Famous Swiss Foods: Cheese

Post by Lauren

Switzerland is famous for its cheese delicacies. I thought I would dive into this topic a bit more.

Why is cheese from Switzerland better?

Many say it’s the cows. Switzerland has a lot of grassland which is hilly and unfit for traditional farming. However, it is excellent for livestock breeding. On a recent tour of the Gruyeres cheese factory, they say that you can taste the flavor of the meadows in the cheese, just like you can tastes the hint of cherry, blackberry, and oak in wine.

The secret to Switzerland's cheese.

Which cheese is Swiss cheese?

Well, The Swiss will argue that all cheese in Switzerland is Swiss cheese, because it is made in Switzerland. They aren’t really familiar with the Americanized “Swiss cheese” with holes in it. But this type of cheese Americans commonly know as Swiss is in fact a general term for what the Swiss call Emmenthaler. However, in Switzerland, they have over 450 types, all which they consider Swiss cheese.

Check out this link for an interview with Matt Lauer inquiring about this same topic


Where in Switzerland is known for good cheese?

Everywhere!!  See this map for specific types.

How much cheese do Swiss people eat a year?

47 pounds, compared to 31 pounds by Americans.

How do you eat cheese in Switzerland?


Fondue is a special mélange of Swiss cheese ( Jarlsberg, Emmenthaler, and Gruyere ) mixed with liquors (wine and kirsch). You heat it in a fondue pot and you dip stale bread into it. The Swiss are not known for any fondue except for this type. So not oil fondue (bourgignonne) or broth fondue (chinoise) or chocolate fondue (like the kind you see at weddings).

This type of fondue is rare in Switzerland

However, they do add some variety by serving champagne fondue, and tomato fondue.

The first time we ordered fondue, we only ate a tenth. We were so stuffed. The waiter thought something was wrong as I think we ate less than anyone else ever had.

Nostalgia. Our first fondue experience in Switzerland at Café du Soleil.

We have never reached the bottom by ourselves. However, the bottom is the best part. A told us its like a crispy cheese-it. When we went snowshoeing the gals who sat next to us polished theirs off and offered us some of the bottom. Oh so good.

Also, it should be told that true Swiss folks dip their bread into a shot of kirsch first. It is like a cherry alcohol. On the same snowshoeing outing, one of the mean offered us his glass of kirsch to experiment. Not sure if I was a huge fan, but it was very kind for this gentleman to teach how the true Swiss do it.

Fondue comes along with responsibility. You should take care that your fork never touches the melty cheese, only your bread. Also, you should avoid your mouth making contact with your fork.


This is our favorite cheese dish. In a traditional setting, a huge block of cheese, is heated under a heating element. When it starts bubbling, you scrape off the melty layer onto your plate and eat it with accompaniments which can be dried meats, breads, potatoes, pearl onions, or pickles.

Double dose of fondue and raclette. This is raclette Type 1 - Form A - wedge.

Me, mesmerized by eating the raclette. This is type 1 - form B - horizontal block of cheese.

Pascal learning how to do the scrape.

It can also be served two other ways that we have seen. The second way [Type 2]  is still a traditional method, but is easier for parties at your home. On a tiered platform, you have a central heating plate. Underneath, you slip individual (usually 6) dishes on which each person has ensembled their own concoction – slice of raclette, perhaps some dried meat. Then, afterwards, they scrape their individual serving onto bread or potatoes on their plate.

The Captain and Swiss Miss eating Raclette - Form 2. Notice the little dishes underneath. The top is keeping our potatoes and bread warm.

Finally, some restaurants just do the prep in the back and bring you a melty plate of gooey raclette. The taste is the same, but it lacks the fun. Make sure you ask the preparation if you really want a traditional setting.

What if you just want to buy it at the store?

At the grocery store, the cheese section is at least double the size of frozen foods. These people take their cheese seriously. The only other nationality that comes close to Switzerland in the realm of cheese is France. I like French cheese too. Gabe doesn’t because he isn’t a fan of the soft types.

"Regular" cheese aisle at the grocery store near Gabe's office

"Specialty" cheese section at the grocery store near Gabe's office. Same store.

However, in either of these photos, you will not find any cheddar or orange cheese.  Nada.

You can also buy cheese at the farmers market, or at full-out cheese stores that only sell cheese.  I am intimidated still by these places. I’ll buy an occasional known type at the farmers market but want to practice my French a bit more before venturing to the unknown.

If you want to make fondue or raclette at home, no worries – they sell plenty of cheese heating instruments here.

Cheese prep aisle at local electronics store


8 thoughts on “Famous Swiss Foods: Cheese

  1. Yes, yes, the best part of the fondue is right bottom. And if you ever get to the bottom, remember to crack an egg into the cheese. Sounds gross but it’s yummy!!!!

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