Vegetable Broth with Vegetarian Parmesan

Vegetable Broth with Vegetarian Parmesan

In case you didn’t know Parmesan isn’t vegetarian. Real Parmesan cheese uses animal rennet. However there are vegetarian versions of Parmesan and I used one in this recipe called Gran Kinara. If you’re not vegetarian you can easily substitute Parmesan or Grana Padano. If you’re vegetarian and can’t find Gran Kinara there is a link to the Vegetarian Society of Ireland below where you can find out about alternatives.

abitmorveg This abitmoreveg recipe uses a vegetarian Parmesan style cheese called Gran Kinara. I think it can be difficult to find this, but the Vegetarian Society of Ireland has this post telling you about more alternatives. So just in case you weren’t aware some cheese use animal rennet to curdled the cheese so some cheeses are not vegetarian. Parmesan in order to be classified as Parmesan must use animal rennet so real Parmesan is never vegetarian. But there are plenty of alternatives out there and if your worried about whether other cheeses you like are vegetarian or not just look at the ingredients. This soup contains barley, which is lovely and comforting and full of fibre, but sadly that also make this one not gluten-free. If you’re looking for a gluten free alternative to the broth mix you could just add some red lentils and brown rice instead.

Vegetable broth with vegetarian parmesan, Gran Kinara - with extra parsley and cheese for topping.
Vegetable broth with vegetarian parmesan, Gran Kinara. Serve with some extra parsley and cheese.

This is a recipe for a simple vegetable broth which is turned into something great by adding Parmesan. As I mentioned last week Parmesan isn’t vegetarian but if you shop around you can find vegetarian substitutes. I’m using Gran Kinara here.

a delicious and nutritious bowl of vegetable broth.
A bowl of vegetable broth, filled with barley, vegetarian Parmesan style cheese and all sorts of tasty goodness.

You might think that there aren’t any health benefits to Parmesan cheese but you would be wrong; it’s rich in protein, calcium and vitamin A. And so are the vegetarian substitutes. The main difference between Gran Kinara and Parmesan is in how the milk is curdled. Parmesan uses animal rennet and Gran Kinara uses artichoke thistle.

A ready-made mix of pearl barley, split peas, red lentils and marrowfat peas.

I used some of a vegetable broth mix in the soup – in fact the whole reason I made the soup was to use up a broth mix I’d bought. You have to soak the mix for 12 hours, rinse, boil for 10 minutes and simmer for a further 35 minutes. If you just use pearl barley you would be able to add it to the soup after soaking it for 12 hours and rinsing. In future this is what I will use because while I love all the legumes in the mix the different length of time they require to become tender and usable makes me think they are better off not being in a mix together, but that’s just my opinion. Also, I think pearl barley is great as a background filler, which really adds a lovely gentle texture to a dish (and loads of healthy fibre), while marrowfat peas, split peas and lentils are more standout additions  – again just my opinion.

rinse broth-mix
After soaking rinse thoroughly.

I also added the rind of the cheese to the soup while it was simmering and it really added to the flavour. If you have any sort of parmesan style cheese make sure you save the rind for the next time you are making some soup – you can wrap it in cling film and freeze it until you need it.

When I sliced up the potatoes for this I diced one into very small dices (you could grate it) and the other one into larger, though still small, bite-sized chunks. This is so that one of the potatoes will dissolve into the soup making it that bit creamier and thicker. Broths are not supposed to be thick but this is just enough potato to give it a good taste and texture.

The recipe calls for 1.5 litres of vegetable stock. Honestly these days I tend to use a stock cubes to make stock but homemade stock does taste better and would be more nutritious I guess. Below is a picture of the veg I used to make the stock for this.

vegetable stock
Vegetables and herbs for making stock; onions, carrots, celery, leeks, garlic swede, bay leafs, thyme, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Sweat the vegetables on a gentle heat for a few minutes, cover with 2 litres of water, bring to the boil and then simmer for 40 minutes or so. Strain and there’s your stock.
ingredients for vegetable broth
Onion, carrot, celery, mushroom, potato, thyme, sage, garlic, broth mix, vegetable stock and, of course, salt and pepper.

Vegetable Broth with Vegetarian Parmesan

Vegetable Broth with Vegetarian Parmesan


  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • some leafy celery sticks, sliced
  • mushrooms, torn into small pieces
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes, diced – mixture of sizes
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 150g vegetable broth mix or pearl barley
  • 1.5 litres vegetable stock
  • salt & pepper
  • vegetarian Parmesan-style cheese (e.g. Gran Kinara)
  • cheese rind optional


  1. Put the vegetable broth mix in a deep bowl, cover, to three times their depth, with boiling water. Cover and leave to soak for 12 hours. Rinse thoroughly through a sieve. Add to a saucepan of water, bring to the boil, boil for 10 minutes and then simmer for 35 minutes. Drain through a sieve and leave aside until using. If you are using just pearl barley it is sufficient to soak and rinse.
  2. Heat a little olive oil in a deep saucepan. Add the onion, herbs, salt and pepper, stir around, cover and leave to sweat on a gentle heat for 3 – 5 minutes.
  3. Add the carrots and celery, stir around well, cover and leave for a further 5 minutes.
  4. Add the mushrooms and garlic, cover and leave for a further 5 minutes.
  5. Add the potato, cover and leave to cook for a further 8 minutes.
  6. Pour in the vegetable broth and add in the broth mix (or pearly barley). Bring to boil. Add in the cheese rind, if using. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with freshly grated or shaved Parmesan-style cheese and some parsley.

A pot of vegetables simmering with the cheese rind.
To add a real depth of flavour to the soup, add the cheese rind while the soup is simmering.
a delicious and nutritious bowl of vegetable broth.
A delicious and nutritious bowl of vegetable broth.