Is there gluten in grated Parmesan cheese?

Parmesan cheese is a hard, dry cheese with a distinctive flavor that is commonly used in pasta dishes and as a topping for pizzas and salads. It has become a very popular cheese in many cuisines. However, for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, determining if Parmesan contains gluten is an important factor in deciding whether they can safely eat it.

What is Parmesan Cheese?

Parmesan cheese originated in the Parma region of Italy. It is made from cow’s milk and is considered a hard, grated cheese. There are a few main types of Parmesan cheese:

  • Parmigiano-Reggiano: This is an authentic, hard, Italian cheese made in specific regions of Italy and aged for at least 12 months. It has a hard, crumbly texture and nutty, sharp flavor.
  • Parmesan: This refers to cheeses that are made in a similar style to Parmigiano-Reggiano but are produced outside of Italy. Parmesan is typically less expensive and more widely available than Parmigiano-Reggiano.
  • Argentinian Parmesan: This cheese is produced in Argentina and modeled after Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano. It has a different flavor profile than the Italian version.

In the United States, the term “Parmesan” is often used generically to refer to grated hard Italian cheeses, even when they are not specifically Parmigiano-Reggiano. The FDA has standards that dictate what cheeses can be labeled as “Parmesan” in the US.

How is Parmesan Cheese Made?

Parmesan cheese is made from raw, partially skimmed cow’s milk. The milk goes through a lengthy process to produce the hard cheese:

  1. The milk is left to naturally separate and the fat is skimmed off the top. Then rennet is added to help curdle the milk.
  2. The curdled milk separates into solids (curds) and liquid (whey). The ball of curd is cut into smaller pieces and cooked.
  3. The curd pieces are separated from the whey and pressed into molds to give the cheese its shape.
  4. The cheese wheels are salted and aged for at least 12 months to develop hardness and complex flavor. The wheels are regularly inspected during aging.
  5. After aging, the Parmesan wheels have a hard, dry rind. This rind is cut off and the cheese is grated or shredded for culinary use.

This lengthy aging and the loss of moisture is what gives Parmesan its characteristic texture and intense umami flavor. The environment and aging process plays a key role in developing Parmesan’s flavor profile.

Nutrition Facts of Parmesan Cheese

Like many cheeses, Parmesan is high in fat, especially saturated fat. It also contains a significant amount of sodium. A 1 ounce serving of grated Parmesan contains 1:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 111
Fat 7g
Saturated Fat 4.5g
Sodium 337mg
Protein 7g
Calcium 27% DV

Parmesan cheese is a good source of calcium and protein. However, it is high in sodium so should be eaten in moderation, especially by those on a low sodium diet.

Does Parmesan Cheese Contain Gluten?

Parmesan cheese is made from cow’s milk and does not inherently contain gluten. However, there is some debate whether certain brands or types of Parmesan may contain small amounts of gluten due to cross-contamination.

Why Could Parmesan Potentially Contain Gluten?

While Parmesan cheese itself does not contain gluten, there are a few potential sources of cross-contamination that could result in small amounts of gluten in certain Parmesan products:

  • Grain Starters: Some cheesemakers use a wheat-based starter culture to help ripen and ferment the cheese. Trace amounts of gluten could be introduced if the starter culture is not fully removed.
  • Pasta Filata: Some Parmesan uses a stretching and kneading process called pasta filata. If this is done using equipment that also processes wheat, it could potentially introduce gluten through cross-contact.
  • Anti-Caking Agents: Many grated Parmesan products include cellulose or wheat starch as an anti-caking agent to prevent clumping. These starch sources could introduce gluten.
  • Cheese Rinds: If a Parmigiano-Reggiano rind is dried and ground with the cheese, it could potentially add trace gluten from any external wheat contamination.
  • Shared Equipment: Shredding and grating equipment may be shared with bread or pasta containing gluten.

However, most experts agree that the risk of gluten exposure through these methods, if employed, would be minimal. Any detectable gluten would likely be at levels generally considered safe for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Regulations About Gluten-Free Labeling

For a product to be labeled “gluten-free” in the United States, it must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten, per the FDA gluten-free labeling regulations 2.

So if a Parmesan product does not carry a “gluten-free” label, it could possibly contain up to 20 ppm of gluten. However, many cheeses that are not labeled gluten-free still test below 5 ppm of gluten.

Gluten Status of Different Types of Parmesan

The amount of gluten in Parmesan, if any, can vary based on the specific brand and type of cheese:


Authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese made in Italy is produced using only ingredients that are naturally gluten-free. The Consortium of Parmigiano-Reggiano explicitly states that wheat or wheat by-products are not used in their production process 3.

Independent testing on Parmigiano-Reggiano has consistently shown it to be below the testing threshold for gluten (<5 ppm) 4.

American Parmesan

Domestic Parmesan cheeses made in the US typically do not contain gluten ingredients. However, trace amounts of gluten may sometimes be detected due to shared processing lines or equipment.

Some brands explicitly state that their Parmesan cheeses are “gluten-free” or test below 20 ppm of gluten. For example:

  • Kraft grated Parmesan tests at <5 ppm according to the company 5
  • Whole Foods brand Parmesan is labeled gluten-free 6
  • Trader Joe’s Parmesan tests at <5 ppm based on third-party testing 7

If an individual has celiac disease or is highly sensitive, it is best to look for cheeses marked “gluten-free” or contact the manufacturer to inquire about testing status.

Pre-Shredded Parmesan

There is greater likelihood of gluten cross-contact in shredded Parmesan products. Pre-shredded Parmesan may use an anti-caking agent or be processed on shared equipment with wheat-based foods. One study found detectable gluten in 38% of pre-shredded cheese products tested 8.

Ideally choose a product that is labeled gluten-free or contact the company to verify if their pre-shredded Parmesan contains gluten. Some safe gluten-free options include:

  • Kraft 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese (labeled gluten-free)
  • Whole Foods Grated Parmesan Cheese (labeled gluten-free)
  • Trader Joe’s Grated Parmesan Cheese (tests gluten-free)

Parmesan Cheese Powder

Parmesan powder is occasionally used as a dairy-free alternative to grated Parmesan. These powders are typically made from yeast extracts, salt, and natural flavors.

Some Parmesan powder brands specifically state that their products are gluten-free, such as:

  • Anthony’s Nutritional Yeast Flakes
  • Hoosier Hill Farm Parmesan Cheese Powder
  • Frontier Co-op Nutritional Yeast Flakes

However, other Parmesan powders do not make any claims regarding gluten content, so it is best to contact the manufacturer to be sure if gluten is a concern. Homemade Parmesan cheese powder can also be made using just nutritional yeast, salt, and garlic powder.

Is the Gluten in Parmesan Cheese a Concern?

Based on testing data, most Parmesan cheese on the market contains very low levels of gluten, if any at all. The trace amounts reported are typically significantly below the FDA threshold of 20 ppm for gluten-free labeling.

However, for those with celiac disease or wheat allergy, even small amounts of gluten may be a concern. The amount of gluten that can be safely tolerated is different for each individual.

Precautionary Steps if Sensitive to Gluten

For people who are highly sensitive, certain precautions regarding Parmesan cheese may be taken:

  • Choose products that are explicitly labeled “gluten-free”
  • Contact the manufacturer to ask about gluten testing
  • Stick to products from brands that are known to be gluten-free based on consumer reports
  • Opt for wedges of Parmesan and grate/shred at home
  • Check dry cheese powders to ensure they do not contain wheat starch

Being vigilant about label reading and proactively contacting companies can help identify the safest Parmesan options. People who are severely sensitive may want to take the extra step of choosing cheese marked gluten-free.

Parmesan Cheese Allergy vs. Intolerance

Those with a wheat allergy need to strictly avoid any exposure to gluten. Even small traces can trigger potentially life-threatening allergic reactions. In this case, it is essential to only consume Parmesan cheeses verified to be gluten-free through rigorous testing.

People with an intolerance or sensitivity may be able to tolerate small amounts of gluten without experiencing symptoms. The level that triggers reactions varies by individual. By sticking to reputable gluten-free brands and reading labels, most people with a gluten intolerance can safely eat Parmesan in moderation.

Best Practices When Buying and Eating Parmesan Cheese

Here are some tips for safely selecting and consuming Parmesan cheese with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity:

Purchasing Tips

  • Check labels for any indication the product is gluten-free
  • Call or email manufacturers to inquire about gluten testing protocols and results
  • Opt for wedges of Parmesan to grate yourself rather than pre-shredded
  • Stick to reputable brands that are known to be gluten-free
  • Avoid generic Parmesan cheese shakers at restaurants and salad bars

Storage and Serving Tips

  • Make sure to use a clean grater and work area when grating Parmesan at home
  • Store Parmesan separately, wrapped in its original packaging or in an airtight container
  • Use a dedicated shaker for gluten-free Parmesan to prevent cross-contact
  • Wipe down surfaces and hands after working with any cheeses to avoid contamination
  • Ask restaurants to grate Parmesan tableside rather than using a shared shaker

What to Watch Out For

  • Products containing anti-caking agents like wheat starch
  • Pre-grated Parmesan cheese
  • Cheese shakers in restaurants that may be contaminated with gluten
  • Imported Parmesan not labeled gluten-free
  • Any indication that wheat or wheat starch is used in flavorings or cultures

The Bottom Line

Most Parmesan cheese available for purchase contains little to no detectable gluten. Brands labeled gluten-free typically test below 5 ppm. While trace amounts could potentially show up due to cross-contact in processing, this low level is believed to be safe for most people.

Strict avoidance is essential for those with a wheat allergy. However, most people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance can tolerate the miniscule amounts occasionally found in some Parmesan products. Being an avid label reader and choosing reputable gluten-free brands provides assurance.

Opting for wedges to grate at home and verifying the gluten-free status of pre-shredded cheese is recommended for those who are extra sensitive. With some care taken during shopping and storage, both wedges and grated Parmesan can generally be safely enjoyed as part of a gluten-free diet when purchased from trusted brands.


1. “Parmesan Cheese.” FoodData Central. Accessed 14 November 2022.

2. “Gluten and Food Labeling.” FDA. Accessed 14 November 2022.

3. “Parmigiano Reggiano and Gluten.” Consortium of Parmigiano Reggiano. Accessed 14 November 2022.

4. Tříska, Jan. “Detection of Gluten in Gluten-free Labelled Cheese by ELISA Based Methods.” Food Control. 15 August 2017. Accessed 14 November 2022.

5. “Gluten Free FAQs.” Kraft Heinz Company. Accessed 14 November 2022.

6. “365 Everyday Value, Grated Parmesan Cheese”. Whole Foods Market. Accessed 14 November 2022.

7. “Parmesan Cheese”. Trader Joe’s. Accessed 14 November 2022.

8. Thompson, Tricia. “Gluten Content of Pre-Shredded Cheese.” Gluten Free Watchdog. 15 June 2015. Accessed 14 November 2022.

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