Green Olives: The Secret to a Vegan Parmesan Cheese That’s Better Than the Real Thing! 

pitted green olives on a wood boardThis is one of the most unique vegan cheese recipes we’ve ever come across, and as soon as we saw it, we knew we had to share it with you. Parmesan cheese is an easy and high-flavor condiment—perfect for tossing on top of our pizza … pasta … bruschetta … soup … and so much more. And there’s a reason this cheese is so popular, because a really good parmesan cheese has an intense, multilayered flavor that amplifies the taste of a variety of dishes.

Creating the Perfect Parmesan Replacement

When J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, the managing culinary director of Serious Eats and author of the James Beard Award-nominated column The Food Lab, set out to create a vegan parmesan cheese, he was intent on capturing the specific qualities that make parmesan so delicious. He wanted to create a vegan parmesan with a slight crunch that softened on the tongue and a bright, tart, “funky” flavor.

Most vegan parmesan substitutes rely on a similar formula: nuts plus nutritional years plus salt plus spices. Lopez-Alt found that while the texture of this mix was similar to parmesan, the flavor lacked the depth he sought, so he decided to go in a completely different direction.

An Unexpected Method for Making Delicious Vegan Parmesan

The recipe Lopez-Alt came up with uses a different base than any other vegan cheese recipe we’ve come across: green olives. He then added three more ingredients that resulted in a savory…tangy…salty…and aromatic vegan parmesan that’s absolutely addictive.

To make this recipe, you will need…

  • 3 cups of high quality pitted green olives
  • 5 tablespoons white miso paste
  • 4 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary

Assembling the Vegan Parmesan

  1. Begin by preheating your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Zest the lemons until you have at least 4 tablespoons of zest –3 or 4 lemons, depending on size, should suffice.
  2. close up of olives, miso paste, and rosemary processed togetherCombine the olives, miso, lemon zest in the bowl of a food processer. Hold the rosemary over the food processor and slide your fingers along the sprig to remove the needles. Place the lid on the food processor and pulse until a rough puree forms, scraping down the sides to ensure the ingredients are fully combined.
  3. Spread the mixture evenly on a lined baking sheet, then place the sheet in the oven and let cook until fully dehydrated. This should take between 4 and 6 hours, so be sure to make this recipe on a day you plan to spend at home!img_3756_facebook

The mixture smells delicious while it cooks—try making this prior to a dinner party, and your guest will be sure to rave about how wonderful your home smells. Depending on how evenly your oven heats, you may want to rotate the pan a few times to ensure all parts of mixture cook at the same rate. You’ll know it’s done when it’s crackly and dry to the touch.

Let the mixture rest in the oven with the door ajar until completely cool. Check for coolness after an hour has elapsed. When the mixture has cooled entirely, place it back in the food processor and process until it becomes a rough powder.

You can store this vegan parmesan cheese in a sealed container for up to two months. It will keep best when stored away from heat and light.

You’ll find this makes a stellar replacement for parmesan in all your favorite dishes. We love mixing it into breading and making over baked zucchini fries, or sprinkling it on roasted eggplant topped with homemade marinara as a take on eggplant parmesan. It’s endlessly versatile, and tastes so good, you may end up eating it straight by the spoonful!