Parmesan Cheese Types


When it comes to using parmesan cheese, you have a ton of different options to go with. You can use grated parmesan from a bottle, or shredded parmesan, or you can go with whole parmesan cheese. 

Ultimately, you can use whatever is convenient for you. However, for every situation, there’s always a better kind of parmesan, whether it’s a simple addition to a plate of spaghetti or a whole chunk of fresh parmesan.

What is the best parmesan cheese?

The best parmesan cheese is Parmigiano-Reggiano. It is highly regarded as the “King of Cheeses” due to its bold, nutty flavor and iconic application in many dishes. To be considered true Parmigiano-Reggiano, this cheese must be produced in a specific region out of central Italy.

In this guide, we will share with you the Parmesan Cheese Types from sliced to grated and everything in between.

Your Guide to the Best Parmesan Cheese

When you buy parmesan from the grocery store in either the sealed bags or a tall plastic container, did you know that you might not even really be buying real parmesan?

Not that it doesn’t do the trick, but these cheeses are not your typical, fresh parmesan in most instances and have probably been through processing to turn them into the product you are using.

This is specifically true of that finely grated parmesan sprinkle that many of us use for parmesan topping.

If you think this is the best parmesan you can get, you have been misled! Don’t get us wrong – this type of parmesan can certainly be useful but we feel it is important to also take note that it’s not the best parmesan! 

We’re going to dig into all of this here and share a few of our favorite products. What you will find is that fresh parmesan is best found at your local deli. 

About True Parmesan

True and fresh parmesan cheese is considered to be a hard or semi-hard cheese. If you’ve ever worked with aged cheddar, it’s just slightly more firm than that and it works really well as grated cheese.

When it comes to parmesan, there are several different types and flavors. Here are a few that you may or may not know already. 

  • Parmesan
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Parmesan Powder
  • Shredded Parmesan
  • Grana Padano
  • Pecorino Romano
  • Asiago

These are all different styles and types of parmesan or cheeses similar to parmesan. Let’s start by exploring these different types of parmesan cheese so you know the differences! 

1. Parmesan

The problem with the label parmesan is that the FDA leaves this category pretty broad.

It doesn’t even really have to come from the true parmesan family so you probably aren’t getting what you really think you are when you purchase it. 

The requirement for a cheese to be labeled as parmesan is simply that it comes from cow’s milk and has a hard, brittle rind as well as a texture that is granular.

In this instance, the origin of the cheese really has nothing to do with it so it doesn’t necessarily come from Italy, like true parmesan cheese. 

This is where you will see the distinction. Parmesan is an American copy of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, which is true parmesan.

Now, keep in mind that we are not saying that parmesan isn’t a good option and can’t be a good cheese. We simply want you to be informed. 

This is a suitable form of parmesan when you need something to satisfy your dish! 

2. Parmigiano-Reggiano 

If you’re looking for true parmesan cheese, you’ll want to look for this specific wording.

Where Parmesan is really just a created cheese that may or may not be authentic, Parmigiano-Reggiano truly is authentic.

This is the best parmesan cheese option you will find. We recommend picking it up from your local deli of choice when you need it. 

When you refer to parmesan, this is probably what you mean. If you’re looking for authentic parmesan, the wording can make all of the difference! 

This is truly an Italian cheese and it is one of the best Italian cheeses that you will find. To truly be categorized as Parmigiano-Reggiano, the cheese much be made in two distinct areas of Italy.

If it is sourced from any other location, it does not meet the requirements and therefore cannot be titled as Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Keep in mind that you can still purchase different varieties of Parmigiano-Reggiano as well as it can be aged differently prior to being distributed.

3. Grana Padano

Grana Padano is a cheese that is very similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano. This is a golden cheese that has a hard rind and is also made from cow’s milk as well.

The difference between Grana Padano and Parmigiano-Reggiano is that Grana Padano is not as limited to just two specific regions of Italy. 

On the same note, it is an authentic Italian cheese but the areas of production are much larger and it doesn’t have to be aged quite as long so you may find it aged for as little as 9 months.

This is the next best parmesan cheese option for you, though. 

Grana Padano is just a tad less sweet than Parmesan cheeses but it tends to be easier to find and doesn’t cost quite as much overall. 

While this is not exactly the same as Parmigiano-Reggiano, it is your next best option.

Since it is not as heavily regulated, it is more affordable and often times also much easier to find.

It comes from Northern Italy and is a good backup or replica for Parmesan when you need another option. This is the next best parmesan choice that we recommend. 

4. Shredded Parmesan

Pre-shredded parmesan is already grated when you buy it. Here we mean those bags or tubs of parmesan that were grated and processed before they made it to the store.

Be aware, these shreds are not from fresh parmesan and they are likely to be stringy or clumpy when you try to melt them

5. Pecorino Romano

Next up is another great parmesan option known as Pecorino Romano. This cheese is very similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano than the grated parmesan you purchase at most grocery stores. 

The texture, the aging process, and the rind itself is pretty similar in style to that of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Both of these also come from Italy so you are getting another authentic Italian cheese here. 

Pecorino Romano is actually sourced from sheep’s milk rather than cow’s milk so this is one major difference. For people sensitive to cow’s milk, this could be a major plus.

The aging process is much less than that of true parmesan, requiring only about 5-8 months of aging before distribution. 

In addition, Pecorino Romano is sourced from the Sardinia, Lazio, and Tuscan areas of Italy which are not the traditional Northern regions for sourcing true parmesan cheese. 

Where we really see similarities is in the flavor profile. Pecorino Romano has a tangy and salty profile that is just a tad bit tangier than Parmigiano-Reggiano.

It’s bold because of the sheep’s milk used in production. You will find the color is slightly different as well with white cheese and a dark rind. 

Pecorino Romano is easier to find and should be available at most local delis. Here is an online option if you prefer such. 

6. Parmesan Powder

Parmesan cheese powder is made from aged Parmesan cheese, which is grated & liquefied, then spray-dried.

Sprinkle Parmesan cheese powder onto pasta, popcorn, and steamed vegetables or stir into soups, casseroles, dips, and spreads.

To make spreadable cheese: Add 2 parts powder to 1 part water and a dash of garlic powder.

5. Asiago

Finally, Asiago cheese is another great parmesan option that is very similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano in a lot of ways. Both of these are sourced from cow’s milk in Italy and are even in similar regions as well. 

You will find that Asiago has a very similar flavor but it might be slightly more soft and creamy compared to the harder nature of Parmesan.

Asiago can make a good parmesan substitute and is a delicious and delicate option. The biggest difference is that asiago cheese is considered to be semi-soft where Parmigiano-Reggiano is considered semi-hard. 

The flavors are pretty similar apart from the overall texture and Asiago is not quite as heavily regulated in terms of DOP regulations. This makes it easier to get your hands on Asiago and it is fairly easy to get.  

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