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Parmesan cheese is a variety of cheese inspired by Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese from Parma, Italy.[1] Its color is pale yellow, and it is popularly used as a seasoning added to dishes like spaghetti, Caesar salad and pizza.[2]


Parmesan cheese is prized for its flavor, which is rich in umami sensations.[3] Its use in home cooking throughout the Western world is generally as a condiment with other prepared food dishes, rather than being eaten by itself as in traditional European cheese plates. Kraft is a major North American producer of Parmesan and has been selling it since 1945.[4][5]

Parmesan cheese (as produced by Kraft and many others) is a true cheese. Nevertheless, processed cheese foods can be found that are flavored to attempt to match the taste of Parmigiano-Reggiano (or at least Parmesan).

Relationship to Parmigiano cheese[edit]

Parmesan cheese can be used as a substitute for "fancy" Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.[6] While Parmesan is inspired by Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, they are not always the same. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese must satisfy very specific requirements in order to be marketed and sold under that name; there are no such requirements for Parmesan (in most markets).[7] Within the European Union, however the name "Parmesan" by law may only be used to describe Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; no other jurisdictions are known to have such legal restrictions.[8]

Therefore, in the European Union, the word "Parmesan" legally serves as a synonym for "Parmigiano-Reggiano" and always follows its strict requirements. Outside of the European Union, "Parmesan" is a broad category of cheese that tastes similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano, and indeed Parmigiano-Reggiano could even be described as a style of Parmesan, despite being the original Parmesan cheese.


Soy-based alternatives to Parmesan cheese exist.[9]