Even cheese lovers will fall for this 4-ingredient vegan Parmesan cheese. It's SO easy to make, and it's a tasty umami topping for pasta, salads, and more!
This vegan Parmesan cheese recipe is my new favorite condiment. It’s sharp, bright, savory, and rich, and as far as I can tell, it’s great on just about anything.
I’ve made vegan Parmesan in the past, but this time, I added one extra ingredient: lemon zest! Its bright flavor brought extra complexity to the savory, nutty mixture, and now, I can’t get enough of it. I keep a big jar on hand in the freezer, and I reach for it anytime a dish needs an extra punch of umami flavor. If you’re dairy-free, trying to incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet, or just out of Parmesan, you have to try this recipe!
Of course, this vegan Parmesan cheese can’t step in for actual cheese in every scenario. I wouldn’t substitute it for Parmesan when the cheese is essential for creating a creamy sauce, like in my fettuccine Alfredo. However, it’s a fantastic vegan alternative to dairy anytime you’d garnish something with grated or shaved Parmesan. Think salads, pastas, pizza, etc. Once you have it on hand, you’ll sprinkle it over everything!
Vegan Parmesan Cheese Recipe Ingredients
My vegan Parmesan cheese recipe calls for four simple ingredients:
- Cashews – They add richness and texture to this dairy-free cheese. For the best results, use raw cashews here. Like in my cashew cream, their neutral flavor is ideal for this recipe. (Roasted cashews will give it a strong cashew-y taste.) If you’re nut-free, substitute a mix of raw sunflower seeds and hemp seeds for the cashews.
- Nutritional yeast – The key ingredient for adding cheesy flavor to vegan recipes! Like in my vegan cheese sauce, it makes this recipe super savory, nutty, and delicious.
- Lemon zest – It adds the perfect bright counterpoint to the other rich, savory flavors here.
- Sea salt – This recipe is best when you salt to taste, so make sure that you don’t use salted cashews. Made with unsalted cashews, it needs about 1/2 teaspoon salt to make all the flavors pop.
Pulse the ingredients in a small food processor until they form a coarse meal with a soft, crumbly texture. Be careful not to process the vegan Parmesan cheese for too long, or the mixture will turn into cashew butter!
If your food processor is too large to make a single batch, feel free to double the recipe. Store any leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days, or freeze them in an airtight container for up to a month.
There’s no need to thaw frozen vegan Parmesan cheese before you use it. Because of its fine texture, it thaws in a snap, so sprinkle it directly onto whatever you’re eating!
What to Do with Vegan Parmesan Cheese
This simple vegan Parmesan cheese is a yummy umami topping for all sorts of recipes. Here are just a few of my favorite ways to use it:
- Sprinkle it over any pasta recipe, like my spaghetti Bolognese, pesto pasta, or creamy pasta pomodoro.
- Top it onto vegan pizza.
- Add it to avocado toast.
- Toss it with roasted vegetables like butternut squash, broccoli, or tomatoes.
- Add it to any salad. It would be delicious in place of the regular Parmesan in my Caesar salad!
How do you like to use vegan Parm? Let me know in the comments!
More Plant-Based Cooking Components
If you love this recipe, try making one of these vegan cooking components next:
- Sriracha Baked Tofu
- Marinated Tempeh
- Homemade Oat Milk
- Vegan Bacon
- Lentils (Any variety!)
- Cauliflower Rice
Vegan Parmesan Cheese
- ½ cup raw cashews*
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- Place the cashews, nutritional yeast, salt, and lemon zest in a small food processor. Pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal and has a soft, crumbly texture.
- Store in the fridge for up to 5 days, freeze after that.
What would be a good replacement for nutritional yeast?
Hi, nutritional yeast is essential for adding the “cheesy” flavor to this recipe. I don’t recommend subbing it out!
delicious! my kids like it better that the real thing!
What is the serving size for calories, fat, salts, etc?
Delicious and nutritious… Thank you for sharing!!
This is a wonderful alternative to Parmesan. It was great in your sautéed yellow squash recipe. Yum!
This recipe sounds absolutely delicious. I love how the majority of your recipes are super healthy and nutritional even if it’s pasta! I can’t wait to try it out at home.
Jeanine thanks so much. Trader Joe’s nutritional yeast makes all the difference in this recipe for me. (Will try the Whole Foods brand next). It doesn’t have that strong fish food smell. My recipe turned out great. Enjoying the vegan parm. Thanks for your help.
Oh yay! I’m so happy to hear!
Nice blog to follow while preparing recipes.
Thank you so much for sharing with us.
Pleasure to go through such wonderful work!!
wow, didn;t think this was possible! thank you, even when using it as a garnish, helps for the final step in my zucchini pasta a la carbonara
What brand of nutritional yeast do you use? I love it other people’s recipes but my attempts to use it have been awful. Wondering if it’s the brand I used.
Hi Debbie, I have the Trader Joe’s brand right now, I often get the kind from the bulk bins at Whole Foods (I’m not sure what brand it is). They both taste the same to me. I think it’s possible it could taste stale if it’s been in the pantry for too too long. Let me know if you give this one a go!