When it comes to pasta toppings, there’s nothing quite like Grana Padano, one of the best-grating types of cheese you can have in your fridge. With its hard, crumbly texture and strong flavor, it can quickly change otherwise bland meals and give them substance and character.
The problem with Grana Padano is that it’s best when consumed in moderation. Namely, its fat level is sky-high, and any dish it either accompanies or leaps into becomes much heavier on the stomach.
So, what is a suitable substitute for Grana Padano cheese? I have several alternatives in mind, and whether you’re searching for a type of cheese that is as close to Grana Padano’s taste & flavor, something a bit milder, or something even sharper, I’m here to give you a few suggestions.
Characteristics of Grana Padano
Grana Padano is a sharp-flavored hard cheese with subtle nutty and salty undertones. Even though its flavor is fairly strong, it won’t overwhelm your meals when used in moderation. Naturally, this type of cheese does not contain any lactose despite being made from cow’s milk.
One of the main reasons people look for Grana Padano alternatives is that it is very high in fat. More specifically, its fat content is about 55.2%, which certainly doesn’t make it one of the healthiest types of cheese around. Its saving graces are its unique flavor and complete absence of lactose content.
7 Grana Padano Alternatives
There are far more than eight kinds of cheese that could serve the role of the replacement for Grana Padano, but these are the ones I handpicked because of their closeness to this Italian cheese.
Some of them are nearly identical to Grana Padano in terms of taste but are healthier; some are milder-tasting but feature a similar palette of flavors. Others are completely dairy-free and are perfect for vegans. Let’s take a look at the best Grana Padano alternatives:
|No||Cheese Substitutes||Taste||Texture||Fat Level||Lactose Level|
|Grana Padano||Sharp, nutty with salty undertones||Hard||55.2%||0-1%|
|1||Aged Asiago||Sharp, nutty with sweet undertones||Semi-hard||35%||<1%|
|2||Piave||Sharp, full-bodied, fruity with bitter undertones||Hard||30%||<1%|
|3||Beaufort||Mild, fruity with a hint of earthy flavor||Semi-soft||34%||<1%|
|4||Emmental||Moderately sharp, nutty, somewhat buttery||Semi-hard||45%||0%|
|5||Pecorino Romano||Sharp, tangy, somewhat spicy||Hard||33%||<1%|
|6||Parmesan||Sharp, salty, buttery||Hard||23%||2.9 – 3.7%|
|7||Nutritional Yeast||Moderately sharp, salty||Granular||1-2%||0%|
Cheeses with Similar Texture and Flavor
The types of cheese that can be used as 1-to-1 alternatives to Grana Padano are sharp-flavored and hard in texture. The best substitutes include Aged Asiago and Piave.
Unlike fresh Asiago, aged asiago cheese is strong-flavored and far crumblier, making it very close to Grana Padano. You may notice that this cheese has a distinct combination of sweet & nutty undertones. I recommend using it in dishes where cheese should be the dominating ingredient (e.g. mac & cheese, pizza, etc.).
Each bite of Piave cheese leaves a strong aftertaste that your tastebuds will likely remember for days. Even though its flavor is very close to Grana Padano, its rich, all-rounded aroma and taste make it better suited for gourmet meals and special occasions.
On the other hand, what makes it much different from Grana Padano is that its fat level is significantly lower (around 30%). This gives you the flexibility to use larger portions or keep indulging in Piave cheese for extended periods before the “heaviness” of saturated fats kicks in.
Grana Padano Alternatives with Milder Flavor
The flavor of Grana Padano cheese is powerful but not overwhelming. Still, there are many people who may want something a bit lighter, especially for meals where cheese has more of a supportive role. My recommendations in such a case are Beaufort and Emmental.
Beaufort cheese has everything that Grana Padano has to offer you except the strong flavor. Its taste is very buttery, and even though it is a semi-soft cheese, it melts and shreds absolutely great.
It won’t take much for you to discern Beaufort from other cheese kinds; it has a unique earthy undertone with almost herbal undertones that helps it synergize with vegetarian dishes and ingredients.
Few types of cheese can boast of having such a distinctive, yet mild flavor. The nutty, fruity, and slightly sweet aroma of Emmental makes it an ideal replacement for the buttery, salty Grana Padano, especially when you’re purposefully searching for a cheese that is not hitting the same notes but gives similar results.
This might also be interesting for you: Emmental cheese substitutes.
Stronger Flavor and Firmer Texture
As mentioned, the taste of Grana Padano is not too overwhelming. I had several kinds of cheese in mind for people who want an alternative that has an even stronger flavor: Pecorino Romano and Parmesan.
Made of sheep’s milk, Pecorino Romano has a taste that can be characterized as sharp, tangy, and earthy. It becomes even stronger the older it gets, but even fresh Pecorino can beat Grana Padano when it comes to strong tastes.
With no lactose and relatively tolerable fat levels, Pecorino Romano is a good substitute for Grana Padano, regardless of the reasons why you wanted to replace the latter. It is healthier, and easier to digest, but it is also sharper and has a stronger presence in the dishes it is placed in.
This cheese has only a fraction of fat content compared to Grana Padano, and its flavor is so distinctive that you can’t miss it. Even when marbled with a dozen of other types of cheese, Parmesan’s salty & buttery taste dominates the meal.
I’d say it is a perfect substitute for Grana Padano if its lactose content was not as high. Namely, with up to 3.7% lactose, Parmesan is the only cheese on this list that is not great for people with lactose intolerance.
Ever wonder how to preserve this Italian classic? Check out our guide to freezing Parmesan cheese.
Dairy-free and Vegan Grana Padano Alternatives
Even the types of cheese that have no lactose whatsoever are still made of milk. If you’re vegan or want a cheese that is healthier than Grana Padano, I recommend giving nutritional yeast a shot.
Sometimes called “deactivated yeast”, nutritional yeast is a type of flaky food product with a sharp, salty taste. It does not contain any lactose, is remarkably low in fat, and offers a host of health benefits. From Niacin, Riboflavin, Sodium, and Thiamine, to plenty of proteins, nutritional yeast is packed with everything the body needs to feel well and energized.
Tips for Substituting Grana Padano
Before you start your search for Grana Padano substitutes, it is important to decide how close of a match it should be and what type of dish you want to make. For instance, Aged Asiago cheese is the best 1-to-1 alternative to Grana Padano and can be used in all dishes you’d normally use the “original”.
What I want to recommend to everyone who wishes to replace the high-fat Grana Padano with something healthier is a delicious Mac & Cheese recipe using nutritional yeast instead of cheese.
Substituting Grana Padano in Mac & CheeseCourse: MainCuisine: Italian, Other world cuisineDifficulty: Easy
A healthier, delicious Mac & Cheese recipe using nutritional yeast instead of Grana Padano cheese.
Let’s take a quick look at what you’ll need:
Two tablespoons of butter
A thinly-diced onion
A teaspoon of garlic powder
Half a teaspoon of paprika
235 ml of nut milk
Half a cup of nutritional yeast
Around 200 g of prepared pasta
- Place two tablespoons of butter in a pot to melt
- Add diced onion and start stirring
- Throw in garlic powder, flour, and paprika, and sprinkle a pinch of salt & pepper
- Gradually add 235 ml of nut milk and keep cooking for about three to five minutes
- Add half a cup of nutritional yeast
- Finally, add pasta and stir until it is completely drenched in the sauce
Grana Padano Cheese Grater: Utopia Kitchen Cheese Grater & Shredder
As someone who spends a lot of time in the kitchen, I couldn’t imagine my life without Utopia Kitchen’s grater. Its hexagonal design features different kinds of grating holes that are perfect for Grana Padano and all of the alternatives I mentioned earlier. Whether you’re looking to grate hard or soft cheese, slice, or shred them into small pieces, this little tool will help you.
Made of quality stainless steel, Utopia Kitchen’s Cheese Grater is as durable as it is practical in terms of maintenance since it is dishwasher-safe. It is very easy to clean and using it is just as straightforward. Best of all, it’s exceptionally affordable too.
Is Grana Padano the same as Pecorino?
No, Grana Padano is made of raw, pasteurized cow milk while Pecorino is made of sheep’s milk.
Why is it called Grana Padano?
The words “Grana Padano” reference two things – “Grana” (from Granuloso) means grainy while “Padano” denotes that this cheese hails from the infamous Po Valley.
Grana Padano would be an ideal cheese to consume every day if it wasn’t jam-packed with fats. It’s not too hard to find, it isn’t too expensive, and its fairly well-rounded taste are the things I love the most about it.
However, using it more than twice a week reflects on my weight and physical health, so I decided to create a list of alternatives you can use in your favorite meals without compromising your healthy lifestyle.