Switzerland is quite famous for its numerous cheeses and you’re definitely in the right place if you want to know more about them.
How many Swiss cheeses are there, what are the most popular types, and what are the best ways to try them are just some of the questions about Swiss cheeses answered in this guide. Read on to learn more about the many cheeses of Switzerland, and see which ones you must try whenever you get the opportunity!
It’s still not known when or where exactly cheese was invented, but it definitely wasn’t in Switzerland. The Alpine country also isn’t even in the top ten producers of cheese today, so how come it’s such a big part of the Swiss culture and tradition?
The first mention of Swiss cheese is attributed to Pliny the Elder, a Roman historian from the first century. He called it the cheese of the Helvetians, which was one of the many Roman tribes who were living in the then territory of Switzerland.
Cottage cheese was the standard type of cheese in Switzerland for many centuries. It was made by souring milk, but it didn’t keep for too long. Then the rennet technique appeared in Switzerland in the 15th century and the farmers learned how to produce hard cheese, which could keep for much longer. It didn’t take long until that became the main way of producing cheese in Switzerland, since it was much more profitable.
Soon after, Swiss cheese became a valuable trading commodity. There was even a period when local inns would serve poor quality milk and butter – making cheese was much more profitable, so everything else was put on the back burner.
Also, it’s worth noting that the first large-scale production of cheese is attributed to dairy farmer Jesse Williams from Rome, New York. It took a few decades for that to become the norm in Switzerland, but shortly after the country started exporting not just the raw materials, but also their cheesemakers.
Many Swiss cheesemakers emigrated to the United States, Eastern Europe, and even Russia, to set up the dairy industries in other countries. That’s why there are Swiss cheeses in many countries around the world and varieties like Baby Swiss and Tilsit exist. Some cheesemakers stayed in those countries permanently, but even more of them eventually returned to Switzerland.
There are approximately 475 different types of Swiss cheese, up to 99% of which are made from cow’s milk. That’s an impressive number, but it’s worth noting that this includes all varieties, so even the same cheese types with regional distinctions.
Nearly 500 different kinds of cheese, and most people who visit the Alpine country stick to Gruyere and Emmental. That’s certainly not the right way of discovering cheeses in Switzerland, so read on to learn more about many other popular Swiss cheeses!
Wondering which of the 475 types of Swiss cheeses are most popular? Read on to find out!
Gruyère is a type of Swiss cheese that originates from the Gruyères region in the Canton of Fribourg. You can find it in stores and restaurants in most other Swiss cities, but the best and most authentic selection is right there in the charming town of Gruyeres.
This Swiss cheese is very popular for baking thanks to its distinct but mild flavor. It’s an extremely popular addition to quiche, and it’s one of the most common Swiss cheeses in fondues.
Gruyere Cheese is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk, and it typically takes between five and twelve months to age. It’s creamy with a nutty flavor when young, but the more it matures the more earthy and assertive it gets. It’s easily one of the most famous Alpine cheeses and the most popular cheese in Switzerland.
Emmental is one of the most famous Swiss cheese types in the world, but only the second most popular cheese in Switzerland. It originates from the Emmental valley, which is in the Bern Canton in Switzerland. This Alpine cheese was mentioned for the first time in the late 13th century, but it wasn’t called by this name until the 16th century.
Emmental cheese or Emmentaler has a mild, savory taste, and it’s best known for its large holes. This Swiss cheese is made from cow’s milk, has a medium-hard texture, and takes between 2 and 18 months to age, depending on the exact variety.
Sbrinz is a kind of hard cheese that’s produced in several areas in central Switzerland. It’s often used as a substitute for Parmesan in Swiss cuisine, and it’s produced in only 42 dairies in the entire region. Only the milk of a local cow can be used to make Sbrinz cheese, and it must be kept in the region until it is ready for consumption.
It’s thought to be the oldest European cheese and some sources claim that it was mentioned for the first time in 70 AD, but there are no written records. The earliest written mentions of Sbrinz are from the 16th century and the papers are kept in a Bern archive.
This cheese has a fat content of 45% and it takes between 24 and 30 months to age. It’s usually eaten grated with pasta, or in tiny pieces with a glass of wine. Its taste is similar to that of Parmesan and the two cheese are also used in a similar way.
Comté is a kind of semi-hard cheese that is produced in eastern France on the border with Switzerland. It’s classified as an Alpine Swiss-type cheese, and it’s extremely similar to Gruyere. It’s made with the same recipe and it takes just as long to age, the only difference is that the two kinds of cheese are made in two different regions.
The two cheeses are extremely similar, and truly the only difference is that they’re made in different regions. Comté can only be made with milk from French Simmental or Montbéliarde cows, and there are even rules about fertilization of pastures and how many cows per hectare are allowed on the pasture to ensure the highest quality of the cheese.
In any case, if you’re ever told at a restaurant that they’re out of Gruyere but they have Comté (or vice versa), just know it’s virtually the same thing.
Beaufort cheese is another popular Swiss cheese in the Gruyere family. This Alpine cheese has a firm texture and it takes between 12 and 15 months to age. It’s usually produced in large concave wheels that weigh anywhere between 20 and 70 kilograms, and it’s commonly used to make fondue because it melts quite easily.
The cheese is a pale yellow color and it has a smooth, creamy texture. It doesn’t have any holes, which is typical for the Alpine cheeses from the Gruyere family. Beaufort cheese pairs well with white wine and fish, and it’s often used in salmon dishes.
It takes about 11 liters of milk to produce one kilogram of Beaufort cheese, and the milk used in the production of this cheese can only come from Abondance or Tarine cows.
Swiss Tilsit is a type of cheese that originates from East Prussia, on today’s territory of Sovetsk in Russia. It’s considered a Swiss cheese because it was developed by Swiss cheesemakers who emigrated to Russia to set up a dairy industry there.
The cheese is named after the town of Tilsit where it was developed. Nowadays, it’s produced in several European countries as well as in Australia, and it’s even marketed in the United States. Tilsit is often flavored with peppercorns and caraway seeds, and it pairs very well with dark beers and hearty bread.
Unlike most Swiss cheeses, this semi-hard cheese is made with pasteurized milk. At least the commercially sold version is – there are two other varieties of the Swiss Tilsit, one of which is made from unpasteurized milk.
Tête de Moine is one of the most popular Alpine cheeses in Switzerland. It was invented in the Bernese Jura by monks more than 800 years ago, so it’s one of the oldest Swiss cheeses as well.
What’s special about Tête de Moine is how it’s supposed to be eaten. It’s often scraped with a knife, which creates very thin shavings. This is supposed to develop the flavor and smell of the cheese since it allows more oxygen to reach its surface. It’s also the best way to taste this semi-hard cheese, which is known for its pungent aroma and nutty flavor.
The cheese is most similar to Gruyere and Appenzeller, but it’s definitely stronger than both of them.
Vacherin Fribourgeois is a semi-soft Swiss cheese made from unpasteurized cow’s milk. It’s an artisan cheese with a firm and open texture, an acidic nutty flavor, and a strong but pleasant aroma.
This cheese is produced in the cantons Freiburg and Vaud, and it’s made only by a small number of Switzerland’s artisanal cheesemakers. It’s not an easy cheese to find and you’ll have the best luck finding it in the mountains in these two regions.
The cheese is produced in six different varieties, depending on how long it’s been aged. It’s popular in fondues because it’s a great melting cheese, but it’s also used as a table cheese and in cooking. It pairs well with a light red wine and it’s great on grilled veggies and in sandwiches.
Raclette cheese is a Swiss cheese marketed mostly for use in a raclette dish. The dish is native to certain areas in Switzerland, and it pretty much consists of putting melted cheese on things – what’s not to love about that?
Raclette is a type of Swiss cheese made to be melted. The original dish combines raclette with pickles and boiled potatoes, and it’s so popular that some restaurants will organize raclette evenings. The dinners can last for hours since raclette is synonymous with fine dining and social outings.
The cheese is traditionally melted on an open flame, but a more modern way of serving it includes putting slices of cheese on tabletop electric grills. Some traditional restaurants in Geneva serve it impaled on a stick next to a fire, which is by far the best and coolest way of serving it.
Fontina is a semi-soft cheese made with unpasteurized cow’s milk. It was first made in Italy, but production has spread to several countries worldwide over the years. However, it’s worth noting that the Fontina cheeses that are made in the US, Sweden, and Denmark have a softer texture and milder flavor than those that are produced in Italy.
It’s very similar to traditional Swiss cheeses because it originates in the Alps, but technically it doesn’t have much to do with Switzerland. It’s quite similar to the cheeses in the Gruyere family, and it’s often used in dishes that incorporate melted cheeses.
Cheddar cheese is originally from the United Kingdom, but there are many variants that are specific to certain countries. It’s one of the most popular American cheeses, and there’s also Engelberg Cheddar, which comes from the Engelberg valley in Switzerland.
This cheese was created by Walter Grob, and it is made from rich Alpine milk. It takes about five months to mature, and it’s kept in the basement of the cheese dairy in Engelberg. It’s a rare, artisan type of Swiss cheese, and it’s definitely worth trying if you ever get the opportunity!
L’Etivaz is a type of hard Swiss cheese that’s made from raw cow’s milk. It originates from L’Etivaz, which is a small hamlet in the Swiss Alps, in the Vaud canton.
The cheese originated in the early 20th century when a group of cheesemakers who were producing Gruyere withdrew from the then government’s program when they felt that the regulations allowed quality to be compromised. They decided to instead produce L’Etivaz cheese, named after their hamlet.
This cheese is very similar to Gruyere in taste, but it’s a bit harder in texture. The flavor is slightly nutty, depending on the pasture soil. It takes between 5 and 13 months to age the cheese, and it pairs extremely well with raisins, fresh figs, nuts, and pears.
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