Cheese is a beloved food for people all over the world, including Muslims. However, as people of faith, we must ensure that the foods we eat abide by Islamic dietary laws as prescribed in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Let’s explore the production process of mozzarella cheese and examine whether it meets the requirements for Halal certification according to the guidelines of our faith.
What is Mozzarella Cheese?
Mozzarella is a soft, white cheese originally from Italy. It is made from the milk of cows, goats, sheep or Italian water buffalo.
The most common type of mozzarella found around the world is made from cow’s milk. This mild, semi-soft cheese has a smooth elastic texture and melts beautifully when cooked. It is an essential ingredient in many Italian dishes like pizza, lasagna, calzones and caprese salad.
How is Mozzarella Cheese Produced?
The production process of mozzarella cheese begins with milk that has been pasteurized to kill any harmful bacteria. Then rennet is added to the milk to coagulate the casein proteins and separate the milk solids from the whey.
There are two main methods of making mozzarella:
Direct Acidification Method
In this method, citric acid or another type of acid is mixed directly into the milk to acidify it and cause the curds to form. The curds are cut, allowed to firm up, then stretched in hot water and formed into balls of mozzarella.
Starter Culture Method
With this technique, bacterial cultures are added to pasteurized milk and the milk is left to ferment and acidify naturally overnight. In the morning, rennet is mixed in to coagulate the curds which are then cut, heated, stretched in hot water and formed into balls of fresh mozzarella.
Is Animal Rennet Used in Mozzarella Production?
The key consideration when evaluating if mozzarella is Halal or not is the type of rennet used during production.
Rennet is an enzyme that traditionally comes from the stomach lining of young calves. This animal-derived rennet is called haram as its source is improperly slaughtered animals.
However, today there are two other types of rennet that can be used:
This rennet is produced by culturing safe bacteria that have the active enzyme chymosin which coagulates milk. Microbial rennet is considered Halal.
Fermentation-Produced Chymosin (FPC)
With FPC, the chymosin enzyme is created through a fermentation process from non-animal sources like fungi, yeast or bacteria that have been genetically modified to carry the chymosin gene. This rennet is also Halal.
As long as microbial or FPC rennet is used in making the cheese, mozzarella can be Halal certified. If the source of rennet is not known, it should be assumed that it comes from haram animal sources.
What Are Other Requirements for Halal Mozzarella?
In addition to rennet, there are a few other requirements for mozzarella to be certified Halal:
- The dairy cows cannot be fed any animal by-products or non-Halal substances. They should be raised on a natural, vegetarian diet.
- No alcohol can be used during the production process.
- The equipment used to make and store the mozzarella must be thoroughly cleaned between processing cheese made with animal and non-animal rennet.
- The finished cheese cannot contain any haram ingredients like pork-derived gelatin.
How to Identify Halal Certified Mozzarella
When shopping for mozzarella, look for trusted Halal certification symbols like the ones below to ensure the cheese is permissible for Muslims to eat:
Halal certification symbols
You can also contact the manufacturer and ask about the source of the rennet and other ingredients. Most reputable cheese companies will be happy to provide this information.
Buying mozzarella from a Muslim-owned company is another good option for obtaining Halal cheese. You can also make fresh mozzarella at home using microbial rennet which gives you full control over the ingredients.
What Does Islam Say About Eating Cheese Made with Animal Rennet?
There is some disagreement among Islamic scholars about whether cheese made with haram animal rennet can be condoned.
Some argue that since the rennet simply coagulates the milk and is not an integral part of the final cheese, it is permissible. Others say that since the impure rennet is a critical part of what makes the cheese, it cannot be Halal.
My view is that if we have accessible alternatives like microbial and synthetic rennet, there is no need to consume what is doubtful. We must exercise caution and avoid cheese made using animal rennet, unless there is absolutely no other choice.
Allah knows best and may He guide us to what is pure, lawful and good for our health and faith.
Can Halal Mozzarella Be Eaten with Meat Dishes?
According to the Maliki and Hanbali schools of Islamic jurisprudence, it is permissible to eat mozzarella cheese made with Halal rennet in the same meal with meat dishes.
The reasoning is that during cheese making, the impure part of the milk (the whey) is removed from the curds. So as long as Halal rennet is used, the finished cheese can be considered pure and eaten alongside meat.
However, the Shafi’i and Hanafi schools prohibit eating cheese together with meat unless they are cooked in separate pots. Their view is that the cheese can get contaminated from the meat juices during cooking.
So to be on the safe side, I advise separating your mozzarella and meat dishes during cooking and eating. But if they are served together after cooking, you can enjoy them according to the Maliki and Hanbali opinion, in sha Allah.
Delicious Halal Mozzarella Recipes to Try
Here are some delicious ideas for how to eat Halal mozzarella cheese:
Slice fresh mozzarella and tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and basil.
Bread chicken cutlets, fry and top with tomato sauce, mozzarella and parmesan. Bake until cheese melts.
Cut mozzarella into sticks, coat in breadcrumbs and deep fry (or air fry) until golden brown. Serve with marinara sauce.
Top pizza dough with tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil. Bake until the cheese bubbles.
Layer lasagna sheets with meat ragu, tomato sauce, ricotta and mozzarella. Bake until hot and melty.
Fill a panini with mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and balsamic. Grill until the bread is crisp and cheese melty.
I hope this article has clarified the Halal status of mozzarella cheese for you, my dear brothers and sisters. What a blessing that Allah has provided us with such a delicious and versatile food to enjoy within the boundaries of our faith.
When purchasing mozzarella, inspect the ingredients carefully and look for Halal certification to be assured of its permissibility. With so many tasty ways to eat Halal mozzarella, you can add this nutritious cheese to your diet without doubt or hesitation, in sha Allah.
May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon you.
والسلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته