All-Purpose Seedy Vegan Parmesan

Small pile of Seedy Vegan Parmesan
Is there anything it's NOT good on?

A web search will turn up dozens of variations on “vegan parmesan.” Which is exactly the point! There are, and should be, just as many nuanced versions of plant-based cheeses as there are of dairy ones.

So instead of keeping a definitive, one-size-fits-all recipe on hand, I use a loose framework that can be adjusted for different dishes or based on what’s in the kitchen. The three components are: (1) seed, (2) yeast, and (3) savory-pungent squishy thing.


To localize or regionalize this recipe, try to find some local sunflowers and/or sesame seeds. A softer grain could probably work, too, but I’ve yet to experiment with any. I like the texture that comes from combining two or more types of small seeds, but using a single variety will produce a more even consistency. Toasting the seeds will produce a richer, nuttier flavor, but raw seeds will have more of their nutrients intact.


It’s difficult to find a local nutritional yeast, probably because of the fascinating but intensive process required to make it. I actually find it difficult to locate information about many brands of nutritional or brewer’s yeast, which leads me to suspect much of it is repackaged for private labels. But this topic probably deserves a post of its own. You could make a raw, unprocessed version of vegan parm without any nutritional yeast, but I do love the stuff.

Savory-Pungent Squishy Thing

The possibilities here are many. I’ve come to prefer either a mix of lemon zest and mince garlic or a dab of miso (I recommend Massachusetts’ own South River Miso Company). The miso is especially rich and savory, while the lemon and garlic give a brighter, tip-of-your-tongue bite. But you could also try sun-dried tomatoes, olives or olive juice, capers, sesame oil. Of course, the quantities here could vary, too, depending on whether you want a drier, breadcrumb-like topper or something squishy.

a watercolor and graphite picture by Charles Goodwin, showing a sugar jar
Charles Goodwin, Shaker Sugar Jar, 1941 (via the National Gallery of Art)

Regarding equipment, I have yet to try a version of this in mortar and pestle. That could be a fun albeit labor-intensive option. For electric options, smaller is better. I usually use either our second-hand/salvaged baby food blender or the “slap-chop” mini Cuisinart that we got for smoothie bowls last year.

All-Purpose Seedy Vegan Parmesan

Highly flexible savory topper for salads, pastas, veggies, and miscellaneous platefuls.
Prep Time10 minutes
Total Time10 minutes
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: Italian, Raw
Diet: Vegan
Keyword: Staple
Servings: 10
Calories: 65kcal


  • Small Blender or Food Processor
  • Microplane Grater or Citrus Zester
  • Shaker Jar optional


  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds and/or pine nuts almonds work, too
  • 3 tbsp hemp and/or sesame seeds
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest or miso paste or minced garlic miso is deliciously savory, lemon adds a bright tang
  • 1 tsp salt


  • Add all ingredients to blender or food processor and pulse until few whole seeds remain but texture is still gritty/sandy.
  • Place in a shaker jar and store in fridge for up to two weeks.

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