Whether you’re eating at your favorite pizza joint or the sub shop down the block, nothing seems to be more key in a tasty bite of Italian-American food than mozzarella cheese. The creamy, stretchy goodness elevates everything it touches into the flavor stratosphere.
What happens though when you’re at home attempting to make your favorite pizza or pasta bake, and you don’t have any mozzarella on hand? Here are a few ways to substitute for mozzarella cheese.
You can substitute many kinds of cheese for mozzarella as long as they’re made with cow’s milk and melt well. The substitution depends on the recipe, but some common mozzarella substitutes are provolone, ricotta, young cheddars, and Parmigiano Reggiano.
Now that you know, cow’s milk and melting ability, it’s time to get down to the substitute business. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of cheeses that make for great mozzarella tag-ins.
This sandwich staple is as much a staple in supermarkets as mozzarella, if not more so. While Provolone doesn’t make the perfect replacement for mozzarella in all situations, where it does, provolone shines.
Of the cheeses listed, provolone has the closest flavor to mozzarella, perhaps just a tad stronger. It’s a light, cow’s milk cheese that melts into gooey, stringy goodness that can masquerade as mozzarella in the blink of an eye.
That being said, provolone probably shouldn’t be your first choice for lasagna topping. It does however make a seamless, sometimes even elevated, substitution for your next pizza or parm sandwich.
Low-moisture provolone makes for a slightly stronger, slightly cheesier top to a good slice of pizza. You can melt provolone right onto your chicken cutlet to make a winner, winner of a weeknight dinner.
Ricotta cheese is a classic pairing with mozzarella in pasta bakes like lasagna or baked ziti, but it can also replace mozzarella in a pinch.
Ricotta is a semi-liquid whey cheese that can be made from many different animals. All ricottas share an uber-rich, creamy texture with a mild, semi-sweet flavor.
While ricotta cannot melt into a layer of crusted cheese like you’d want on a pizza, it does melt into something creamy and rich, resembling a nice bechamel or white sauce. For this reason, ricotta makes for a great chicken parm or lasagna topping.
Here’s where there’s a departure from the mozzarella homebase. While cheddar is a cow’s milk cheese that melts remarkably well, many cheddars have distinctly different flavors to the Italian staple mozzarella.
If you want to try not to depart too far from the flavor of mozzarella, be sure to aim for young cheddars that are mild. They melt great, are mild, and have all the classic cheese color you’d want, making cheddars great in lasagna or a caprese salad.
If you don’t mind departing, flavor-wise, from mozzarella, opt instead for some white cheddars. To the eye, white cheddar may look similar to mozzarella in its low-moisture form, but white cheddars are usually extra-sharp and will pack a punch to your next pizza.
While this cheese needs no introduction, the classic finisher of pasta and pizzas everywhere, you may question how this replaces mozzarella.
Parmigiano Reggiano won’t be the creamy, melty filling that mozzarella is, but if you’re looking for a crispy cheese to top your pizza, pasta, or cutlet, look no further than Parmigiano Reggiano.
Depending on the use of it in your dish, mozzarella has many substitutes. For creamy, mild fillings, opt for ricottas and young cheddars. For toppings that melt well and add new layers to a dish, use provolone or Parmigiano Reggiano.