese that’s Kosher (following Jewish dietary laws) would be vegitarian as well

    look for the letter U inside a small circle on the package, that’s the OU or Orthadox Union hecshure [stamp], there are LOTS of other kosher certification groups out there, but OU is the biggest.

    • Ruth Beane (@rufita) February 22, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

      You are not always safe with Kosher for all things. If it contains kosher gelatin, it can actually be pig derived gelatin–even in yogurt. I made a call to a yogurt company and they said the Rabbis make an exception for highly processed ingredients like gelatin. Arghhhh.

  2. Rachel Coward June 11, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    I also did a bit of research and found that many popular Sargento cheeses are vegetarian-friendly! Thank god. I don’t have a Trader Joes or a Whole Foods in my mid-Missouri college town, but we DO have Sargento options at normal grocery stores here. This is what Sargento has to say: “Most Sargento shredded and sliced cheeses and all of our refrigerated natural cheese snacks are made with non-animal rennets. The only Sargento natural cheeses that may contain animal enzymes are those that contain Romano, Asiago, or Jarlsberg cheeses. Those include: Artisan Blends Shredded Parmesan & Romano Cheese, Shredded 6 Cheese Italian Cheese, Shredded Reduced Fat 4 Cheese Italian Cheese, and Deli Style Sliced Jarlsberg Cheese. The cheese dip in our non-refrigerated MooTown Snacks, Cheese Dip & Cracker Sticks, Cheese Dip & Pretzel Sticks, and Cheese Dip & Crackers, is made with beef rennet.”

    • violeta August 21, 2012 at 6:54 pm #


  3. Jackie March 24, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    I find it bizarre that you are primarily concerned with the rennet in your cheese, and not the fact that it clearly contains dairy (which is a horrific form of cruelty and torture for the cows and calves (and goats) involved) The only way to truly have a karma free diet is to be Vegan. Plain and simple. I’m not judging, just supplying information, in a hope that it will impact change….

    • KarmaFree Cooking March 25, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

      Thank goodness you’re not judging!!!! Because you are indeed…

      • Jackie March 31, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

        If that’s how you feel… I’m just stating that it is inaccurate to claim to be karma free if you consume animal products from beings which still live a tortured existence (until their lives are cut brutally short), also it contributes significantly to environmental pollution. Yes, since you are not eating meat, it is still better than the majority of North America’s diet, but still not truly karma free. The definition of Ahimsa means to do no harm… AKA.. Violence free and vegan.

  4. Jackie March 31, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

    Hoping that you take my concerns into consideration.

    • Stuartzz April 4, 2013 at 4:54 am #

      It is fair point about conventional intensive milk production being rough on cows. Also rennet-like enzymes produced for cheese using fungi may or may not be nourished by meat-derived products, I think. The term is alimentation I think. I’m not an expert, or vegetarian, but it seems important to know these things if you don’t want to eat anything meat- derived.

  5. jojoonthego June 25, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    Omcheezy I’ve thought about this business of rennet before but never came around to doing a little research on it. I felt just as horrified after some reading, I can’t imagine having to throw out my extra sharp cheddar cheese. The bit in my fridge said vegetarian, lol I did a serious fist pump.

    • joyce Goodman January 2, 2021 at 9:59 pm #

      the Label may say “vegetarian” and still may have rennet derived from animals’ stomachs.. I don’t know how the companies get away with this, but I know, it’s true. The label has to say vegetarian enzymes or microbial enzymes for it to be truly vegetarian and not derived from dead animals’ stomachs.

  6. Dave December 15, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    I’m ashamed to say that I’m not a vegan. But for what it’s worth I admire the hell out of you people.

    • KarmaFree Cooking December 16, 2013 at 11:36 pm #

      no need to be ashamed… we are all on our own path. But maybe you should consider it a few times a week to start…

  7. smorss2011 October 13, 2014 at 4:15 pm #

    Beware Whole Foods 3-Cheese Blend is NOT veggie friendly.

  8. Miyamoto November 19, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    To respond to Jackie, most domesticated cows make heap loads of milk. I believe that what I read in several places and documents reviewed, that domesticated cows (if raised with love and care, truly organic perhaps) even after their young are done feeding from the mother, produce milk for another 7 years. When in a nuturing environment, nature gives back through milk.

    Don’t ask me I’m not nature ‘p
    But domesticated cows produce 60+L of milk a day. So what’s more of a service to the animal? Let it suffer this heavy weight for almost a decade? Or receive nature’s gift?

    This of course is different in the discordant environments of the “food” industry, where the contrary takes place; cows are stressed and won’t produce milk which is where hormones come into play.

    It should just simply be “we won’t eat the animal’s flesh, but we can receive what they give back.” That applies to more than just milk and such.

    So what would any of you choose? Tortured animal? Or Nurtured animal?
    Don’t help the animals at all because “veganism is the way”? I mean what’s a view going to do with over 60L a day of milk production? Not much.

    I know I just sounded arrogant with the veganism statement, but too many times it has shown to me to be very dogmatic and activist. I just don’t like the hate and flame between two lifestyles where one is more chill (vegetarianism) and one tries to be (veganism) and then I see all the rage coming from vegans. I have been through every lifestyle, from typical to raw vegan and just being in the middle for me (vegarianism- making up words lol) where i can be versatile is best for me, maybe not for others. It’s cool. ‘3

    This went on longer than i anticipated, and I hope no ones toes were stepped on. Let me know whatever Q’s you have please be cordial.

    Thank you. 🙂

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