Vegan Parmesan — Yes, It’s A Thing

A blend of nutritional yeast, seeds and nuts, Parma! is a vegan alternative to Parmesan cheese.
A blend of nutritional yeast, seeds and nuts, Parma! is a vegan alternative to Parmesan cheese.

I’m not vegan or even vegetarian, but I admit that I’ve been curious about nutritional yeast after coming across it in recipes or even sprinkled over salads at Manresa Bread in Campbell.

And yes, most often, it’s used as a vegan substitute for Parmesan because it has a similar umami depth as aged cheese.

When I received samples recently of Parma! vegan Parmesan, I was game to try them first on — what else — popcorn, of course.

Powdery and in a shaker jar, just shower some over just popped popcorn tossed with butter or if you’re staying vegan, olive oil or coconut oil.

Parma! comes in four flavors. The two I tried were Original and Garlicky Green.

These are not straight versions of nutritional yeast, but blended with sunflower seeds, walnuts, salt, hemp seeds, and sometimes pumpkin seeds.

I love the walnuts in them for the added nuttiness. I can’t say I’ve ever been a huge fan of of the taste of hemp seeds, though, which I find musty and earthy in a hippy-dippy kind of way. That’s why I wish they weren’t in the mix here.

The Original has a pronounced beany quality to it, almost edamame-like, and savory tasting. I much preferred the Garlicky Green, which tastes prominently of garlic, onion, and oregano. So much so that the hemp taste is much more subdued.

This is what Parma!'s Garlicky Green looks like out of the jar.
This is what Parma!’s Garlicky Green looks like out of the jar.

I sprinkled the Garlicky Green over popcorn, and it added a huge boost of umami savoriness. Even my husband was a fan, and that’s saying something for a man who usually prefers his popcorn with butter and black truffle salt.

I could see using this easily on pasta or sprinkled on romaine salads or even garlic bread.

Each tablespoon of Parma! has about 30 to 35 calories and 10 to 15 mg of sodium (depending upon the flavor), as well as 90 percent of the thiamin 80 percent of the riboflavin, and 70 percent of the Vitamin B6 recommended daily.

A 3.5-ounce jar is $8.50 on the Parm! site. It’s also sold at Berkeley Bowl in Berkeley, Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco, and New Leaf in Santa Cruz and Aptos.

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One comment

  • Cool! We’re not vegans either, but have friends who are. Always a bit of a challenge cooking for them — so many things are off the table. Glad I can put Parmesan back on it. 🙂 Thanks!

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