Pecorino Cheese Substitute – Top 3 Cheeses To Use

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Find you’re out of pecorino cheese, with no likely substitutes in sight? Not to fret! In this article, we’re going to go through everything there is to know about Pecorino Romano. From the best substitutes to what works in a pinch, I’ll be exploring all the different alternatives for pecorino – including vegan ones! First though, it’s time for Pecorino Romano 101.

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The Basics Of Pecorino

Pecorino – full name, Pecorino Romano – is a hard sheep’s milk cheese. Originating from Italy, this cheese is often use for grating over finished dishes. It has a very distinct salty, sharp flavor – some even find it to be a little gamey!

Now that you have some context, lets look into some commonly asked questions about pecorino.

Is Romano The Same As Pecorino?

Ah, yes. Time to discuss PDO laws again!

Much like parmesan and Parmigiano-Reggiano, the difference between Pecorino Romano and Romano is it’s ’copyright’. To put it very simply, Pecorino Romano is a trademarked version of Romano. And trademarks always tend to bring about some pretty strict rules.

All Pecorino Romano must be made in Sardinia using traditional techniques. The name of the cheese, date of production, and seal of approval are all embossed into the cheese rind – at least on a genuine piece of Pecorino Romano. Romano, on the other hand, is just a generic, less-regulated version of Pecorino. It can be made outside of Italy with cow’s milk, as long as it follows some other rules.

Pecorino Cheese vs Parmesan

Pecorino Romano and Romano alike have a stronger flavor profile than parmesan and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The sheep’s milk gives the cheese a gamey flavor that’s absent from milder cow’s milk cheeses. Pecorino is also saltier, and more piquant than parmesan.

This is why parmesan and Parmigiano are more often used for cooking, whereas Pecorino and Romano are generally reserved for grating over dishes.

The Best 3 Pecorino Substitutes

While some cheeses can be challenging to substitute (like cottage cheese or halloumi) due to their texture, Pecorino isn’t so difficult. As long as you have some hard cheeses to hand, you should be okay.

So with that said, lets get into the best hard-cheese pecorino substitutes!

1) Parmigiano-Reggiano

Parmigiano-Reggiano

Parmesan and pecorino are probably the best substitutes you could find for each other, save for using the generic Romano or parmesan. This is because they have the same hard texture and similar melting points – and they’re often used in the same recipes.

How To Substitute Parmesan For Pecorino Cheese

If you’d like to substitute pecorino for parmesan, add a little salt to it. You can also add some sharper cheese to deepen the flavors.

Looking to substitute parmesan for pecorino? Just do the opposite! ’Water’ down your cheese a little by replacing a third of the pecorino with some mild cheddar.

If you’re making a sauce, consider mixing pecorino with mascarpone. In any case, just be sure to melt your pecorino first, as it has a very high melting point that would scorch most other cheeses. Piave can also be used.

2) Asiago Cheese

asiago cheese

Asiago cheese makes a near perfect pecorino substitute – so long as it’s well-aged. It has that perfect hard and crumbly texture while matching all the salt and tang of the Romano. I might’ve even put this cheese before Parmigiano, if parmag weren’t so often used in the same dishes!

3) Spanish Manchego As A Pecorino Cheese Substitute

Spanish Manchego is a great cheese to use if you’d like you’re a fan of Pecorino’s tanginess. Made from sheep’s milk, this semi-hard cheese has a gamey, salty tang to it that tastes very similar to pecorino. The only difference is that Manchego is slightly sweeter than pecorino, so you might need to add some salt to cancel it out.

When purchasing to substitute for Pecorino Romano, look for well-aged Manchego – it might be under the name of ‘Manchego viejo’. Your best bet is Manchego that has been aged for at least a year. Then, just follow your recipe and add it in place of pecorino!

If none of the cheeses listed here are available to you, check out the next section on which alternative cheeses are best.

What Is A Good Substitute For Pecorino Cheese? Best To Worst

  1. Can you substitute ricotta salata for Pecorino Romano cheese?
    • Also made from sheep’s milk, ricotta salata is another solid choice for a pecorino substitute! It is a little different in texture, but much better than you’re going to get from other cheeses. It’s a little crumblier than pecorino, but has the perfect, matching salty punch and gamey flavor to it. This is the perfect cheese to use instead of pecorino for grating over a dish.
  2. Pecorino cheese substitute sharp cheddar
    • A dry, aged, sharp cheddar is suitable to substitute pecorino. It won’t taste exactly the same, but not much can be done about that if you don’t have anything else. Make sure to use a block instead of pre-grated, and use the finest side of your grater to get very small shreds. If you have any on hand, its worth mixing it with some better Pecorino alternatives.
  3. Pecorino cheese substitute cheddar
    • The same goes for a mild cheddar – it won’t have the same texture, flavor, or melting point, but it can be used if you don’t have anything else. Try adding a little of a sharper cheese to your cheddar, or some salt and the tiniest touch of chili flakes.
  4. Fontina cheese substitute pecorino
    • Fontina is just a straight up BAD substitute for pecorino. It’s a soft cheese with more similarities to mozzarella than Romano! These cheeses have completely different properties, making them unsuitable for substitution. If you’d like to substitute fontina with another cheese, Gruyère, provolone, Gouda, and Emmental are your best bets.
  5. Pecorino cheese substitute mozzarella
    • Mozzarella could be described as the perfect anti-Pecorino. Soft, stretchy, mild and meltable, this buffalo’s milk cheese is unlike Romano in every possible way. Again, you’re better off going to the store and seeing what else you can find. If you’re worried about substituting mozzarella for another cheese however, burrata and queso Oaxaca work best.
pecorino wheels

Pecorino And Pasta

Pecorino Cheese Substitute In Carbonara

Most Romans use Pecorino Romano to make carbonara pasta, though other regions of Italy may use Parmigiano. In fact, Parmigiano-Reggiano is often used in a 50/50 mixture for carbonara, so it won’t be too large of a distance to bridge by using using all Parmigiano instead of pecorino. You could also use Grana Padano if that’s more convenient, as its better than using parmesan but still closely resembles Parmigiano. Aged asiago is also an excellent substitute. However, all of these cheeses will leave your carbonara with a milder flavor, so be sure to at least add some salt to your dish.

This video by chef Antonio Carluccio demonstrates how to make a traditional carbonara Parmigiano-Reggiano instead of Pecorino Romano. This excellent recipe is easy to make, beginner-friendly, and frighteningly quick!

Pecorino Cheese Substitute In Pesto

The rules for cheeses in pesto are not hard and fast – pecorino is sometimes used, but more often its parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano. The only important guideline to follow is that pestos require hard, salty, and well-aged cheeses. That’s why most grana cheeses are interchangeable in a pesto recipe!

If you’re looking for a vegan pecorino alternative for pesto, a company called Daiya makes good vegan cheese. Some have suggested mixing their parmesan and mozzarella together to get the right consistency, then adding some porcini powder to bring it all together. For further information on vegan alternatives, check out the ’dietary restrictions’ section.

Having trouble pairing your pesto with a pasta? Take a look at the different pasta varieties and their uses to determine what works best for your dish! And if you decide to use spaghetti for your pesto, take care to keep the pasta from sticking whilst cooking.

Pecorino And Dietary Restrictions

Vegan pecorino cheese substitutes

Vegetarian Substitute For Pecorino Cheese

Wait but, arent all cheeses vegetarian? Sadly… no. At least not in the case of most Pecorino Romano. But, you’ll be glad to hear that there are plenty of other options! I found this website that lists veggie-friendly cheese brands, and found out that Tesco’s Pecorino Romano is also vegetarian.

Dairy-Free Pecorino Romano

While not being necessarily dairy-free, parmesan has an almost negligible amount of lactose. If you’re avoiding pecorino because of lactose intolerance, parmesan and Parmigiano could be an excellent alternative for you – as long as your condition is not extremely sensitive. If you’d prefer to play it safe, it’s best to stick to a vegan substitute.

Gluten-Free And Vegan Substitute For Pecorino Cheese

A good vegan substitute for pecorino is a little harder to find, but many have suggested making your own cashew-parmesan as an alternative. And if you don’t want the hassle of making your own, Violife’s ‘prosociano’ parmesan wedge received high praise for use as not only a pecorino replacement, but as a replacement for all grana cheeses. And for all the celiacs out there, you’ll be glad to know that it’s gluten-free!

Pecorino Romano substitutes at a market in Italy

Substituting Pecorino – What To Remember

Overall, Pecorino Romano isn’t a difficult cheese to substitute. There are some differences that you might encounter, but they can all be either easily fixed or overlooked. In my opinion, the best pecorino substitute is Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago, depending on what dish you’re making. If you don’t have that to hand, consider using manchego or ricotta salata! And if you’re avoiding cheese for dietary reasons, bot Daiya and Violife make great dairy and gluten-free alternatives. So, with that all said, good luck with your next dish!

By Anna

Hey, I’m Anna; writer, editor and amateur cook extraordinaire! Food has been my life and my passion for the most of my life – it’s crazy to think I didn’t pursue a career in cooking. I’m obsessed! However, keeping cooking as an obsessive hobby has worked for me – my passion grows as the years pass by – maybe I wouldn’t say the same if it was also my day job! I hope you find cooking inspiration, entertainment and “stop and think interesting tid-bits” throughout my writing – and I’d love to hear from you if you’ve got anything you want to share. Food feeds the soul – so get eating!

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