Once a month, my close friend Amanda and I go grocery shopping at the local hypermarket near our neighborhood. I know this is something housewives usually do with their husbands or family members, but we figured this is much more practical.
- First, we like to spend a lot of time shopping, and thoroughly inspecting new brands on the market.
- Second, this gives us a chance to share cooking tips and latest information on various products.
- Last, but not the least, we have so much more fun this way! 🙂
So, last Thursday we were emptying the shelves of our favorite store, and Amanda told me she wants to buy some Asiago Cheese. She reached out for one, and I asked if I could read the label first. When I took a closer look at the packaging, I recommended her to go with the different brand. She was a little confused.
As I told Amanda that day, when you are buying Asiago, you should always look for the letters “POD” or “PDO” on the label. This stands for Protected Designation of Origin or “Denominazione di Origine Protetta” in Italian. This is the only way to be sure you are getting the real Asiago, produced in Northeastern Italy, according to their traditional cheese making recipe.
My recommendation was following – if there is no authentic Italian Asiago in the store, go with some of Asiago cheese substitutes rather than the cheese made outside Italy.
My explanation of different alternatives and how they are used was so extensive, Amanda asked me to write it down. So, I decided to make a blog for all of you Asiago lovers out there. Enjoy!
What is Asiago Cheese?
As I told Amanda, Asiago cheese comes from Alpine regions, Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige in Italy. It is made from whole cow milk, and it can have different textures and colors.
This cheese has a long history. It was first made on the plateau of Asiago, which explains the origin of its name. Initially, cheese makers used sheep instead of cow’s milk. However, during the 1600s, the practice of raising cows reached mentioned region.
As soon as it became available, cheesemakers switched to cow’s milk, because their customers were willing to pay a higher price for it. Interestingly, fresh Asiago wasn’t developed until the 1920s and today; it is three times more popular than the aged version.
- Fresh Asiago (Asiago Pressato) has a smooth, softer texture, white or pale yellow color and often marked, irregular holes. Its taste is mild, fresh and delicate, while the aroma is similar to yogurt or butter. Fresh Asiago is made from whole pasteurized milk and calf’s rennet. The curds are cooked, molded, and matured for about a month. It is best to use Asiago Pressato for sandwiches (both sliced and melted) or eat it with crackers.
- On the other hand, aged Asiago (Asiago d’allevo) has a sharp, crumbly texture and small to medium holes. It is pale yellow, while its flavor can vary depending on how long it is matured. Its aroma might remind you of bread or pizza dough, hazelnuts and almonds. Aged Asiago can be matured for four to six months (Mezzano) in which case it has a sweet taste; over ten months (Vecchio) when it has fragrant flavor and over fifteen months (Stravecchio) which produces strong characteristic Asiago taste.
10 Surprising Asiago Substitutes
When I gave Amanda the list of Asiago substitutes I used over the years and found they work great, she was a little surprised. She expected that I would replace Asiago with other cheeses exclusively, while that was not the case.
You will see for yourself, some ingredients that have no connection to cheese whatsoever, made this list. Don’t be afraid to use them. Experimenting often gives the best results.
Let me present you the best Asiago substitutes:
1. Dry Jack
- Dry Jack is cheese made in the Monterey region, California and comes from Monterey Jack cheese family. It is an excellent substitute for aged Asiago because of its firm, crumbly texture and creamy, mild, nutty taste.
- If you decide to use it instead of Asiago, it would be the best to grate it over soups, pasta or omelets. Even though it resembles aged Asiago better than the fresh one, it will work great melted in sandwiches too.
2. Grana Padano
- Probably one of my favorite substitutes for aged Asiago is Grana Padano. This pale yellow cheese comes from Italy and belongs to the Parmesan family. It is produced using cow milk and unpasteurized skim. Its texture is firm, while the flavor is nutty, sweet and savory. The more Grana Padano ages, the more its flavor becomes strong, fragrant and tangy.
- Due to its texture, it is best if you use it grated. Pasta dishes, soups, and salads can really benefit from it, and you won’t be able to taste the difference.
- Manchego is a Spanish cheese, traditionally made of unpasteurized sheep milk. Just like Asiago, it comes in two varieties – fresh and aged. It is firm, pale yellow with nutty, sweet flavor.
- The aged Manchego cheese can be used as an excellent substitute for aged Asiago. In fact, Manchego is more frequently used in US kitchens than its Italian fellow. It can replace Asiago if you use it grated, on pasta and similar dishes.
4. Nutritional Yeast
- As I have a lot of friends who are vegan, when I cook dinner for them I have to get creative and think of appropriate substitutes that will suit their diet. For that reason, nutritional yeast is an essential part of this list. This is not “real” cheese but an inactive form of yeast grown on sugarcane molasses. It is high in nutrition, Vitamin B, proteins and low in fats.
- This product has flavor quite similar to Asiago cheese. It is the best option you can find for vegans and people with lactose intolerance. You should use it as an aged Asiago substitute and sprinkle it over any dish you like – pasta, soups and so on.
5. Oil-Cured Black Olives
- The oil-cured or salt-cured black olives are olives that have been soaked in oil for several months. This process makes them much softer, gives them a wrinkly look and most importantly, eliminates their bitter taste leaving them with intense Asiago-like flavor.
- You can use them instead of both fresh and aged Asiago on sandwiches or pizzas. Oil-cured olives are low in fat and high in Vitamin E, which means they are not just appropriate but also a healthy substitute.
- Earlier, I mentioned that aged Asiago has similar taste to Parmesan, so you shouldn’t be surprised to see it on this list. This is one of my top choices for good Asiago replacement. Parmesan is another firm Italian cheese, with a bit darker color and sharp, savory, nutty taste. It is made from unpasteurized cow milk.
- The most significant advantage of parmesan cheese is the fact it is widely available on the market. However, it is often pricey, and you should always check its origin, packaging and similar details. Parmesan cheese is one of the best substitutes for aged Asiago, and it should be used grated on dishes like pasta, soups, salads, etc.
- From the Po river valley in Southern Italy, right to your tables comes one of the best known Asiago substitutes – Provolone cheese. It is made from both pasteurized and unpasteurized cow milk. Typically, Provolone’s texture is firm and grainy, while its flavor is mild, buttery, sweet and tangy. Fortunately, this cheese comes in two varieties – Provolone Dolce and Provolone Piccante. This means you can use it to replace both fresh and aged Asiago.
- The Dolce is sweet and resembles fresh Asiago, which makes it great for sandwiches, paninis, and crackers. On the other hand, Piccante is sharp and tangy which makes it similar to the aged Asiago. Provolone Piccante can be used in pasta dishes, as a pizza topping or with garlic bread.
- Romano is another Italian cheese from Parmesan family. It is usually made from cow milk (Vaccino), sheep milk (Pecorino) or goat milk (Caprino) or a mixture of two or all three of these. In general, Romano’s texture is brittle and crumbly, while the flavor can be mild, tangy and sharp, depending on the type of the milk it is made of. Pecorino Romano, the most famous kind of this cheese, has the sharpest taste.
- It is best if you use Romano as pizza or pasta topping. I would recommend you to roll up your sleeves and cook your first, homemade Romano cheese. The preparation is pretty straight-forward, and many cooks prefer to make it on their own.
9. Sap Sago
- Sap Sago (Shabziger) traditionally comes from Canton of Glarus, Switzerland. It has a firm structure and light green color, which might seem odd to you at first, but you will get used to it. It is made of skimmed cow milk and blue fenugreek, which is a wild clover, responsible for characteristic flavor and lime color. Sap Sago’s flavor is pungent, spicy and overall delicious.
- If you are a vegetarian, dieting or planning to lose weight, this is the best Asiago substitute for you because Sap Sago is low in fats. Due to its firmness and flavor, it is a great substitute for aged Asiago, and I recommend you to use it for soups, salads or pasta after being grated.
10. Seasoned Breadcrumbs
- For the end of the list, I saved another atypical Asiago cheese substitute. Seasoned breadcrumbs can be a great replacement as they provide a flavor and texture similar to grated aged Asiago.
- This is a cheap option and at the same time suitable for anyone with milk allergies. You can buy your breadcrumbs at the store, but I would recommend you to make them at home. This way you can adjust their flavor to match Asiago as closely as possible. The best way to use seasoned breadcrumbs is to sprinkle them over pizza, salad or soup.
Amanda is already in her kitchen, trying out my Asiago substitutes.
In the meantime, I am experimenting and trying to find the ones that will be even better than the ones I listed and ones that will work for fresh Asiago too. 🙂
I hope you’ve found what you were looking for and you are already shopping for ingredients, cooking or eating a delicious meal with Asiago cheese substitute.