Mozzarella vs. Parmesan: Can You Use Mozzarella Instead of Parmesan Cheese?

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Your recipe calls for Parmesan cheese, but you just discovered you don’t seem to have any left in your kitchen. Can you substitute mozzarella for Parmesan? The answer isn’t straightforward! So, let’s dive into the distinct characteristics of these two popular cheeses and explore how to effectively use mozzarella in place of Parmesan when needed – if you can even do so, that is. Let’s begin!

Mozzarella Vs. Parmesan: Can You Use Mozzarella Instead Of Parmesan Cheese?

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Can I Substitute Mozzarella For Parmesan?

Yes, you can replace parmesan cheese with mozzarella cheese in most instances. But the thing you should know is the outcome won’t be the same.

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Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese are very different. Though the two are often associated with Italian cuisine, the two function very differently in recipes.

Gooey mozzarella cheese, melts into a delicious and stringy-like texture. The bite is chewy and thick, and the flavor profile is milky and mild.

Not so with parmesan cheese. This cheese is best shredded over top of dishes that have already been simmered, baked, or stewed. It is often added as a final touch, but occasionally, as an integral part of the entree’s flavoring. It has a salty and savory taste, one that is uniquely identifiable and specific to parmesan cheese.

Can You Swap Parmesan For Mozzarella?

Truth be told, this swap will be a bit more difficult.

Parmesan cheese is hard cheese produced from cow’s milk to deliver a salty and savory flavor. Because the cheese is firm and lacking moisture, it typically doesn’t provide the stretch, chew, and uniformity that mozzarella cheese offers. It melts differently and won’t often work well on items like pizza or in lasagna when used by itself as a substitution.

Is Parmesan and Mozzarella the Same?

Parm and mozzarella aren’t the same at all. And though you may use mozzarella cheese instead of parmesan in some instances, know that making this swap could mean losing the original essence of the dish you are preparing.

The Differences Between Mozzarella and Parmesan Cheese

When it comes to parmesan vs mozzarella, there really is no comparison.

The two cheeses are nothing alike, except for the fact that they are both light in color. The two offer a very different textures and the overall flavor profile of each is distinct and distinguishable. The following are the notable differences between the two cheeses.

FeatureParmesan CheeseMozzarella Cheese
FlavorNutty, saltyMild, milky, tangy
Melting PropertiesMelts, but has a propensity to burn; doesn’t melt like mozzarellaMelts smoothly, gooey, and stretchy
Common FormsAged, grated, shreddedFresh, shredded, or in a block
Use in CookingAdded as an afterthought to cooked foods; provides flavor without overpoweringSprinkled and melted over dishes like pizza and lasagna
Substitution NotesNot a great substitute for mozzarella on pizza; can be combined with mozzarellaDoesn’t offer the nutty and salty palate of Parmesan; often combined with Parmesan
MouthfeelDoesn’t have the chewy mouthfeel of mozzarellaChewy and stretchy when melted
Best ForEnhancing flavor in cooked dishes, topping for pasta and saladsMelting over dishes, providing a gooey texture
Mozzarella Vs. Parmesan: Can You Use Mozzarella Instead Of Parmesan Cheese?

Mozzarella vs Parmesan

While both parmesan and mozzarella are undeniably delicious, their unique qualities make them suited for different purposes in the kitchen.

Origins and Ingredients

Parmesan, also known as Parmigiano-Reggiano, hails from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. It’s made from unpasteurized cow’s milk and aged for a minimum of 12 months, resulting in a hard, granular texture.

On the other hand, mozzarella is traditionally made from the milk of Italian water buffalos, although cow’s milk is more commonly used today. This soft, fresh cheese originated in the Campania region and is known for its smooth, elastic texture.

Flavor Profile

When it comes to taste, parmesan and mozzarella are worlds apart.

Parmesan boasts a sharp, nutty, and slightly fruity flavor that intensifies with age. Its complex taste adds depth to many dishes, making it a popular choice for grating over pastas, soups, and salads.

In contrast, mozzarella has a delicate, milky flavor with a hint of tanginess. Its mild taste allows it to complement other ingredients without overpowering them, making it an ideal choice for pizza, caprese salads, and sandwiches.

Texture and Melting Properties

The texture differences between parmesan and mozzarella are just as striking as their flavor profiles. Parmesan’s hard, granular texture makes it perfect for grating or shaving over dishes, adding a satisfying crunch and burst of flavor. When exposed to heat, parmesan melts but tends to become crispy and golden rather than stretchy.

Mozzarella, on the other hand, is renowned for its soft, elastic texture and excellent melting properties. When heated, mozzarella becomes gooey and stringy, making it the go-to cheese for pizza and other melted cheese applications.


Given their distinct characteristics, parmesan and mozzarella shine in different culinary contexts. Parmesan is a versatile finishing cheese, adding a pop of flavor to countless dishes. It’s a staple in Italian cuisine, elevating the flavor of risottos, pasta dishes, and even breading for chicken or eggplant parmesan. Mozzarella, meanwhile, is a star ingredient in its own right. Its melting properties make it essential for classic pizza, while its soft texture is perfect for salads, sandwiches, and appetizers like caprese skewers.

Mozzarella Vs. Parmesan: Can You Use Mozzarella Instead Of Parmesan Cheese?

Can You Use Mozzarella Instead of Parmesan in…

Now that you know that mozzarella can be substituted for parmesan in some cases, you may still have questions about its practical use when cooking.

Check out the following common dishes and how they fare when swapping mozzarella for parmesan.

DishCan You Substitute?Notes
Pasta SauceYes, with caveatsAdds a milkier, gooey texture; makes the sauce thicker and stringy; may affect flavor.
PestoYes, but not recommendedResults in a milder taste; lacks the distinctive flavor of Parmesan.
Alfredo SauceYes, but not idealLeads to a stringier consistency; milder taste; affects the signature flavor profile of Alfredo.
PizzaNoParmesan has a stronger flavor, won’t melt like mozzarella, and may become overly oily and crispy. Use mozzarella for better results.
CarbonaraNoResults in a blander, milkier taste; softer and stringier appearance; affects the signature bold flavor of carbonara.

When to Substitute

While mozzarella can’t perfectly replicate the flavor and texture of parmesan, it can be a suitable substitute in certain cooking scenarios.

Texture Isn’t a Priority

In dishes where the texture of the cheese isn’t a crucial factor, mozzarella can be a decent replacement for parmesan. For example, if you’re making a creamy pasta sauce or a cheesy casserole, the melted texture of mozzarella can work well in place of parmesan. Just keep in mind that the flavor profile will be milder and less complex than if you had used parmesan.

Combining with Other Cheeses

Looking to capture some of the nutty, salty notes of parmesan but don’t have any on hand? Try combining mozzarella with other cheeses. Mixing shredded mozzarella with a bit of romano or asiago can help mimic the flavor profile of parmesan. This trick works well for topping pizzas, gratins, or baked pasta dishes where you want a melty, gooey texture with a hint of parmesan-like flavor.

Boosting Flavor with Seasonings

You can compensate for the milder flavor by adding extra seasonings to your dish. A sprinkle of garlic powder, dried basil, or Italian seasoning can help elevate the overall taste and make up for the lack of parmesan’s signature bite. This tip is especially useful when using mozzarella as a topping for breadsticks, garlic bread, or roasted vegetables.

Melted Applications

Mozzarella truly shines in melted applications, so if your recipe calls for melted parmesan, such as in a baked pasta dish or a stuffed mushroom appetizer, mozzarella can be a suitable replacement. Just be aware that the final dish may be slightly stringier and less crispy than if you had used parmesan.

Mozzarella Vs. Parmesan: Can You Use Mozzarella Instead Of Parmesan Cheese?

Tips for Best Results

You can successfully use mozzarella as a parmesan substitute in a variety of dishes. Just remember, the key is to embrace mozzarella’s unique characteristics and adapt your cooking methods accordingly.

Grating or Shredding Mozzarella

One of the key techniques for using mozzarella effectively is to grate or shred it before adding it to your dish. This helps the cheese melt more evenly and blend seamlessly with the other ingredients. If you’re using fresh mozzarella, pop it in the freezer for 15-20 minutes before grating to make the process easier and less messy.

Combining with Other Cheeses

As mentioned earlier, mixing mozzarella with other cheeses can help capture some of the flavor notes of parmesan. When using this technique, be sure to choose cheeses that complement each other well. For example, try combining mozzarella with a bit of romano or asiago for a sharper, nuttier flavor profile that mimics parmesan.

Take Note of Cooking Time and Temperature

Mozzarella has a lower melting point than parmesan, so it’s important to adjust your cooking time and temperature accordingly. When using mozzarella as a topping, add it during the last few minutes of cooking to prevent it from burning or becoming too crispy. If you’re incorporating mozzarella into a sauce or filling, keep the heat low to medium to ensure a smooth, creamy texture.

Balancing Moisture Content

Mozzarella has a higher moisture content than parmesan, which can affect the texture of your dish. To avoid a watery or soggy result, be sure to drain any excess liquid from fresh mozzarella before using it. If you’re making a sauce or soup, you may need to simmer it a bit longer to allow the excess moisture to evaporate and achieve the desired consistency.

Experimenting with Different Types of Mozzarella

Not all mozzarella is created equal! When using mozzarella as a parmesan substitute, experiment with different types to find the one that works best for your dish. Fresh mozzarella has a softer, more delicate texture, while low-moisture mozzarella is firmer and has a more pronounced flavor. Smoked mozzarella can add a unique depth of flavor to certain recipes, while buffalo mozzarella offers a richer, creamier taste.

Pairing with Complementary Ingredients

To make the most of mozzarella’s flavor and texture, pair it with ingredients that complement its qualities. Mozzarella works beautifully with fresh tomatoes, basil, and olive oil, making it a perfect choice for Caprese salads or Margherita pizzas. It also pairs well with grilled or roasted vegetables, as well as cured meats like prosciutto or salami.

Adjusting Quantities

When substituting mozzarella for parmesan, you may need to adjust the quantities used. Parmesan has a stronger, more concentrated flavor than mozzarella, so you might need to use a bit more mozzarella to achieve a similar level of cheesiness in your dish. As a general rule, start with a 1:1 replacement and adjust according to your taste preferences.

What Can I Use If I Don’t Have Parmesan Cheese?

If you don’t have shredded parmesan cheese on hand, don’t assume that you have to use shredded mozzarella cheese in its place. There are other options you can use as a good substitute instead.

These include:

You can also try this vegan parmesan recipe:

Can You Use Mozzarella Instead of Parmesan Cheese? You Could But…

Mozzarella can be a good replacement for parmesan cheese if you must, but really, the two cheeses are very different.

They not only have a different texture but they also offer radically different flavors. As such, it is best to stick with cheeses whose flavor profiles more closely resemble that of parmesan, rather than substitute parm with mozzarella.

Still, there are instances when you might like mozzarella better than parmesan–such as in spaghetti or other saucy dishes–but this often comes down to personal preference.


Is parmesan and mozzarella the same?

Parmesan is a hard cheese and mozzarella is a soft cheese. The two cheeses differ greatly in terms of flavor profile. Therefore the two are not the same.

What cheese is closest to parmesan?

Pecorino Romano is often said to be the closest in taste to parmesan cheese. 

Which cheese is similar to mozzarella?

Provolone, Gouda, and Monterey jack are all cheeses that come close to the taste of mozzarella. But remember, each cheese is very different and will offer its own distinct and unique palate.

Is mozzarella healthier than parmesan?

Depending on your health considerations, you may find one better than the other.
For example, mozzarella is going to have more cholesterol than parmesan, but both are high in saturated fat. Moreover, parmesan has a significantly higher amount of iron in the cheese than mozzarella. It also packs more thiamin and pantothenic acid, which can be good for maintaining energy levels and healthy skin.
Both are high in protein, calcium, calories, and as such, should be consumed in moderation.

By Anna

Anna Brooks, the voice behind, is a seasoned writer and editor with an insatiable love for food. While not a professional chef, her culinary adventures and unique insights have captivated readers for years. Anna believes in the transformative power of food, stating it "feeds the soul." Dive into her writings for a mix of inspiration, entertainment, and culinary wisdom. Author Pinterest Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Tumblr Reddit Quora

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