Top 10 Pecorino Cheese Substitutes To Add Flavor To Your Italian Dish

Pecorino cheese is a delicious snack or food ingredient for many dishes. Pecorino pairs well with good red wine to perfectly round off a meal, complementing the tannic structure. It has its own recognizable taste and texture. If you are not a big fan of this cheese, you can try a pecorino cheese substitute that works the same for your recipes and preferences.

What are the top pecorino cheese substitutes?

1. Romano Cheese

The phrase “Romano cheese” is used in the United States and Canada when referring to a class of hard, salty cheese that is similar to Pecorino Romano, the original variety of this cheese. If Parmesan is to the Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano, Romano cheese is to Pecorino Romano. That said, Romano cheese is the best pecorino cheese alternative.

Romano cheese is a hard, salty cheese eaten grated or shredded into Italian dishes. It has a grainy texture, nutty flavor, and salty taste like pecorino. Romano cheese, unlike pecorino romano, may be made from sheep’s milk, goat’s, cow’s milk, or a mixture of any of these milk while Pecorino Romano is made mainly from sheep’s milk.

You can use Romano cheese as a replacement for pecorino cheese in pizzas, pasta, bread, or on cheese boards. If specifically replacing pecorino romano cheeses, you can add a bit more romano or add a little salt because pecorino romano has a stronger flavor.

2. Manchego Cheese

Manchego cheese is a Spanish counterpart of the Italian Pecorino cheese. Both kinds of cheese are made from sheep’s milk – Manchega sheep to be exact for Manchego. While both have comparably similar salty and nutty tastes, Manchego cheese has a sweeter taste compared to pecorino and the more complex flavor differences become more apparent as they age, although they’re not that obvious to the inexperienced.

Slightly aged Manchego cheese is the closest thing you can get to a pecorino. They both are hard cheeses which makes them great for cheese boards and have similar texture and saltiness.

3. Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese 

Parmigiano Reggiano is a hard grating cheese made from cow’s milk. While parmesan cheese and Parmigiano Reggiano are often used interchangeably, there is a distinction. Parmesan cheese can be sourced from different places and is not regulated by the standards of cheese-making which Italian Parmigiano Reggiano is subject to. Parmigiano Reggiano is the gold standard for parmesan cheese.

Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino are both hard cheeses with a flaky texture, but Parmigiano-Reggiano has a less sharp flavor than Pecorino. It also has a milder aroma, and a sweeter, nuttier taste. 

You can use the same amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano in recipes requiring Pecorino, and vice versa. It is a delicious addition to pasta, salads, vegetables, and more. One tip is to use these two cheeses together for the best cheesy flavor.

4. Grana Padano Cheese

Grana Padano is a full-bodied hard cheese that is a great alternative to pecorino cheese. It is produced with unpasteurized, semi-skimmed milk from free-range cows. 

Grana Padano has a characteristically grainy texture, hence grana. This cheese is aged for a minimum of 9 months bringing out a creamy, slightly grainy texture. It has savory, nutty taste notes that are also similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano but is mellow and milder than both Parmigiano and pecorino.

Grana Padano is best paired with wine, honey, and cocktails and can be used to replace pecorino in sauces and as an add-on to recipes but may need to add more salt as Grana Padano is less salty than pecorino. 

5. Piave Cheese

Piave cheese is another Italian heritage made from pasteurized cow’s milk and is named after a river – the Piave river. This cheese is also DOP protected for authenticity. This cheese is also considered a cousin to Parmigiano for its very similar flavors at a younger stage in the aging process.

If you’re going to get a Piave as a substitute for pecorino for pasta and salads, opt for Piave Fresco or Piave Mezzano as its nuttiness, sweetness, and texture is closer to pecorino at this age. Any Piave is great for wine pairing and cheese boards.

6. Asiago Cheese

Asiago cheese is a good choice when pecorino cheese is called for in a recipe. It is mild like pecorino and smooth like Parmesan. It comes from cow’s milk and is made in Italy.

Asiago cheese shares many flavor and texture qualities with pecorino but it’s milder and more moist. As Asiago cheese ages, it forms into a harder texture and takes on a sharper, nuttier flavor. This makes a great pecorino cheese substitute for dishes like salads, risottos, and pasta. 

7. Other Pecorino Cheese

Pecorino covers a wide variety of cheeses and is a common name given to all Italian cheeses that are made from ewe or sheep’s milk. Specifically, there are four main varieties of pecorino and all of them are PDO protected.

Pecorino Romano from the regions of Umbria, Lazio, and the island of Sardinia is the most popular outside of Italy. The other three PDO protected pecorino varieties are Pecorino Siciliano from Sicily, Pecorino Toscano from Tuscany, and Pecorino Sardo from Sardinia. If your recipe calls for pecorino romano cheese, you can try substituting it with the other variety.

What are other alternatives to pecorino cheese besides cheese?

Vegan alternatives to dairy and cheeses have become accessible nowadays. So if you prefer non-cheese or vegan substitutes for pecorino, we have a few recommendations that are quite similar in texture and flavor.

1. Nutritional Yeast Flakes

Nutritional Yeast Flakes is an excellent vegan option to replace pecorino or any other cheeses. Nutritional yeast also provides a distinct, sharp taste that is very similar to these dairy artisan cheeses.

Nutritional yeast also has a savory, umami, buttery, nutty flavor quite similar to pecorino, especially when combined with cashews or other nuts like almonds. It also makes for a healthy substitute as it has nine essential amino acids as well as certain vitamins. Nutritional yeast makes an excellent vegan-friendly pecorino cheese alternative for any dishes except for cheese boards.

2. Cashew Cheese

Many vegan dairy and cheese alternatives are made from nuts and oats. Cashew cheese has become the go-to dairy cheese replacement for many home cooks nowadays. This popular vegan cheese commonly promoted as cashew parmesan is made with nutritional yeast.

With the growing number of vegan fans sharing their recipes, you can easily whip up your own cashew cheese at home. It is as good as real cheese for pasta, pizza, salads, casseroles, and other recipes.

What is pecorino cheese used for?

An ideal grating cheese, pecorino is used in Italian foods because of its rich flavor. Fresh pecorino is great on a cheese platter paired with bread, fruits, and lunch meats. Aged pecorino cheese however is best grated or flaked as toppings for Italian meals like pizza and pasta. It also tastes great on salads, and soups.

Pecorino cheese is also a friendly choice for many because its high quality comes for a fair price. It’s a less expensive option that has great cheesy quality that works for many recipes.

Conclusion

If you are looking to replace pecorino cheese for your charcuterie board or cheese platter, you will be happy with Romano, Manchego, and Piave. For creating sauce recipes that call for pecorino, or grated cheese for pasta, Parmigiano-Reggiano is the best substitute. Grana Padano, Asiago, and Romano work great too.

The best substitute for pecorino cheese is another kind of cheese with the closest characteristics in taste and texture. As long as you aren’t looking to make an entire dish out of cheese, many different kinds of cheese can be as good as pecorino. Also, when choosing an alternative, it’s best to get it sourced from its place of origin so you’re sure to get the authentic cheese product.

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