Pecorino Cheese Substitutes: What Can You Use?

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There is nothing yummier than enjoying a delicious vegetable soup or pasta that’s topped with Pecorino cheese. But you’ve run out, and your taste buds are still screaming for that cheese topping that completes the dish. 

Do you have any Pecorino cheese substitutes in your pantry to satisfy your craving?  

Parmesan (or Parmigiano-Reggiano) is the best substitute if you don’t have Pecorino cheese because of its sharp, nutty taste. Other Pecorino alternatives include Grana Padano, Manchego, Asiago, Piave, Iberico, and Ossau Iraty cheese. If you are desperate, cheddar works in a pinch. Or opt for nutritional yeast (with cashews) if you want a dairy-free or vegan cheese option.    

Learn everything you need to know about why these alternatives work and how to use them in your recipe. 

What Is Pecorino Cheese?

Pecorino cheese is made in specific areas of Italy. 

The cheese had a Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) status in the European Union, meaning only Pecorino cheese that meets specific standards can be called Pecorino. 

Essentially, there are two types of Pecorino cheese: 

  1. Pecorino Romano that’s made in Grosseto, Sardinia, or Lazio. 
  2. Pecorino Sicilian that’s made in Sicily. 

Pecorino cheese, whether it’s Pecorino Romano or Pecorino Sicilian, is made from sheep’s milk. The cheese is straw white and quite salty with a sharp nutty taste.   

Because the cheese has a stronger aroma and flavor, it’s best used as a topping on salads, soups, or pasta dishes. You can also melt some on a sandwich for extra zing.  

10 Best Pecorino Substitutes

What if you don’t have any Pecorino cheese to help finish off your dish? Or maybe your local grocer is out of stock? 

Now what? 

There is a chance that you’ll have at least one of these Pecorino cheese alternatives in your pantry, and if not, you can quickly and easily get some at your grocery store or order it online. 

Here are the 10 best Pecorino substitutes you can use:   

1. Parmesan Cheese

Parmesan cheese is officially called Parmigiano-Reggiano. It’s made in the Parma province in Italy, and it is the best Pecorino cheese alternative because these two kinds of cheese are so similar. 

Parmesan is made from cow’s milk, but it has the same texture and a similar flavor. When you add Parmesan to your dish, you’ll taste that salty nuttiness that’s associated with Pecorino. 

However, Parmesan doesn’t have that same sharp flavor, so taste some of your Parmesan before you add it to your pasta, salad, or soup. 

You may need to add a pinch (or two) more salt to your dish to get the same Pecorino result.

In general, use Parmesan as a Pecorino substitute in a 1:1 ratio, so 1 tablespoon of Parmesan equals 1 tablespoon of Pecorino cheese.     

Pro Tip: Use an aged version of Parmesan for the best flavor.

2. Grana Padano Cheese

Another Italian cheese substitute for Pecorino is Grana Padano cheese. It’s quite similar to Parmesan cheese, which means that texturally and in terms of flavor, Grana Padano is similar to Pecorino. 

Grana Padano is made from cow’s milk, but it’s slightly sweeter so you may need to adjust the saltiness of your dish to match that original Pecorino cheese flavor. 

As a guideline, substitute 1 teaspoon of Pecorino cheese for 1 teaspoon of Grana Padano.   

Pro Tip: Grate or melt some Grana Padano over your pasta or soup. 

3. Manchego Cheese

Manchego is a Spanish cheese alternative to Pecorino cheese. It has a high melting point and a nutty taste with some sweetness. 

Manchego, just like Pecorino cheese, is also made from sheep’s milk. 

It’s best to use Manchego that’s aged for at least a year. 

Pro Tip: Use flaky Manchego cheese as a Pecorino substitute in salads. 

You can substitute Manchego for Pecorino in a 1:1 ratio, but taste your dish as you may need to add a bit of salt.  

4. Asiago Cheese

Asiago cheese originates in Italy, and it has a similar taste to Pecorino. However, it is a bit sweeter and has a softer texture. 

Pro Tip: Use Asiago cheese in sandwiches, pasta, and soups because of its creamy taste.

Asiago is made from cow’s milk and should be aged for at least 10 months. In your recipe, add 1 tablespoon of Asiago cheese to 1 tablespoon of Pecorino.  

While Asiago is a great alternative if you don’t have Pecorino, it isn’t readily available. You can buy some on Amazon and iGourmet.  

5. Nutritional Yeast

If you are dairy-intolerant or adhere to a vegan lifestyle, you can use nutritional yeast instead of Pecorino. 

Most health food stores and specialty grocery shops sell nutritional yeast, or you can order some from Amazon.  

With its tangy flavor, nutritional yeast will add a similar taste to Pecorino in your dish. 

Pro Tip: Sprinkle nutritional yeast flakes or powder in your soup, on your sandwich, or over your salad or pasta.  

When you use nutritional yeast instead of Pecorino cheese, use ½ teaspoon of nutritional yeast for 1 teaspoon of Pecorino. Taste your dish, and add more nutritional yeast if you need to. 

6. Piave Cheese

Yet another Italian Pecorino alternative is Piave cheese, which has a nutty, sweet flavor. 

Pro Tip: Don’t add Piave cheese to hot dishes or while cooking because it doesn’t melt well. It becomes hard and kinda gross. 

Paive is made from cow’s milk, just like most of the Pecorino substitutes on this list. 

Stage 5 aged Piave cheese is the best Pecorino alternative, and you can use it in a 1:1 ratio.

7. Ossau Iraty Cheese

Now for a French Pecorino alternative! 

Ossau Iraty is made from sheep’s milk and is an Occitan-Basque cheese. It has a medium firm texture and an intense earthy smell. 

When you taste Ossau Iraty cheese, you’ll get a nutty and fruity texture, meaning it’s similar to Pecorino but not as salty.  

So you can use it as a Pecorino substitute in a 1:1 ratio, and then taste your dish as you may need to increase the salt content.  

Pro Tip: Use Ossau Iraty that’s been aged for at least four months in your dish.

8. Iberico Cheese

Another Spanish alternative to Pecorino is Iberico cheese. It’s made from cow, goat, and sheep milk, so the cheese is hard and oily. 

It looks like Manchego and has a similar flavor too. It’s buttery and nutty. 

Pro Tip: Choose Iberico that’s been aged for at least two months, but closer to a year is better.  

Use 1 tablespoon of Iberico for 1 tablespoon of Pecorino, and note that you may need to add some more salt. 

9. Nutritional Yeast and Cashews

While you can use nutritional yeast on its own as a Pecorino alternative, if you have cashews on hand, combine the two ingredients (and a few others) for an even better-tasting substitute. 

When you mix cashews with nutritional yeast, you can easily replicate the nutty and buttery taste of Pecorino cheese. 

To make a vegan and dairy-free Pecorino alternative, called vegan Parmesan cheese, mix the following in a food processor: 

  • 4 tablespoons of nutritional yeast 
  • ¾ cup of raw cashews 
  • ½ teaspoon of onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon of garlic powder 
  • ¾ teaspoon of sea salt (or 1 tablespoon of pink Himalayan salt)

Pro Tip: Be sure to not overmix the ingredients as you don’t want it to clump because of the oil that cashew nuts release. You want a fine crumb or dry powdery texture.

10. Cheddar

A “poor man’s” Pecorino cheese alternative must be cheddar. It’s a cheese most people have in their fridge, and it can work if you are in a pinch. 

Cheddar has a sharp tangy flavor that’s kind of similar to Pecorino cheese. Plus, the cheddar melts really well, so you can use it in soups, pasta, or on sandwiches. 

You can also grate it and use it as a garnish to finish off your dish. 

Pro Tip: Use a very mature cheddar for that extra sharp taste. 

Made from cow’s milk, substitute cheddar for Pecorino in a 1:1 ratio. 

What Cheese Is Closest to Pecorino Romano?

Parmesan cheese, also called Parmigiano-Reggiano, is the best Pecorino Romano alternative because of the cheese’s texture and flavor. 

The only “problem” when you use Parmesan instead of Pecorino Romano is the lack of salt in Parmesan. But this is easily remedied: Simply add extra salt to your dish, but taste first!  

Can I Replace Pecorino Cheese With Parmesan?

You can replace Pecorino cheese with Parmesan in your recipe. It is the best Pecorino alternative, especially when you use aged Parmesan cheese.  

My Last Foodie Thoughts 

Cheese simply makes a dish, but it’s essential to add the right kind of cheese. Sometimes, however, we run into trouble. 

We simply don’t have the cheese ingredient the recipe calls for, we can’t find it at our local grocers, or we’ve run out. 

Using the right cheese substitute can literally save the day, and Parmesan cheese is the best Pecorino cheese alternative. 

It isn’t the only cheese you can use, so experiment using nutritional yeast with cashew nuts, Manchego, Iberico, Ossau Iraty, Piave, Asiago, and Grana Padano. 


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