The Italian cheese-making industry has many famous exports, including Romano. In the United States and Canada, Romano cheese is the name for a group of hard, salty cheeses.
Romano cheeses can be made of sheep, cow, or goat’s milk. They have a potent, salty taste and hard texture, which is why these cheeses are mostly used for grating. Although the name comes from Pecorino Romano, the famous Roman cheese, Pecorino is just one type of Romano cheese. Pecorino Romano has to be sheep’s milk cheese from Italy.
Although Romano cheeses are delicious, for some people, they are too strong. Depending on your grocery store, they could also be hard to find, which is why you may need a substitute.
Parmesan cheese is the most common substitute for Romano cheeses. Parmesan, like Romano, is a hard cheese primarily used for grating. You can use it in pasta sauces, on top of risotto, and in any other recipe that calls for Romano. You can even use Parmesan rinds to flavor your soup.
Parmesan has a salty flavor as well, but it is not as strong as Romano. For some people, this is a good thing, but if you really like Romano cheese, you may miss some of that potency when you replace it with Parmesan.
Grana Padano is another famous Italian export. Like Romano, it is a hard, salty cheese used for grating. You can use it as a topping for pasta, risotto, and more. Grana Padano is a more affordable substitute than true Pecorino Romano because the restrictions are not as strict. It can be made anywhere in Italy, while Pecorino Romano has to come from Lazio or Sardinia.
Like Parmesan, Grana Padano has a sweeter, milder flavor than Romano cheeses. In some cases, this is a benefit, for example if you are cooking for people who don’t like cheese. However, you may need to compensate by adding more salt to your dish.
Asiago is another iconic Italian cheese. It has a milder flavor than most Romano cheeses because it is made from cow’s milk (although if you are looking for mildness, be sure that you buy young Asiago cheese because the aged varieties can be quite pungent).
You can grate Asiago over your meal like you would Romano. However, this cheese is much softer than Romano, so you may have trouble grating it—but on the flip side, you can also serve it as part of a charcuterie board.
If you are looking for a Romano cheese replacement because you are vegan, then nutritional yeast is your best substitute. Nutritional yeast is a type of yeast that was developed to be a vegan alternative to cheese. It has a salty, nutty taste that is similar to Romano cheese.
You can use nutritional yeast as a cheese replacement by sprinkling it over your dish or even make a vegan cheese sauce by blending it with cashews. However, the taste of nutritional yeast is somewhat pungent so use about half the quantity of Romano cheese that you would normally use.
If you’re having trouble sourcing Italian cheese, then cheddar cheese works as a Romano substitute. Get aged cheddar because it has a similar salty, pungent taste and hard texture. Mild cheddar is milder and lacks some of the flavor.
You can grate aged cheddar over your dish like you would with Romano cheese. However, it does lack some of the complexity of flavor that Romano cheese has.
If you can’t find Romano cheese, there are substitutes for every palate, including vegan ones.