Emmental cheese, also known as Swiss cheese, is a pale yellow, medium-hard cheese made from raw cow's milk. It originates from the Emmental region of Switzerland and is one of the most iconic cheeses in the world.
Known for its sweet, nutty flavor and distinctive holes or "eyes," Emmental adds delicious flavor and texture to sandwiches, fondues, salads, and more. However, you may sometimes need a substitute if you can't find Emmental cheese or if you have dietary restrictions.
Luckily, there are many excellent Emmental cheese substitutes to choose from.
What is Emmental Cheese?
Emmental cheese has a long and rich history spanning over 700 years. Production begins in the picturesque countryside of Switzerland, where dairy cows graze on lush green pastures near freshwater streams and mountainsides. This imparts a lovely sweetness to the milk.
To make Emmental cheese, raw cow's milk is poured into huge copper vats along with whey and rennet to form curds which are then whisked and molded. The cheese wheels are brined, then left to age for months in climate-controlled cellars, allowing flavor to develop.
During aging, pockets of carbon dioxide form "eyes" or holes within the paste, giving Emmental its iconic holey appearance. The end result is a cheese with a smooth, dense texture and mildly nutty, fruity flavor.
Emmental works beautifully in fondues, sandwiches, salads and more thanks to its excellent meltability. Its versatility also makes it a fantastic snacking cheese. True aficionados enjoy it with a crisp Riesling or unoaked Chardonnay wine.
Key Takeaway: Authentic Emmental cheese is made from raw Swiss cow's milk and aged for months to achieve its signature sweet, nutty flavor and distinctive holes.
Why Use an Emmental Cheese Substitute?
There are a few reasons you may need an Emmental alternative:
- Emmental can be expensive or difficult to source outside Europe. Quality substitutes offer more accessibility and value.
- You may have dietary restrictions. Luckily there are dairy-free options.
- Adding variety by using different cheeses can make recipes more interesting!
Substitutes can often mimic the flavor and texture of Emmental closely while bringing their own unique qualities.
Factors for Choosing an Emmental Substitute
Here are key factors to consider when selecting an Emmental swap:
- Flavor - Choose a cheese with a sweet, nutty flavor similar to Emmental. Alpine-style cheeses are often a good bet.
- Meltability - Look for substitutes that melt smoothly like Emmental. This is key for fondues and hot dishes.
- Texture - Substitutes should have a firm yet creamy texture when melted.
- Holes - While not essential, holes can mimic Emmental's appearance.
- Versatility - Pick cheeses that work across different applications like Emmental does.
Keeping these attributes in mind will ensure you find a tasty substitute suited to your needs!
Best Emmental Cheese Substitutes
Buttery, nutty Gruyère is arguably the best substitute for Emmental thanks to its near identical Swiss heritage and flavor profile.
Also made from raw cow's milk, Gruyère offers notes of brown butter, fruit and almonds. Its creamy body and tiny eyes melt beautifully in fondues and sandwiches.
Gruyère brings a more robust flavor to the table. For dishes where Emmental's mildness is paramount, use 25% less Gruyère.
Overall an outstanding, widely available swap perfect for quiches, mac and cheese, charcuterie platters and more!
Jarlsberg's mild, mellow flavor, dense texture and characteristic holes make this Norwegian cheese an excellent Emmental alternative.
Nutty and buttery notes shine through its smooth, ivory-hued paste dotted with small, irregular eyes. Its subtle sweetness pairs wonderfully with fruits and wine.
An approachable everyday substitute, Jarlsberg works well in most applications like grilled cheeses, sandwiches and as a snack cheese. Its affordability makes it a great option too.
Hailing from Switzerland, aromatic Appenzeller makes for a fine Emmental stand-in. Ranging from mild to tangy depending on age, it strikes an ideal balance between nuttiness and fruit.
Its smooth, pale yellow paste is liberally studded with small holes. Appenzeller melts beautifully into fondues and bakes up deliciously creamy in quiches thanks to its high fat content.
Delicious shredded over salads or served with cured meats, Appenzeller brings complexity to the table while mimicking Emmental's essential qualities.
Hailing from Italy, Fontina valle d’Aosta is often considered a close flavor match for Emmental. Its semi-soft paste offers nutty, buttery tastes complemented by fruity, honey-like notes.
When melted, Fontina achieves a glossy, almost stretchy texture akin to Emmental. This makes it a smart choice for pizzas, pastas, soups, sandwiches and more cheesy dishes!
Its subtle tang and characteristic tiny holes give it a distinct, alpine-esque personality. Fontina provides a deliciously smooth, creamy alternative to Emmental.
Beaufort is an unpasteurized cow's milk cheese from the French Alps. Its dense, smooth ivory paste delivers a complex palette of fruity, nutty, caramel flavors reminiscent of Emmental.
Aged for a minimum of 5 months, Beaufort's body becomes supple and fudgy when melted. This makes it a stellar choice for gratins, fondues, quiches and the like.
It lacks Emmental's distinctive openings but provides very similar eating qualities otherwise. Nutrient-rich and full-bodied, Beaufort is a gourmet Emmental swap.
A good quality aged Cheddar makes for an easily accessible Emmental alternative with its firm texture, tangy flavors and excellent melt.
Smooth-bodied with a range of rich nutty, buttery tastes, mild Cheddar best approximates Emmental's flavor profile. Meanwhile, its high fat content guarantees a velvety melt which coats the palate.
The versatile flavor and affordable price point of good Cheddar cheese ensure its popularity around the world. Though it lacks Emmental's fruitiness, it works nicely in sandwiches, bakes and snacks.
Despite the name, Swiss cheese is not the same as Emmental! However Swiss cheese makes an excellent budget-friendly substitute.
Depending on variety, Swiss cheese offers a mildly nutty flavor and pale yellow interior generously dotted with small holes - akin to Emmental. Its smooth, creamy texture works well melted or cold.
With its easy meltability and kid-friendly taste, Swiss cheese is a convenient alternative for grilled sandwiches, burgers, mac and cheese, pizza and snacks.
Originating from the Netherlands, mellow Gouda makes for a handy Emmental substitute. Ranging from mild to intensely flavored depending on age, Gouda provides nutty, creamy tastes.
When young, its pliable paste and subtle sweetness closely mimic Emmental. Meanwhile aged Gouda offers a rich, crumbly texture and deep caramelized flavors.
Gouda melts smoothly thanks to its high fat content. This makes it suitable for all kinds of hot dishes. An easy to use, great tasting alternative found worldwide.
Non-Dairy Emmental Substitutes
Those avoiding dairy have terrific options too:
Daiya Cheddar Style
Daiya's dairy-free Cheddar Style Shreds offer a bold, tangy flavor with a texture remarkably similar to melted cheese. Based on tapioca and chickpea, its smooth melt makes it perfect for grilled sandwiches, pastas and pizzas.
As one of the more widely available vegan cheese brands, Daiya provides an easy solution for lactose-free cooking. It lacks Emmental's sweetness but supplies that essential cheesy satisfaction.
Miyoko's Creamery Mozzarella
Crafted from a base of cashews and coconut oil, Miyoko's cultured vegan mozzarella is practically indistinguishable from the real thing.
When melted, it turns glossy, stretchy and creamy - mimicking Emmental beautifully. Meanwhile it provides a fresh, tangy flavor akin to high quality buffalo mozzarella.
A versatile choice for pastas, pizzas, paninis and more! This award winning cheese offers a spectacular plant-based alternative.
What Dishes to Use Emmental Substitutes In
Emmental swaps can be used across a variety of sweet and savory dishes:
- Sandwiches - Nutty Gruyère, Jarlsberg or Swiss cheese make excellent melty sandwich fillings.
- Burgers - Sliced Fontina or Gouda lend delicious creaminess and flavor contrast.
- Salads - Crumbled Feta, Beaufort or aged Cheddar provide tang and texture.
- Soups - Gruyère, Appenzeller or Fontina stir through velvety richness.
- Quiches - Smooth and creamy Fontina or Gruyère guarantee a silky custard.
- Pasta - Try nutty Gruyère or stretchy Miyoko's mozzarella melted through mac and cheese!
- Fondue - For authentic alpine flavor, stick with Gruyère or Appenzeller.
Let your creativity guide you - most Emmental swaps trabajo deliciously in hot or cold recipes!
Key Takeaway: Quality Emmental substitutes like Gruyère, Appenzeller and Jarlsberg can be used across both sweet and savory dishes ranging from sandwiches to salads, pasta bakes, fondues and more.
Emmental Cheese Substitute Comparison Chart
|Sweet, nutty, fruity
|Rich nutty, brown butter
|Mild, nutty, buttery
|Nutty, tangy, herbal
|Nutty, buttery, honeyed
|Nutty, caramelized, fruity
|Sharp, tangy, nutty
|Firm to crumbly
|Mild, sweet, nutty
|Sweet, nutty, buttery
|Soft to granular
What's the difference between Emmental and Swiss cheese?
While often confused as the same thing, Swiss cheese is a generic term for cheeses originating in Switzerland. Emmental is a protected designation that refers specifically to cheeses made in Switzerland's Emmental region using traditional methods.
So all Emmental is considered Swiss cheese, but not all Swiss cheese is Emmental! Many Swiss-style cheeses make suitable substitutes however.
Is Gruyère or Jarlsberg more similar to Emmental?
Of the two, Gruyère offers the closest match to Emmental in terms of flavor, texture and meltability thanks to also being crafted from Swiss cow's milk using time-honored techniques.
That said, Jarlsberg provides a more affordable, mildly flavored alternative that shares a similar aesthetic and melty quality. Ultimately it comes down to your flavor preferences and budget!
What's the best melted Emmental cheese substitute for dishes like fondues?
For melted applications, you'll want a cheese that mimics Emmental's famously smooth, silky melt. Gruyère and Appenzeller are excellent choices thanks to their origins and manufacturing process.
Meanwhile Fontina, Beaufort, Raclette and Gouda all supply superb meltability too. For vegan fondues, try Daiya or Miyoko's nut-based cheeses. Their stretchy textures perfect for dipping!
Is aged Cheddar an acceptable substitute for Emmental?
Aged Cheddar makes for a more readily accessible, budget-friendly alternative to Emmental. Its intensity of flavor doesn't quite match up to Emmental’s delicate nuttiness though.
Stick with mild or medium Cheddar for better results. Its creamy texture when melted helps it work nicely in hot dishes like grilled cheese sandwiches or macaroni and cheese.
Emmental may have iconic status as an Alpine cheese, but delicious substitutes are readily available for times when you need an alternative.
Whether you choose aromatic Gruyère, crowd-pleasing Jarlsberg or a plant-based option like Miyoko's, quality substitutes can mimic Emmental's essence while bringing their own flair.