Provolone Cheese 101: Nutrition, Properties, and Uses

Provolone is one of the most popular cheese varieties.

The cheese has a desirable flavor, is nutrient-rich, and has a versatile range of uses.

This article reviews the nutritional properties of provolone, its characteristics, benefits and downsides, and some of its uses.

What Is Provolone Cheese?

Large Wedges of Provolone Cheese On a Chopping Board.

Provolone is an aged Italian cheese; its first recorded mention appeared in the late 19th century (1).

The name ‘provolone’ means “a large-sized provola.” Provola is a smaller Italian cheese that shares similar characteristics.

Most provolone is made from four simple ingredients:

  • Pasteurized cow’s milk
  • Salt
  • A starter cheese culture: this helps kickstart the fermentation process
  • Enzymes: these help the cheese to coagulate and change into a solid form

Producing provolone involves a technique known as ‘stretched curd’ cheese (known as ‘pasta filata’ in Italy.

To make stretched-curd cheese, curds are allowed to heat up in hot water until they are stretchy. At this point, the producers knead the curds and pull/stretch them before forming them into cheese (2).

This process gives the cheese a desirable ‘elastic’ quality.

Provolone has a long history of production in the Italian regions of Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, and Trento (3).

However, it is now produced throughout the country and around the world.

Types of Provolone

Provolone is a semi-hard cheese with a generally smooth and creamy texture.

However, the flavor (and texture) can somewhat depend on the type of provolone.

Typically, there are four main types of provolone to choose from (4):

  • Mild: aged for 2-3 months and has a mild flavor.
  • Strong: aged for at least three months.
  • Smoked: a smoked version of the cheese.
  • Aged strong: this provolone undergoes an extended aging period, typically more than a year. As a result, it has a deeper, sharper flavor.
Key Point: Provolone is a popular Italian cheese with a soft and stretchy texture. It has a mild flavor, but longer-aged varieties have a sharper, more flavorful taste.

Nutrition Facts

What nutrients does provolone provide?

The following data shows the full nutritional values of provolone cheese per ounce (28.35g) serving.

All nutritional data is sourced from the USDA database (5). Daily values have been calculated using the USDA data and the FDA’s recommended daily values (6).

NameAmount% Daily Value (% DV)
Calories100 kcal
Carbohydrates0.61 g0.2% DV
Sugars0.16 g
Fiber0 g
Fat7.54 g9.7% DV
Saturated4.85 g24.3% DV
Monounsaturated2.1 g
Polyunsaturated0.22 g
Omega-30.08 g
Omega-60.14 g
Protein7.26 g14.5% DV
Sodium206 mg9.0% DV
Cholesterol19.6 mg6.5% DV
Table 1: Nutrition facts for provolone cheese per ounce (28.35g) serving

Vitamins

  • Vitamin B12: 17.1% DV
  • Vitamin A, RAE: 7.4% DV
  • Riboflavin: 6.9% DV
  • Pantothenic acid: 2.8% DV
  • Vitamin B6: 1.2% DV
  • Thiamin: 0.8% DV
  • Choline: 0.8% DV
  • Folate: 0.7% DV
  • Vitamin D: 0.7% DV
  • Vitamin K: 0.5% DV
  • Vitamin E: 0.4% DV
  • Niacin: 0.3% DV

Minerals

  • Calcium: 16.5% DV
  • Phosphorus: 14.1% DV
  • Sodium: 9.0% DV
  • Zinc: 8.3% DV
  • Selenium: 7.5% DV
  • Magnesium: 1.9% DV
  • Iron: 0.8% DV
  • Potassium: 0.8% DV
  • Copper: 0.8% DV
  • Manganese: 0.1% DV
Key Point: Provolone is a good source of protein, and it provides a broad range of vitamins and minerals.

Is Provolone a Healthy Cheese?

The nutritional differences between provolone and semi-hard cheese varieties like Cheddar, Gouda, and Jarlsberg are slight.

In other words, provolone offers the same kind of benefits (and downsides) as these other cheese options.

Benefits

Some notable benefits of provolone cheese include the following:

  • Provolone is a good source of protein, with approximately 26 grams of protein per 100 grams.
  • It provides moderate amounts of vitamin B12, vitamin A, and riboflavin (also known as vitamin B2).
  • Provolone provides significant calcium content; an ounce (28.35g) serving contains 16.5% of the recommended daily value. In addition to calcium, provolone is an excellent source of phosphorus. Both calcium and phosphorus play essential roles in bone health (7, 8).
  • Provolone contains a good amount of retinol, the most bioavailable (preformed) form of vitamin A. An ounce (28.35g) serving provides 66.9 mcg of vitamin A, equal to 7.4% of the recommended daily value. Vitamin A has many important functions and plays a crucial role in the immune system and in maintaining healthy vision (5, 9).

Downsides

It is also worth remembering that provolone can potentially have some downsides, depending on the dose and the individual context.

  • Approximately 2-3% of children and 0.5-3% of adults have cow’s milk allergy. Unlike lactose intolerance, the trigger of cow’s milk allergy is the (casein and whey) proteins in cheese. Since provolone is a rich source of protein, it is unsuitable for individuals with a cow’s milk allergy (10, 11, 12, 13).
  • Provolone has a high sodium content. An ounce (28.35g) serving contains 206 mg (9% of the daily value) of sodium, whereas 100 grams provides 707 mg (31% DV) (5, 6). For this reason, it is vital to consume provolone (and all salty foods) in moderation. The main reason is that high intakes of sodium can increase blood pressure (14, 15).
Key Point: Provolone cheese contains a good range of beneficial nutrients. However, it has high salt content, so high intakes may push sodium intake past recommended levels.

How To Use Provolone

Provolone is a versatile cheese due to its mild and creamy flavor and excellent meltability properties.

In this regard, the delicious taste of provolone explains why Dominos Pizza use it as a topping on their specialty pizzas (16).

Here are some excellent ways to use provolone:

  • As a filling for omelets, sandwiches, and toasties.
  • In pasta dishes like lasagna and as a pizza topping.
  • Shred a small amount (1oz/28g) and mix it into a stir-fry to enhance the flavor (and nutrient profile).
  • Use it on a cheeseboard with some fresh fruit and nuts.
  • As a topping in a baked potato.
  • Add it as an ingredient in a quiche.
  • For a delicious salad, chop the provolone into small cubes and mix it with lettuce, cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, olives, and pesto.
Key Point: Provolone is a delicious and versatile cheese that we can use in a variety of ways.

Common Questions

Here are some answers to common queries about provolone cheese to cover any potential questions.

Is provolone a high-fat or low-fat cheese?

As a semi-hard cheese, provolone is relatively high in fat at 27 grams per 100g (5). This fat content is similar to cheese varieties like Edam and Gouda. However, it is slightly lower in fat than Cheddar, which has 33 grams per 100 grams. It is also worth noting that some stores may stock ‘reduced fat’ provolone, which typically has a 30% reduced fat content.

Is provolone processed cheese?

The simple answer to this question is that all cheese is processed. This is because cheese contains several ingredients and, starting from milk, must undergo a ‘process’ to obtain the final product. That said, provolone cheese is a minimally processed food typically containing only four ingredients: milk, salt, a starter culture, and enzymes.

Is provolone a fresh or an aged cheese?

Provolone is an aged cheese, and the mildest variety requires 2-3 months of maturation (aging) time.

What cheese is similar to provolone?

The most similar cheese is provola, another Italian cheese that is just a smaller version of provolone. Aside from this, provolone shares similar characteristics to other semi-hard cheeses like Edam, Gouda, and Jarlsberg.

What are the main benefits of provolone?

Like many different kinds of cheese, the main nutritional benefits of provolone come from its provision of protein, calcium, and phosphorus.

Final Thoughts

Provolone is a delicious Italian cheese with a mild and easy-to-eat flavor.

Due to its excellent meltability, it can also work well as an ingredient in various cooked dishes.

For those who like cheese, provolone is among the best options.