A powdered vegetable coagulant (PVC) obtained from the cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) was compared with calf rennet in batches of Manchego cheese, by determining different chemical, biochemical and sensory characteristics, which were monitored over a 6-month ripening period. For most chemical parameters (moisture, fat, protein, acidity, NaCl and pH) and water activity studied, no differences were observed between the two types of coagulants. However, higher casein hydrolysis was observed after 2 days of ripening in cheeses produced with vegetable coagulant compared with those made with rennet. Soluble nitrogen was significantly higher (P < 0.05) and the other nitrogen fractions were only slightly higher (P > 0.05) in cheeses with PVC. In general, the sensory quality (odour, colour, taste intensity and creaminess) was higher in cheeses obtained with vegetal coagulant than those made with animal rennet.