Many big brands are starting to use non-animal rennet substitutes due to increased demand. If a brand does this, it’s typically clearly listed on the ingredient list as: “vegetarian enzymes,” “vegetable rennet,” “microbial enzymes,” or “non-animal enzymes.” Don’t see it there? Check on the company’s FAQ page.
“These days, it is pretty easy to find vegetarian cheese,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, R.D., author of Eating in Color. “Plant- or vegetable-derived rennet can be made from artichokes, nettles, cardoon thistle, or other plants. The enzyme derived from plants works in a similar way to animal-derived rennet, but the results aren’t always consistent. There are also microbial rennets, which are vegetarian-friendly.”
Plant or vegetable rennet is sometimes obtained by soaking plants above to extract an enzyme that functions similarly to animal rennet, while microbial rennet is extracted from certain rennet-like molds in a lab.