Vegan parmesan cheese is incredibly quick and easy to make. With just three ingredients it turns common vegan kitchen staples into a ready-to-use dairy substitute!
In my house we call this recipe “sprinkle cheese” because it’s the perfect topping for meals that could use a boost of cheesy and salty flavor!
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Is Parmesan Cheese Vegan?
Typical parmesan cheese is made from dairy and is not vegan. While true parmesan cheese is a very hard cheese sold in a wedge or block, many people use grated parmesan in recipes or as a topping for different meals. True parmesan tends to be expensive, so people tend to be more familiar with the finely ground parmesan.
This recipe for vegan parmesan is meant to replicate finely ground parmesan that’s perfect for sprinkling! It has a rich, cheesy and salty flavor that nicely resembles the less expensive parmesan that I (and many others) grew up with.
Vegan Parmesan Cheese Ingredients
This plant-based parmesan recipe only requires three simple ingredients and uses cashews as a base!
- Cashews: These tasty nuts are high in fat content and quite soft, making them easy to grind in a food processor. They create a delicious crumbly texture and add a satisfying richness to the vegan parmesan. You could also use blanched almonds or, for a nut free option, sunflower seeds area great choice. Pretty much any type of nut or seed (or nut and seed combo!) can work. I find sunflower seeds the easiest (and least expensive) alternative to cashews.
- Nutritional yeast: As a staple ingredient in my vegan kitchen, this flaky and golden yellow seasoning is packed with flavor. It’s the easiest way to make vegan foods taste cheesy! I use nutritional yeast in all my cheese substitutes or whenever recipes could use a boost of flavor.
- Salt: Dairy-based cheese is salty. One of the biggest mistakes when making vegan cheese substitutes is not using enough salt; you’ll end up with something bland that just isn’t convincing as a non-dairy parmesan alterative.
How to Make Plant-based Parmesan
This recipe is incredibly easy to make but you’ll need a food processor or small, single-portion blender. I find a food processor creates the best, most even texture.
If you don’t have a blender or food processor, this could work with almond flour which is just finely ground almonds. The final texture of your parmesan will be very fine, but it also requires no effort. Use about ¾ cup of almond flour, not a full cup, if you go this route.
Step 1: Blend Ingredients
Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until the cashews are finely ground. It’s best to scrape along the bottom of your food processor and around the blade a couple times between the pulses.
Keep in mind that cashews can quickly turn into cashew butter if they’re over-blended. It’s better to have larger pieces than to blend too much and create a clumpy mixture.
If using a single-portion blender, you’ll need to pulse and then shake the blender in between pulses for the best results. Again, don’t over-blend!
Step 2: Serve
This delicious golden cheese powder is ready to sprinkle on anything you like! Some of my favorite recipes for adding vegan parmesan cheese to include:
- Hummus pasta
- Vegan Caesar salad
- Summer vegetable tian
- Vegan hamburger helper
- Pumpkin and leek risotto
- Tofu parmesan (a vegan “chicken” parm!)
How to Create a Balanced Vegan Meal
This parmesan recipe is meant to be added as a topping for meals. Its primary purpose is adding flavor to whatever you eat!
Cashews and nutritional yeast provide some nutrition, including plant-based protein and healthy fats. However, you’ll likely use a small enough amount that it won’t add too much protein or fats to the overall meal.
For a balanced meal you’ll still want to look to include a good source of plant-based protein, carbohydrates, fats and vegetables!
Dairy Free Parmesan Variations
As noted above, this recipe can be made with any nuts, seeds or combo of nuts and seeds you like!
Sunflower seeds are, in my opinion, the best alternative to cashews especially if you need a nut-free option! I've gone ahead to make this sunflower seed parmesan as its own recipe and it's so good!
Almonds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds or walnuts are also tasty choices.
Keep in mind that the nut or seed flavor will still be prominent once blended with other ingredients. Sunflower seeds, blanched almonds or hemp seeds are the most neutral tasting choices.
How to Refrigerate Leftovers
Store extra parmesan in the fridge, ideally in an airtight container. Honestly, I don’t use an airtight container; instead, we store our parmesan in a shaker container that has holes in the top. This makes it so quick and easy to grab and sprinkle whenever we want some parmesan.
This is a recipe I always keep on hand, and I’m not over exaggerating. There’s some in my fridge right now and we’ll make a new batch as soon as it’s gone.
It’s hard to say how long this recipe will last in the fridge as I’ve never had a batch go bad. It should last a very long time (many weeks to a few months) simply because all ingredients are all shelf stable.
Grinding the cashews will shorten their shelf life but storing it in the fridge extends that time. Always use caution if you aren’t sure if something has gone bad or not and when in doubt, throw it out.
If you make this recipe, please rate and comment below to help others benefit from your experience!
Vegan Parmesan Cheese (Dairy Free)
Step 1: Blend Ingredients
- Add all ingredients to a small blender or food processor.1 cup cashews, ¼ cup nutritional yeast, 2 teaspoon salt
- Pulse the ingredients together until your cashews are finely ground.
- Do not over-blend the cashews as they will begin to turn into cashew butter and the parmesan won’t sprinkle well. Keep the contents moving and scrape around the blade between pulses.
Step 2: Serve
- Transfer the mixture to a shaker container or jar for storage.
- Serve this easy and delicious vegan parmesan cheese over any meal that could use a boost of delicious cheesy flavor!
More Vegan Cheese Recipes
Like this recipe? You should also try:
About Nicole Stevens
Nicole is a vegan Registered Dietitian (RD) and founder of Lettuce Veg Out.
She helps people thrive on a vegan diet with balanced recipes and easy-to-understand nutrition science.