Swiss cheese fondue


Table of Contents

This is a detailed overview of Fondue. If you are interested in making unique fondue recipes at home, check out our recipe page with Fondue Recipes. You can also check out our favourite cheese recipes on our Cheese Making Recipes page.


For more information about cheese ingredients, check out our Ingredients in Cheese post.
We review and suggest Fondue Kits and the products you need to make Fondue. Visit our page for more info HERE.

The History of Fondue

Cheese Fondue is a dish where selected cheeses are melted in a pot in the center of the table. People dip pieces of bread (or veggies, fruits, meats, seafood) into the melted cheese. The meal is typically served with either white wine or hot tea, sometimes salad as a side dish.

The Cheese Fondue is the national dish in Switzerland and the Swiss like to take credit for the invention of this, now worldwide, well-known cheese meal. But the main reason why cheese fondue is so popular in Switzerland is that during the second world war the Swiss cheese exports diminished and forced cheese marketers to boost consumption in their own country.

The Cheese Shark - The History of Cheese Fondue
A fun and traditional meal to share with friends and family.

The Swiss Cheese Union started a very successful marketing campaign for cheese fondue, that lasted many decades. They even got the Swiss Army to feed it to their soldiers who then brought the recipes home and between 1950 and 1990 the dish gained so much popularity that every household now owns a fondue set. Tourists who travel to Switzerland brought the dish, fondue sets, and recipes back to their home countries. Today the dish is known all over the world.

Although the Swiss can take credit for introducing the dish and its popularity to the world, the famous Greek author, Homer, already mentions a dish comparable to the cheese fondue around the 8th century BC.

2000 years later, a myth is told that a farmer in the Alps (the Alps stretch from Austria through Italy, Switzerland, and into France, making it unclear where he actually was from) was looking for variety in his daily bread and cheese meals. So he came up with the idea to melt the cheese and dip the bread into it. In 1699 the Swiss author, Anna Margaretha Gessner-Kitt, describes exactly how cheese fondue should be made and it wasn’t until the 1950s where the real fondue boom began.

The Traditional Cheese Fondue of Switzerland is simple and fast to prepare. It is a meal that is known for being cozy; a perfect warm meal on a cold winter evening with friends. It has a traditional feel of a rural meal with ties to the mountains. Internationally, it became a novelty for special occasions or a fun way to entertain guests.

How to Serve Cheese Fondue

The Cheese Shark - How to Serve Cheese Fondue
Four place Serving for Traditional Cheese Fondue.

A cheese fondue set consists of a ceramic melting pot, a table burner which is either fueled by a liquid or a gel, and forks that are about 12 inches long. You can learn about selecting a fondue set on my Reviews page here.

Cheese Fondue is typically made for 2 to 6 people. The fondue dish is placed in the middle of the table where everyone is able to comfortably reach the melting pot with the specialized long forks. The pot rests on the burner keeping the cheese melted.

A basket with bread cubes (or the choice of food to be dipped) is handed around, and people place a handful onto their plate. The food is then dipped into the melted cheese. The food portions should be big enough so that they stay on the fork. Some people like big pieces others prefer small ones. Guests can always cut bigger pieces in half, or smaller pieces can be doubled up.

Traditionally, one-day-old European style white bread with a crust is best to use. Common bread from the plastic bag doesn’t work well. If that is all you have, then toasting it makes it more palatable. Instead of bread people also dip potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, chicken, sausage, tofu, Shrimp, or mushrooms. Often the meal is served with a garden salad. Once the melting pot gets empty, often a cheese crust has built at the bottom of it. It is delicious to crack an egg into the pan and mix it with the crust. Often the meal ends with a herbal liqueur or a Schnaps.

The Cheese Fondue Pot

A traditional cheese fondue pot is made of heavy ceramic. This keeps the cheese warm and well melted. The ceramic pot has a unique look and often comes with creative designs. A good Swiss fondue pot will last forever. There are many different fondue sets and pots available. You want a fondue dish to be versatile, so you can also use it for meat or chocolate fondues. The selection can be confusing, so if you are interested in a fondue dish have a look at my Review page.

How to Make Cheese Fondue

The Cheese Shark Ready Made Swiss Cheese Fondue

1 – Ready-made Cheese Fondue

The easiest, quickest, and often least expensive way to serve cheese fondue is to buy a ready to go fondue mix. We review a few good brands in our review section. The ready fondue mixes are typically very mild. If you prefer stronger tasting cheeses you can easily grate any cheese of your preference into the mix while melting it. The only rule for fondue cheese is that it needs to be aged cheese. Young cheeses like pizza mozzarella or mild cheddar can make the fondue very stringy.
Good add-on cheeses are: extra old cheddar, any goat cheese, blue cheese, aged gouda, or a shot of whipping cream which makes a fondue even smoother.

The Cheese Shark Ready Made Swiss Cheese Fondue
Ready to Make Swiss Cheese Fondue steps.


Serves 4

Utensils needed:

  • Fondue pot with table burner
  • Wooden ladle (wood won’t scratch the pot)

Ingredients:

  • 2 bags of ready fondue (they are usually 400 g/ 14 oz)
  • One garlic clove
  • 1 loaf (600 g appx.) of a bread of your choice. I recommend fresh bread, and not sliced bread.

Procedure:

  • Cut the bread in 3 cm/ 1 inch cubes
  • Cut the garlic in half and rub the inside of the fondue pot with it.
  • Leave the garlic half in the pot and add the cheese
  • Place the pot on the stove on high heat
  • As soon as the cheese starts melting on the bottom, turn the heat to medium
  • Under constant stirring, heat until the cheese is fully melted
  • Place the pot on the fondue burner 
  • Stick a bread cube onto the fondue fork and dip into melted cheese
  • Keep stirring the cheese with your forks
  • Adjust the burner heat as needed. The cheese shouldn’t boil.
  • At the end of the meal add an egg and some liquor to the cheese crust that is left on the bottom of the pot. Mix and enjoy the last few bites.

Good add-on cheeses are: extra old cheddar, goat cheese, blue cheese, aged Gouda, or a shot of whipping cream which makes a fondue even smoother.

2 – Homemade Cheese Fondue

If you really want to impress your guests, create your own fondue mix. Making fondue from scratch will also allow you to use your favourite cheese or experiment with different cheese. As a rule, cheese should be aged. Young cheese will make a very stringy fondue. Below you will find a few great recipes.

This can be a quick recipe to prepare. However, we recommend grating the cheese and soaking the cornstarch, wine, and cheese for 2 to 6 hours before heating to allow the wine to break down the cheese. This makes the fondue smoother.

Cooking time after grating and soaking: 10 min

Utensils needed:

  • Fondue pot with table burner
  • Wooden ladle (wood won’t scratch the pot)
  • Cheese grater. Use the one that makes coarse cheese flakes. The fine graters used for parmesan work as well, but are much more work to grate by hand.

Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 700 g/ 24 oz cheese (adjust to recipes below)
  • 1 cup of white wine (some recipes call for beer)
  • 1 tsp of lemon juice
  • 4 tsp of cornstarch or white flour
  • One garlic clove
  • 1 loaf (600 g appx.) of a bread of your choice. I recommend fresh bread, and not sliced bread.

Procedure:

  • Cut the bread in 3 cm/ 1 inch cubes
  • Cut the garlic in half and rub the inside of the fondue pot with it, leave the garlic halves in the pot
  • Add the cornstarch to the wine into the pot and mix well, then add the lemon juice.
  • Grate the cheese, add it to the pot, and gently stir into the wine
  • Leave the cheese soaking in the wine for up to 4 hours. If you don’t have time for the soaking you can skip this step, but soaking the cheese in the wine and lemon juice will result in a smoother fondue.
  • Place the pot on the stove on high heat
  • As soon as the cheese starts melting on the bottom, turn the heat to medium
  • Under constant stirring heat until the cheese until it is fully melted
  • Be patient. The cheese will go through a separation stage (the wine and cheese will separate). Just keep stirring until it becomes a consistent mix.
  • Place the pot on the fondue burner 
  • Stick a bread cube onto the fondue fork and dip into melted cheese
  • Keep stirring the cheese with your forks
  • Adjust the burner heat as needed. The cheese shouldn’t boil.
  • At the end of the meal add an egg and some liquor to the cheese crust that is left on the bottom of the pot. Mix and enjoy the last few bites.

Fondue Fuel

There are 2 types of fondue burners available for a traditional fondue set:

The Cheese Shark - Fluid vs gel fuel for fondue burners.
Fluid fuel for a Fondue Burner

Liquid Fondue Fuel Burners

This type has a synthetic material inside that sucks up the liquid fuel. You should top up the liquid fuel every time before use. The advantage of this type of fuel is that it is easy to find and most grocery stores have it in stock. You can also regulate the amount of fuel you need depending on the size of your dish. Liquid fondue fuel is cost-effective. The disadvantage is that it is easy to spill.

Fondue Gel Burners

The Cheese Shark - Fluid vs gel fuel for fondue burners.
Gel fuel for a Fondue Burner

These burners require a little aluminum dish containing the ready to use gel. It is placed under the fondue pot. This is a very convenient and clean way to run your fondue dish. The burner can be refilled with fondue gel that comes in a bottle. Depending on what burner you get with your fondue set, you are stuck with one or the other.
Personally, I don’t choose my fondue pot according to the burner type. The quality and aesthetics of the set are more important to me than what kind of burner it comes with.

How to Clean a Fondue Pot

Most of the time cheese will burn to the bottom of the fondue melting pot. There are 3 easy ways to clean a cheese fondue pot:

  1. Soak it in cold water overnight. The next morning remove the cheese with a spatula. A small, flexible rubber or plastic scraper works best. You can use a metal one if the pot is not made of Teflon or a special coating. The original swiss fondue pots won’t get damaged.
  2. Cover the bottom of the pan with warm water and some dish soap. Put the pan on the stove at the lowest setting. After about 20 minutes the cheese will be easy to remove. Again best is with a spatula. Don’t use a scrubby, the cheese will make the scrubby unusable afterward.
  3. If the cheese is really heavily burnt on, it’s best to soak it in vinegar for about an hour, after you have completed either 1 or 2.

Cheese Fondue Recipes

For cooking instructions see How to make Cheese Fondue above.

Original Swiss Cheese Fondue – Ready to Use

This is a great tasting, mild, and ready to use fondue. Imported from Switzerland. 

14oz, 400g, for 2 to 3 people.

Just heat it in the melting pot, add some garlic or ground pepper.

Neuchatel Fondue

This is a simple homemade fondue, containing only 2 cheeses. Swiss Gruyere and Swiss Emmental. It is an all-time favourite. For 4 people.

4 cups (500 g/ 1lb) of shredded Swiss Gruyere

1 3/4 cups (200 g/ 1/2 lb) of shredded Swiss Emmental

2 tsp of cornstarch or white flour

1 garlic clove

1 1/2 cups of white wine

2 tbsp lemon juice

Ground pepper

600 g/ 1 1/4 lbs of white bread

The Swiss American Fondue Blend

This a great fondue from Swiss and American cheeses, with some zest. For 4 people.

2 1/2 cups (300 g/10 1/2 oz) of shredded Swiss Gruyere

2 1/2 cups (300 g/10 1/2 oz) of shredded extra old Cheddar

3/4 cup (100 g/ 3 1/2 oz) of shredded Monterey Jack with jalapenos. ( Jalapeno version is optional)

2 tsp of cornstarch or white flour

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 1/4 cups of white wine

600 g/ 1 1/4 lbs of white bread

The Dutch American Fondue Blend

This tasty fondue is a favourite in the Americas. For 4 people.

2 1/2 cups (300 g/ 10 1/2 oz) of shredded extra old Cheddar

2 1/2 cups (300 g/ 10 1/2 oz) of shredded aged Gouda

3/4 cup (100 g/ 3 1/2 oz) of shredded Monterey Jack

2 tsp cornstarch or white flour

1 garlic clove

1 1/4 cups of white wine

600 g/ 1 1/4 lbs of white bread

The North American Blue Fondue

This is a specialty for the blue cheese and beer lovers. For 4 people.

2 1/2 cups (300 g/ 10 1/2 oz) of shredded extra old Cheddar

2 1/2 cups (300g / 10 1/2 oz) of shredded Monterey Jack

3/4 cup (100 g/ 3 1/2 oz) of crumbled blue cheese

2 tsp cornstarch or white flour

1 garlic clove

1 1/4 cups of beer, lager

600 g/ 1 1/4 lbs of white bread

The Canadian Fondue

Canada has a wonderful array of artisan cheeses. Use cheddar and Monterey Jack as a base and add your favourite local cheese. If you want to really be Canadian, then make it a Poutine Fondue and dip french fries into the cheese…eh? Here’s an example:

2 1/2 cups (300 g/ 10 1/2 oz) of shredded extra old Cheddar

1 3/4 cups (200 g/ 1/2 lb) of shredded Monterey Jack

1 3/4 cups (200 g/ 1/2 lb) of shredded Oka Cheese

2 tsp of cornstarch or white flour

1 garlic clove

1 1/4 cups of beer, lager

600 g/ 1 1/4 lbs of white bread

Fondue Recipe Variations (amounts based on above recipes for 4 people)

  • Walnut Fondue: Add 5 chopped walnuts to the fondue right before serving.
  • Tomato Fondue: Add one tbsp of tomato paste and a handful of chopped sundried tomatoes to the cheese just before serving. The sundried tomatoes are optional. 
  • Tomato Basil Fondue: Add one tbsp of tomato paste and 3 finely chopped fresh basil leaves to the cheese before serving.
  • Hawaiian Fondue: Add one cup of pineapple pieces to the cheese before serving.
  • Mustard Fondue: Add one tsp of Dijon mustard to the cheese during the melting process.
  • Pesto Fondue: Add one tbsp of your favourite pesto to the cheese during the melting process.
  • Pumpkin or Sunflower Seed Fondue: Add half a cup of chopped seeds to the cheese before melting.
  • Oriental Fondue: Before serving, add curry powder or curry paste to your taste to the cheese. Then top it up with 2 tbsp of coconut milk and some finely chopped lemongrass.
  • Mushroom Fondue: Before starting to melt the cheese, fry one cup of finely chopped mushrooms in butter. Once the cheese is melted add the mushrooms. 

If you have comments regarding the above recipes, or if you have your own fondue recipe suggestions please leave a comment below.

Fondue Stories

What happens to the person who loses a bread in the cheese? Before the meal starts people come up with ideas like:

  • Performing a trivia
  • Kissing the person to the left or the right or both
  • Drinking a shot of liquor

If you have heard of the famous cartoon characters Asterix and Obelix, one of my favourite books is Asterix and Obelix in Switzerland. The Roman occupiers organize these parties with cheese fondue and the exaggeration of the meal is hilarious. In the story, whoever loses the bread once gets hit with a whip. The second time with a stick, and the third time they get thrown into a lake. It’s, of course, all very humorous and a must-read.

Asterix in Switzerland

Quaestor Vexatius Sinusitus, who is about to expose the Roman governor’s creative accountancy, has been poisoned. Can Getafix brew an antidote? Only if Asterix and Obelix find a certain flower for the druid’s potion in Helvetia. What with bank safes, cuckoo hourglasses, yodeling, and holes in the cheese, they’re soon on a real Helvetian roll.

If you have a fondue story to share, please leave a comment below.

Fueled Fondue Set versus Electrical Fondue Set

If you are after the traditional cheese fondue set, it will be equipped with a fueled burner. They come in two types. One runs with liquid fondue fuel and the other with gel. Both work equally well. These burners are safe and have been used for decades. If you are concerned though, especially if you have young children who could knock over the set, causing a fire, an electrical set is an option.


The big disadvantage of the electrical set is that when you need to change the temperature, the reaction time is slower than with the burner, comparable to an electrical stove versus a natural gas stove. When the cheese starts to boil, you want to turn the heat down immediately, otherwise, it might burn on to the bottom of the pan. Also, the electrical burners don’t come with any of the traditional designs, if this is of importance to you.

You can view some examples and details on my Review page here.

4 thoughts on “Swiss cheese fondue”

  1. These are all wonderful recipes! I am Vegan so Cheese has been hard to find a substitute or alternative for, so what I am going to do is make my own cashew based cheese and apply the same methods you nicely listed how to do and see what happens! 🙂

  2. Not going to lie, my mouth was watering reading this article. I’ve yet to try fondue and I’d like to make my first try the best one. With that in mind, are there any recommendations, e.g. make it yourself or have it in a restaurant?

    Thanks,
    Sharon

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