What grated Parmesan cheese is gluten-free?

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. For people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can cause serious health issues. Thankfully, there are many gluten-free alternatives to common foods that contain gluten – like bread, pasta, and cheese.

When it comes to cheese, most types are naturally gluten-free. This includes hard cheeses like Parmesan. However, there are some things to watch out for to ensure the Parmesan cheese you’re eating is 100% gluten-free.

What is Parmesan Cheese?

Parmesan cheese originated in Italy in the Parma region. It’s a hard, granular cheese made from cow’s milk. To make Parmesan, raw milk is heated and then curdled by adding rennet. The curds are cut, cooked, and then pressed into wheels for aging. True Parmesan cheese is always made in this region of Italy and has a distinct nutty, savory, and slightly salty flavor.

The aging process is what gives Parmesan its hardness. It’s aged for at least 12 months, though longer aging up to 36 months results in a sharper, more flavorful cheese. Parmesan is often grated and used as a topping for pastas, salads, soups, and more. It also stands alone well and can be eaten by itself as a snack.

Grana Padano vs Parmigiano-Reggiano

There are two main types of authentic Parmesan cheese to be aware of: Grana Padano and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Grana Padano is produced throughout Italy using a similar process to Parmigiano-Reggiano, which can only be produced in specific provinces around Parma. Both are made from raw cow’s milk and aged for over 12 months.

The biggest differences are that Parmigiano-Reggiano must come from approved cows eating specific feed, while Grana Padano can come from any Italian cow. Also, Parmigiano-Reggiano is aged slightly longer – up to 36 months vs a maximum of 20 months for Grana Padano. This produces a stronger, nuttier flavor in Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Is Parmesan Cheese Gluten-Free?

Authentic Parmesan cheese that’s just made from milk, animal rennet, salt, and possibly wine vinegar is naturally gluten-free. However, some additives that may be introduced during processing could potentially contain traces of gluten.

Here are some things to look for when buying Parmesan cheese:

Aged vs Fresh

Fresh Parmesan that’s aged less than 12 months has a higher moisture content. This means it’s more likely to contain additives as preservatives. The longer Parmesan is aged, the lower the moisture content and less need for additives.

Opt for Parmesan aged over 12 months to reduce the risk of gluten-containing additives.

Pre-Shredded vs Wedge

Pre-shredded Parmesan often includes anti-caking agents to prevent clumping. These agents, like potato starch, can sometimes be a source of gluten.

Buying a wedge of Parmesan cheese and grating it yourself guarantees no added ingredients.

Brand and Origin

As mentioned earlier, true Parmesan like Parmigiano-Reggiano from Italy that’s made according to traditional methods doesn’t contain gluten. Brand, origin, and proper labeling are important for authenticity.

Generic “Parmesan” may be made from a blend of cheeses and more likely to use questionable additives. Brands like Kraft or other shredded Parmesan products are not real Parmesan cheese.

Opt for imported cheese from Italy – looking for the Parmigiano-Reggiano label if you want to guarantee you’re getting real Parmesan made traditionally with just milk, salt, rennet, and age.

Organic vs Regular

Some cheesemakers may introduce gluten as a processing aid during production of non-organic Parmesan. The organic certification prohibits certain additives, including gluten.

Choosing organic Parmesan provides an extra level of assurance that no gluten was introduced during processing.

What About the Rennet?

In addition to the cheese itself, traditional Parmesan uses animal rennet to help separate milk into curds. Rennet contains enzymes that curdle milk protein. Historically, this came from the stomach lining of young calves.

While animal-derived rennet is gluten-free, today some opt for vegetarian alternatives. Unfortunately, some types of vegetarian rennet are extracted from wheat or other gluten grains. Check that animal rennet was used if following a gluten-free diet.

What About Cross-Contamination?

Even if a Parmesan cheese contains no gluten ingredients, there’s still a chance of cross-contamination occurring during processing and handling:

  • On equipment shared with gluten-containing cheeses
  • During transportation and storage
  • At the grocery store cheese counter

Those highly sensitive should verify the steps taken by the manufacturer to avoid cross-contamination. Some brands explicitly label products “gluten-free” or process gluten-free items separately.

Which Brands of Parmesan Are Gluten-Free?

Here are some recommended brands of Parmesan cheese that are reliably gluten-free:


Any imported Parmigiano-Reggiano from Italy following the legal production process should be gluten-free. Some specific brands include:

  • Il Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Parmigiano Reggiano Vacche Rosse
  • Reggianno

Organic Parmigiano-Reggiano

These brands offer extra assurance through organic certification:

  • Parmareggio Organic Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Organic Valley Parmigiano Reggiano

Domestic Parmesan

These domestic Parmesan brands explicitly state gluten-free on packaging:

  • BelGioioso Parmesan
  • Henning’s Parmesan
  • Rumiano Parmesan

Is Kraft Parmesan Cheese Gluten-Free?

Kraft 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese is not considered gluten-free. While it contains no gluten ingredients, Kraft openly states the risk of cross-contamination on their website.

The brand suggests those following a gluten-free diet avoid their shredded and grated Parmesan products and instead buy the wedge if concerned about gluten exposure.

What About Other Grated Parmesan Cheese Products?

Beyond Kraft, there are many other brands of pre-shredded and grated Parmesan cheese products sold. Here are some examples along with whether they can be considered gluten-free:

Brand Gluten-Free Status
Kroger Not confirmed gluten-free
Publix Not confirmed gluten-free
Trader Joe’s Not confirmed gluten-free
Sargento Not confirmed gluten-free
Whole Foods Not confirmed gluten-free

The most reliable way to verify gluten-free status is choosing a brand that specifically labels products as “gluten-free.” Otherwise, there’s no way to guarantee these products are not cross-contaminated.

What About Other Uses of Parmesan?

In addition to grated Parmesan topping, this popular cheese is used in a variety of dishes:

Baked Goods

Homemade gluten-free baked goods with Parmesan should be fine. But exercise caution with pre-packaged baked products advertised as containing Parmesan, as other ingredients may be an issue.

Salad Bowls and Meal Kits

Prepared salad bowls and meal kits featuring Parmesan could be cross-contaminated. Check labels carefully for gluten-free certification before consuming.

Soup and Broth

Homemade soup with Parmesan is generally fine. Canned and boxed broths touting Parmesan flavor likely include questionable additives – verify gluten-free status.

Pasta Dishes

Freshly grated Parmesan on gluten-free pasta is safe. But take caution with pre-made frozen pasta entrees advertised with Parmesan, as the other ingredients may contain gluten.

What About the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Rules?

The FDA classifies Parmesan and other hard cheeses as “generally recognized as safe” foods that do not require label disclosures. This means companies are not required to declare the possible presence of most allergens like gluten, even when there is some risk.

So those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should not rely on FDA labeling laws to determine if a Parmesan product is gluten-free or not. Taking the other precautions outlined in this article is more reliable for assessing gluten-free status.

Can Regular Parmesan Be Tolerated on a Gluten-Free Diet?

The level of gluten that can be safely consumed depends on the individual. Celiac patients must avoid it completely, while those with mild gluten sensitivity can sometimes tolerate small or accidental exposures.

Those with celiac disease should stick to brands that are certified gluten-free to be 100% safe. People with gluten intolerance can likely tolerate brands that take some precautions but don’t guarantee gluten-free production.

When in doubt, choose high-quality Italian brands of Parmigiano-Reggiano that are made traditionally. Avoid pre-grated products containing additives and anti-caking agents.


When shopping for Parmesan cheese, read labels carefully and check for:

  • Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano imported from Italy
  • Aged over 12 months
  • Purchased as a wedge and grated fresh
  • Organic certification
  • Explicit “gluten-free” labeling

Following these guidelines will help identify authentic Italian Parmesan and similar hard cheeses that are very unlikely to contain any traces of gluten. Stick to whole wedges and grate cheese yourself right before serving. And consider choosing organic for added assurance.

With these simple precautions, Parmesan can be safely enjoyed as part of a gluten-free lifestyle. Just be wary of cheap pre-grated brands that likely include anti-caking agents and have higher cross-contamination risks. When shopping smart, this flavorful grating cheese doesn’t have to be off limits for those avoiding gluten.

Leave a Comment