If you’ve ever eaten good fondue or chicken cordon bleu chances are Gruyere cheese was used in it. The hard cheese of Swiss origin, famed for its nutty and creamy flavour is heralded for its contribution to bakes, salads, soups and of course fondues. Gruyere achieved appellation d’origine protégée (AOP) certification in 2001 making it a protected name for its origin and recipe. Gruyere is therefore not an easy cheese to find and you may have a recipe that calls for it when you just can’t get your hands on it. If you’re looking for a Gruyere substitute read on.
What Is Gruyere?
Gruyere is a matured hard cheese that originates from Switzerland. It is named after the Swiss town of Gruyères. It is yellow and is matured for around 5 months. It is made by boiling raw milk and adding an animal produced enzyme to aid in curdling. The whey is strained from the curd and the curd is further cooked. The curds are then pressed into wheels which are aged for 2 to 10 months with the flavour intensified as it ages. It has a notably creamy and nutty flavour with a hint of saltiness. This saltiness is at odds with the sweet flavour it naturally possesses. This gives the cheese a unique flavour that is favoured in baking, fondues, soups and salads. Gruyere also pairs well with white wines. Gruyere also develops a grainy texture the longer it is aged. Knowing Gruyere as we do now, what are the substitutes available for Gruyere and how do they stack up?
Comte cheese or Gruyere de Comte is a French cheese that is part of the Gruyere family. The Comte region of France borders Switzerland and shares a lot of cuisine with the alpine country. Comte is a hard cheese that is a pale yellow. It has a sweet flavour. You can use Comte in place of Gruyere in fondues and baked dishes as the cheese cooks, bakes and melts very well. It also works well in sandwiches and salads.
Beaufort cheese is another type of cheese associated with the Gruyere family of cheeses which you can use as a substitute for Gruyere cheese. Beaufort is an alpine cheese of French origin traditionally made in the Savoie region of South-Western France. Beaufort cheese is made in a process similar to Gruyere then aged for 6 to 12 months. It melts well and is a great substitute for Gruyere in fondues. Like Gruyere, it pairs well with white wines and salad dishes.
Another good substitute for Gruyere which you may be more familiar with is Emmentaler. Sometimes called Emmenthal or Emmental it is commonly referred to as Swiss cheese and is easily identifiable by its pale yellow colour and holes that form on the inside of the cheese. These signature holes were viewed as imperfections and were avoided by cheesemakers. Emmentaler is consumed as is or paired with wine but the cheese melts well and is favoured in gratins and fondues.
Fontina cheese originates from the Aosta Valley region of North-eastern Italy. This region borders with France to the north and Switzerland to the East. Fontina is a semi-soft cheese with an intense flavour that has earthy, wood and mushroom notes. Fontina cheese is 45% milkfat and melts very well which makes it a great substitute for gruyere in many applications. Being a semi-soft cheese it can substitute Gruyere in recipes where it is not cooked.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is an Italian hard cheese with a grainy texture that is popularly known in the English speaking world as Parmesan cheese. It is named after the two regions of Italy that traditionally produce the cheese Parma and Reggio Emilia. This is a very hard cheese that can be grated over pasta dishes and into salads. It has a very dry crumbly texture and does not melt well so stick to this as a substitute for Gruyere only in dishes where it is not cooked or melted.
Edam or Edammer is another cheese that makes a suitable substitute for Gruyere. The Dutch cheese named after the town it originates from grew in popularity between the 14th and 18th century with sailors and remote colonies because as the cheese ages it does not spoil but simply hardens. Edam has a low-fat content of around 28% and this makes it softer than many cheeses. It is best to use Edam as a Gruyere substitute in salads and sandwiches.
Maasdam is a semi-hard cheese of Dutch origin that was made to compete with Emmentaler cheese. The dutch method produces cheese in just four weeks and made it very popular. Maasdam spots the holes and voids similar to those in Emmentaler cheese and is soft because of its high moisture content. Maasdam has a sweet and nutty flavour which substitutes well for Gruyere in all sorts of applications.
Raclette is a semi-hard Swiss alpine cheese that is popularly used in Swiss dish that involves melting it that goes by the same name. Raclette traditionally was consumed melted or warmed up to soften it and is still consumed so today. You can use raclette in place of Gruyere in dishes that involve melting, cooking and baking. Raclette can also be consumed unmelted and pairs well with white wines like Gruyere.
Appenzeller is a hard cheese made from cow’s milk. It is an alpine cheese which has a light yellow colour and small holes in it. Appenzeller has a nutty or fruity flavour and the taste varies according to how long the cheese has been aged. It is sold as Classic which is aged for around four months and has a mild spicy flavour. Surchoix is aged between four and six months and has a strong spicy flavour while Extra is aged for six months or more and has an extra spicy flavour. Appenzeller cooks and bakes very well and is also suitable as a Gruyere substitute in sandwiches.
Gruyere is best substituted by other alpine cheeses such as Comte, Beaufort, Appenzeller and Emmentaler. Parmiggiano-Reggiano and Edam will work best as substitues in salads.