Swiss Cheese Alternatives

Swiss cheese is a type of cheese that originated in Switzerland. The most well-known Swiss cheese is Emmenthal, known for its distinctive holes and nutty flavor.

Swiss Cheese Alternatives

While Swiss cheese is delicious, it can be difficult to find depending on where you live.

Luckily, there are several great substitutes for Swiss cheese that you can use in recipes or for snacking.

What is Swiss Cheese?

Swiss cheese refers to a variety of cheeses that originate in Switzerland. Although there are many types, the most well-known is Emmenthal cheese. Emmenthal is a yellow, medium-hard cheese made from cow's milk. It has a savory, sweet and nutty flavor.

The signature characteristic of Emmenthal and Swiss cheese in general is the holes or "eyes" that form during production. These holes are formed by carbon dioxide bubbles that develop during the fermentation process. As the cheese ages, the holes get larger.

Swiss cheese has a smooth, firm yet supple texture. When melted, it becomes creamy and elastic. It melts at a lower temperature than many aged cheeses, making it perfect for fondues, grilled cheese, and baked dishes.

Popular Types of Swiss Cheese

While Emmenthal is the most famous, there are over 450 types of Swiss cheese! Here are some other popular varieties:

  • Gruyere - This is a darker yellow, semi-hard cheese with a rich, complex nutty flavor. It has small holes or cracks rather than large eyes. Gruyere melts very well.
  • Sbrinz - Sbrinz is an extra hard cheese, aged for up to 3 years. It has a concentrated, piquant flavor with nutty and fruity notes. The texture is crumbly and dry.
  • Appenzeller - A pale yellow, semi-hard cheese with a creamy, spicy flavor from a brine wash. It has a supple, elastic texture with small holes.
  • Raclette - Used for the dish raclette, this is a flavorful washed rind cheese that melts smoothly.
  • Tête de Moine - Only made by a few dairies, this cheese has a dense texture and rich, fruity notes. It's scraped into rosettes for serving.

Key Takeaway: The most famous Swiss cheese is Emmenthal, but there are over 450 types of Swiss cheeses in a range of textures and flavors.

Flavor and Texture of Swiss Cheese

The flavor of Swiss cheese depends on the variety, but in general it has these characteristics:

  • Sweet and nutty - Swiss cheese has a slightly sweet, nutty taste that comes from the milk and aging process. Emmenthal in particular is known for its mellow, nutty flavor.
  • Savory - The savoriness comes from compounds created during fermentation by bacteria and aging. Swiss cheese tends to be less salty than other cheeses.
  • Fruity, grassy notes - Some Swiss cheeses develop fruity esters and grassy compounds during aging that add complexity. But in general the flavor profile remains approachable.
  • Buttery - Many Swiss cheeses have a rich, buttery mouthfeel.

The texture of Swiss cheese includes:

  • Smooth and firm - When young, the paste has a supple, smooth texture that is firm to the touch.
  • Elastic - As Swiss cheese ages, it remains somewhat elastic and bendable rather than becoming crumbly. This allows it to melt smoothly.
  • Creamy - When melted, Swiss cheese becomes silky and creamy on the palate.
  • Small holes - The "eyes" start out as tiny openings that get larger in size during aging. The holes add visual interest and allow bubbles to form when melted.

How to Use Swiss Cheese

Swiss cheese is a versatile ingredient used in many dishes:

  • Sandwiches - Sliced Swiss cheese is commonly used in sandwiches like croque monsieur, Reubens, and deli sandwiches.
  • Cheese boards - Swiss cheese pairs well with cured meats, nuts, and fruits. Try it with salami, prosciutto, grapes, and figs.
  • Fondue - The excellent melting properties of Swiss cheeses like Emmenthal and Gruyere make them ideal for cheese fondue.
  • Quiches and tarts - Delicate nutty Swiss cheeses add flavor to egg dishes without overpowering them.
  • Soups and sauces - Add shredded or cubed Swiss cheese to enhance cream-based soups and sauces.
  • Pastas and gratins - Toss with pasta or use as a topping for au gratin potatoes or vegetables.
  • Raclette - This dish involves melting Raclette cheese under a broiler and scraping it over boiled potatoes and pickled vegetables.

The Best Substitutes for Swiss Cheese

If you don't have access to authentic Swiss cheeses, these alternatives will work well:

1. Gruyere

Gruyere is a Swiss cheese made from cow's milk with a creamy, nutty flavor. Since it originated in Switzerland, it makes an authentic replacement for Swiss cheese. Gruyere has small holes rather than large eyes. It melts beautifully for fondues and grilled cheese. Use it anywhere cheddar would be too sharp.

2. Emmental

This is the true Swiss cheese with the signature holes. If you can find imported Emmental cheese, it will be the closest match. Domestic Emmental lacks the complex flavor of imported Swiss cheese but can be used in cooking applications.

3. Jarlsberg

Jarlsberg is a mild Norwegian cheese modeled after Emmental. It has a pale yellow color and smooth, waxy texture with small holes. Jarlsberg provides a very similar eating experience to Swiss cheese. Use it for sandwiches, charcuterie and in baking.

4. Fontina

This semi-soft Italian cheese has a supple texture and nutty flavor when young. Fontina melts extremely well, making it ideal for pasta dishes, pizzas and soups requiring a smooth, creamy cheese.

5. Havarti

Havarti is a Danish cow's milk cheese with a creamy, buttery flavor. It features small holes similar to Swiss cheeses. The smooth, mild flavor of Havarti makes it suitable for sandwiches, appetizers and baking.

6. Gouda

Gouda is a Dutch cheese known for its smooth flavor and excellent meltability. Milder young Gouda provides the closest match for Swiss cheeses in terms of flavor and texture. Try using smoked Gouda for a twist.

7. Edam

This Dutch cheese covered in red wax bears a close resemblance to Emmental. Edam has a mild, nutty flavor that works well in cold sandwiches and snacks or melted into hot dishes.

8. Provolone

Both mild Provolone and aged Provolone piccante can substitute for Swiss cheese in recipes. Mild Provolone has a smooth flavor for sandwiches while piccante can provide sharpness in cooked dishes.

9. Asiago

The semi-soft texture of young Asiago is similar to Swiss cheese. It has a mild, sweet flavor that works well in sandwiches, appetizers and some baking applications.

10. Muenster

Mild Muenster cheese has a soft, smooth texture and mellow flavor. This American cheese can successfully replace Swiss in recipes when you need melting properties along with a mild taste.

Key Takeaway: The best substitutes include Gruyere, Emmental, Jarlsberg, Fontina, Havarti, Gouda, Edam, Provolone, Asiago and Muenster cheeses.


Is Swiss cheese healthy?

Swiss cheese can be part of a healthy diet in moderation. It provides protein, calcium, vitamins A and B12. However, it is high in saturated fat and sodium if consumed in large quantities.

What cheese tastes most like Swiss cheese?

The cheeses that most closely mimic the flavor of Swiss cheese are other Swiss varieties like Gruyere, domestic Emmental, Jarlsberg, Appenzeller, and Raclette. Fontina and Havarti also have a similar creamy, nutty taste.

Can I substitute Gruyere for Swiss cheese?

Yes, Gruyere makes one of the best substitutes for Swiss cheese. This aged Swiss cheese has a similar texture and rich, nutty flavor. Gruyere melts wonderfully, so it can be used in fondues, au gratin dishes, quiches and other recipes calling for Swiss cheese.

Is Gouda a good substitute for Swiss cheese?

Gouda can work well as a replacement for Swiss cheese in many instances. Opt for a young, mild Gouda to match the sweet, nutty Swiss flavor. Gouda melts excellently, so it can be substituted in recipes where Swiss cheese is baked or melted.

Can I use cheddar instead of Swiss cheese?

While cheddar doesn't mimic the flavor of Swiss cheese, it can be used instead in some recipes, especially cooked dishes. The same amount of cheddar will provide more sharpness and cheddar melts differently than Swiss cheese. But in foods like grilled cheese or quiche, sharp cheddar makes a decent substitute.

What can I use if I don’t have Swiss cheese for fondue?

Gruyere and Emmenthal are traditional fondues cheeses, but if unavailable, try Fontina, Havarti, Gouda or Monterey Jack. Shred or cube the cheese to promote even melting. Add cornstarch to prevent separation.

Is Swiss cheese easy to grate?

Due to its firm yet pliable texture, Swiss cheese generally grates well compared to super hard or crumbly cheeses. Allow cheese to come to room temperature before grating to avoid gumminess. Use the fine holes on a grater for a fluffy consistency.

Can I use Swiss cheese on a charcuterie board?

Absolutely! Swiss cheese pairs wonderfully with cured meats, nuts, olives, fresh and dried fruits on a charcuterie platter. Try Emmenthal, Gruyere, Appenzeller, Raclette or Tête de Moine for variety. Serve with breads, crackers, baguette, and jams.

What are some good cheese pairings with Swiss cheese?

Some tasty pairings with Swiss cheese include prosciutto, salami, Manchego, Parmesan, fresh strawberries, figs, walnuts, smoked almonds, baguette, rye bread, and jams like fig or apricot. Full-bodied red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon work well too.


Swiss cheese brings a unique sweet, nutty flavor and smooth melting texture to recipes.

While authentic Swiss cheeses like Emmenthal and Gruyere are ideal, there are many worthy substitutes available.

Havarti, Jarlsberg, Fontina, Gouda, Provolone and other cheeses can mimic the taste and performance of Swiss cheese.

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AGAH Productions