Lord Nrsimhadeva's Lasagna
(Rennetless Cheese)

by Donald McClelland
Posted January 1, 2003

Dear Prabus:

Hare Krsna. All Glories to Srila Prabupada and the Vaisnava Acaryas! I have a concern about the cheeses used in the recipe. Where do you get the cheeses from? I have heard devotees using cheeses from local stores which I no doubt have rennet or rennet products in them. I recently ordered my own catalog for making cheeses and plan to do my own. There is vegetable rennet but it is very time consuming to make cheeses. Some cheeses there is no way to make them without using some ingredients that contain animal sources in them. Please give me some information and guidance on this issue.

Hari Bol!

Donald McClelland

Chakra replies:-

Editor's Note: You can purchase cheese without rennet at most natural foods stores as well as many supermarkets in the USA, Canada and Europe, or you can use vegan soy-cheese. Beware of the word 'enzymes' in the list of ingredients, because this often means rennet; while lipase, for example, is an enzyme which is usually derived from animal slaughter. If you see the term 'microbial enzymes', however, it will be safe for vegetarians.

The following information is supplied by the Vegetarian Resource Group:

Why are some cheeses labeled as "vegetarian cheese"?

Some cheeses are made with vegetable, fungal, or microbial enzymes. The Vegetarian Resource Group has a list of vegetarian cheeses available.

Why wouldn't cheese be vegetarian? What is rennet?

Cheese is often made with rennet or rennin, which is used to coagulate the dairy product. According to the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, rennin, which is an enzyme used in coagulating cheese, is obtained from milk-fed calves. "After butchering, the fourth stomach ... is removed and freed of its food content." After this the stomach goes through several steps including being dry-salted, washed, scraped to remove surface fat, stretched onto racks where moisture is removed, then finally ground and mixed with a salt solution until the rennin is extracted.

What are enzymes? Are they vegetarian?

They are proteins added to foods as modifiers. They can be animal, vegetable, bacterial, or fungal. Those used in cheese- making are often animal-derived; others are used in breadmaking and are often fungal. Examples of enzymes are: lactase (fungal), lipase (animal, fungal), papain (vegetable), pectinase (fruit), protease (animal, vegetable, bacterial, or fungal), rennet (animal), and trypsin (animal).