This Swiss cheese fondue recipe is a family favorite holiday meal growing up in Germany. It was created because my mom failed at making cheese fondue without a recipe one too many times. Never fail at cheese fondue again with this simple, cheesy recipe that uses Swiss cheeses and wine.
Half of the time when my mom made cheese fondue without a recipe, we would end up with a lump of cheese swimming in wine. The fondue dinners when it worked out were great. The others, not so much.
But making cheese fondue doesn't need to be stressful! If you use this recipe, you can celebrate guaranteed success every single time!
Fondue, especially cheese fondue, brings to life so many wonderful (and stressful) memories of growing up! I can say with certainty that as far back as I can think, cheese fondue has always been one of my favorite meals during the colder days of the year. We usually have it at least twice every winter, one of those times being on Christmas Eve or New Years Eve.
What Are the Best Fondue Cheeses?
At their cheese counter, we ordered a variety of delicious Swiss cheeses, such as Emmentaler, Greyerzer (Gruyère), Appenzeller, and Bergkäse. These are the kinds of cheese you would want for a traditional alpine-style cheese fondue.
Regardless of what kinds of cheese you use, it's important to keep them a mix of mostly aged cheeses that are a bit harder (like aged Gruyère or aged Gouda) and some younger cheeses like Emmentaler or young Gouda or even Raclette cheese (also check out my Raclette post!).
Important is that you're using good quality cheeses (and I know we all want to cry right now because they're so expensive in the US!). When in a pinch, I have satisfactorily used the shredded Swiss and Gruyère cheese mix at Trader Joe's and have loved it!
Pro Tip: Use that shredded mix as a base and add in a couple of more rustic cheeses like Comté or an aged mountain cheese or aged Gruyère and you're set! You could also go the non-traditional route for a more rustic cheese fondue and mix in good-quality cheddar and beer! It's amazing! I always added sautéed garlic, onion and bacon to that version as well and it makes for a great dip for pretzels (homemade or not)!
Here the ingredients you'll need to create an authentic Swiss cheese fondue:
- white wine. Such as a dry Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc or unoaked Chardonnay.
- garlic. Use the fresh, real stuff.
- cornstarch. This binds the liquids to the cheese. Make sure to measure this correctly because it can easily throw off the consistency if used too little or too much.
- ground mustard. I use ground, but you could also use fresh dijon mustard and double the amount.
- nutmeg. I learned from my Oma Inge to use the whole nutmeg and grate it when I need it. The aromas are unbeatable!
- lemon juice. Use a real lemon and squeeze it! It will pay off!
- Kirschwasser. This is a cherry Schnaps that's traditionally used in classic cheese fondue. The Schladerer brand from Germany's Black Forest is one of the best out there using fruit at the highest quality, and you can find out if it's available near you here.
Tools that are great to have for cheese fondue.
- fondue pot. For the authentic experience! I love this gorgeous copper one by the Boska brand from the Netherlands. It also does not require electricity, which can be limiting when you can't find the extension cord ;-). Boska fondue pots (and fondue pots in general) also come with the fondue forks, which are just so nice! No fondue pot? Serve it in a small crock pot. Definitely not as pretty, but it does the job!
- bowls or a tiered server for your dippers. I mean why not. You'll get so much use out of this beautiful wood and slate stone server, especially if you like to entertain!
- garlic press. It's time to invest in one (this is the one I have and love). Every German household has one. You could also mince your garlic by hand if you still refuse to buy one.
- citrus press. Such a great tool to have especially if you ever make a large batch of margaritas. I use mine all the time. Make sure it's stainless. I used to have one made from a different metal and it started corroding from all the acidity.
- grater. Make sure you're grating all of your fondue cheeses before melting them! I need to upgrade my box grater so badly, but this one's the one I'll be getting next!
- fine grater. For the whole nutmeg. It's essential. Unless you have a nutmeg mill, which is so cool!
What To Dip?
I'd consider these cheese fondue dippers to be essential.
- prosciutto di Parma. Get the good stuff that has just pork and salt as ingredients. Costco sells it at a really good price!
- fresh pear. I can't do without it anymore! Pear and cheese fondue is such a heavenly combo!
- bell pepper. You can also use other raw veggies. Cut them into bite-sized pieces ready to dip.
- cornichon pickles. My favorite kind is from the Whole Foods brand or Hengstenberg brand available at World Market.
- baby potatoes. I just boil them in salted water and put them in a bowl.
- fresh, rustic bread. Usually a mixed flour loaf, such as a rye and wheat.
How to Make It The Wrong Way
Here is my mom's wrong, traditional method. 🙂 After we returned home, my mom would then enter a very stressed mood trying to combine the cheese with beer or wine and Kirschwasser (a schnapps made from cherries) to find the fine balance between a smooth, homogenous cheese that does not separate and is also not too stringy. Well, let’s just say it hardly ever worked out as she never used a recipe to make cheese fondue! (Sometimes we would also sauté some finely chopped onion, little cubes of bacon, and garlic to add into the cheese fondue once it was ready to be served.)
When she did succeed, we would celebrate, eat the cheese in high-speed mode, scared its consistency would return to the usual, super stringy state that we were used to, and then fall into a deep food coma.
FYI (if you haven’t noticed) I love cheese and I will gladly pay the price of having a rough, digestive nightmare the following day!
How to Make It The Right Way
Slightly discouraged from her experiences, yet too ambitious to recreate those wonderful memories, I made it my mission to figure out how to make the cheese fondue experience more fool-proof.
My recipe for success (and saving grace) ended up being very simple (it’s all about proportions!). It's important to use the best of ingredients and just follow the dang recipe, so the consistency isn't off! I like my fondue to have a bit more garlic and nutmeg (grating whole nutmeg is something I learned from my Oma Inge and it's so worth it to do!). If you're not a fan of either, feel free to back down on those.
What Happens If You Lose Your Dipper In the Cheese?
There are many theories about this on the internet. The one I grew up with is that you have to take a shot of Kirschwasser (German cherry Schnaps). Sounds like fun, right? 🙂 If you're playing by that rule, you may as well use the best kind that's out there by Schladerer. It's from the Black Forest and uses only ripe cherries in the distilling process. Find out where it's available here.
The BEST Cheese Fondue
- 700 grams imported Swiss cheese shredded, Gruyère, Emmentaler, or any other Swiss cheese - see note on cheeses
- 22 grams cornstarch making this a gluten-free meal
- 3 garlic cloves peeled and minced
- 375 milliliters dry white wine such as a dry Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc or unoaked Chardonnay
- 22 grams fresh lemon juice Buy real lemons and squeeze them. You won't regret it.
- 30 grams Kirschwasser a German cherry brandy.
- ¾ teaspoon dry mustard using fresh dijon mustard instead? double the amount
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg it pays off to grate your own fresh nutmeg!
- rustic country bread I like a mixture of rye and wheat, cut into 1-inch cubes
- prosciutto di Parma Costco has an incredible price on this one!
- cornichons my favorites are the Whole Foods brand or Hengstenberg brand available at World Market
- pear or apples
- bell pepper can also dip other raw vegetables
- boiled mini potatoes my favorite are the teeny, bite-sized potatoes
- In a small bowl, coat the grated or shredded cheeses with cornstarch and set them aside. Prepare all your dippers by cutting them into bite-sized pieces.700 grams imported Swiss cheese, 22 grams cornstarch
- Cut one of the garlic cloves in half and rub the inside of the ceramic fondue pot with the garlic, then discard. Mince the other two garlic cloves (or put through a garlic press) to add them in at the end.3 garlic cloves
- Over medium heat, add the wine and lemon juice and bring to a gentle simmer. Gradually stir the cheese into the simmering liquid in a figure 8 motion. This is the one good tip I got from my mom when it comes to making cheese fondue ;-). Melting the cheese gradually encourages a smooth fondue.375 milliliters dry white wine, 22 grams fresh lemon juice
- Once smooth, stir in Kirschwasser, mustard, nutmeg and minced garlic. Season to taste with salt.30 grams Kirschwasser, ¾ teaspoon dry mustard, 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- Spear with fondue forks, dip, swirl and enjoy! Drop a dipper? Take a shot of Kirschwasser!prosciutto di Parma, cornichons, pear, bell pepper, boiled mini potatoes, rustic country bread