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Fondue is the quintessential Swiss dish – bread dipped into a communal pot of hot, melted cheese. When properly made, it’s an ooey gooey delight. However, achieving the perfect creamy fondue requires using the right cheese.
Traditional Swiss fondue gets its signature stringy, elastic texture from heating and melting a blend of Swiss cheeses like Gruyere, Emmenthaler, and Appenzeller. The cheese blend ratio directly impacts the fondue’s flavor and texture.
While Gruyere is considered the best and most authentic choice for classic fondue, many other cheeses can be used alone or in blends. Blue cheese delivers a more pungent fondue, while cheddar creates an ultra-thick, gooey cheese dip.
In this guide, we’ll recommend the top cheeses to use for different fondue styles and identify what makes them ideal for melting into dipable perfection. We’ll also provide fondue-making tips to turn out the perfect pot of liquid gold cheese every time.
How is Traditional Fondue Made?
Authentic Swiss fondue consists of just a few simple ingredients: cheese, wine, kirsch (cherry brandy), and starch.
The cheese is shredded or diced into small 1/2-inch-sized pieces so it melts evenly. Traditional recipes call for a combo of Gruyere, Emmenthaler, and Appenzeller.
These hard Swiss cheeses are heated gently in a caquelon or fondue pot over low heat. The caquelon is typically made of glazed ceramic or cast iron. White wine is added to the pot first as a flavorful liquid base that also prevents separating. Dry white wines like Chasselas, Pinot Gris, or Riesling work best.
Once the cheese is melted after 10-15 minutes, a couple tablespoons of kirsch are stirred in to add a subtle cherry flavor and scent. Other brandies can be substituted.
Finally, a starch slurry is incorporated, consisting of cornstarch or flour thickened with water or wine. This acts as an emulsifier to bind the ingredients for a smooth, creamy texture without oil separation.
The result is a rich, decadent molten cheese sauce perfect for coating crusty bread cubes or potatoes. Diners spear cubes with a fondue fork and swirl them in the communal pot for eating.
Gruyere – The Traditional Fondue Cheese
Known as the “King of Cheeses,” Gruyere is considered the best and most essential cheese for classic fondue. This Swiss cheese has been made for centuries in the Gruyères region of Switzerland.
Gruyere offers a sweet, nutty flavor and dense, creamy texture that melts beautifully into a rich liquid. It has tiny eyes or holes throughout and a distinctive pale yellow interior.
When shredded and heated, Gruyere maintains its structure well instead of becoming stringy. This results in a fondue with a thick, dense consistency. The flavor also comes through prominently without separating from the oils.
For these reasons, Gruyere is the star player in any Swiss fondue, typically comprising 40-60% of the cheese blend.
Aged Gruyere is particularly well-suited, as the sharper, earthier notes develop well over 8-10 months. Cave-aged Gruyere is even better, with sophisticated flavors that emerge after aging 1-3 years in Switzerland’s limestone caves. Popular brands like Le Gruyère AOP and Le Conquerant are aged to perfection.
Other Good Cheeses for Traditional Fondue
While Gruyere may be the MVP of fondue, other Swiss-style cheeses are also commonly used in blends:
Emmenthaler has a mild, mellow flavor and superb reliability. It keeps things smooth and silky.
Appenzeller is similarly mild but slightly spicy. It also melts extremely well. Brands like Appenzell Classic have great fondue properties.
Vacherin Fribourgeois is a semi-firm cheese that’s milky, buttery, and fruity when melted. Try a Swiss Vacherin Mont d’Or.
Comté has a rich, nutty taste that gets intensified by heating. It provides a pleasant bite. Look for a nice aged Comté.
Beaufort has an assertive flavor with fruity and floral aromas that stand up to the fondue treatment. Try Beaufort d’Été or Beaufort d’Alpage.
What is a Cheese Blend?
Rather than a single cheese, most fondues use a specific ratio of different cheeses for the ideal smooth, runny texture and complex flavor depth.
Common blends include:
- 50% Gruyere – foundation of flavor
- 30% Emmenthaler – boosts creaminess
- 20% Comté – sharpness and bite
Blends may also mix in Raclette, Fontina, Tête de Moine, or Reblochon for different textures and tastes.
Playing with the cheese percentages allows customization of the fondue’s mouthfeel and taste profile. A blend of 60% nutty Gruyere and 40% melty Fontina makes a very creamy fondue.
Best Cheeses for Blends
Gruyere is included in small amounts for its pronounced flavor that cuts through when melted. Using too much can make fondue bitter.
Emmenthaler can be used in high ratios – up to 60% of the blend – thanks to its excellent meltability. It creates a smooth base.
Comté works well around 15-30% of the mix to lend its signature sharpness and floral aromas.
Fontina’s super reliability makes it a great addition to blends needing extra creaminess and elasticity. Try for 10-25% of the fondue.
Gouda and Raclette also melt well for creaminess without being too dominant.
Blue Cheese Fondue
Blue cheese can provide a bold twist on classic fondue. Known for its spicy, peppery flavor punch, the boldness of blue cheese really comes through when heated.
Popular choices for blue cheese fondue include Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Stilton, and Danish Blue.
These crumbly cheeses melt into a thick, rich sauce perfect for coating fruit and bread. The dip has a distinct, funky, earthy taste.
Using around 6 oz blue cheese for every 10 oz of Swiss cheese balances the blue intensity.
Best Blue Cheeses for Fondue
For blue cheese fondue, seek out milder blue cheese varieties that complement the heating process.
Gorgonzola has a creamy texture with subtle blue veining. The flavor remains mellow and delicate when melted. Gorgonzola dolce is a good option.
Danish blue cheeses like Danablu are prized for their smooth, even blue marbling that delivers consistent bursts of flavor.
Cambozola is a combo of soft cow’s milk and cream with tangy blue notes. It melts with a velvety consistency.
Fourme d’Ambert is another mild French blue that provides a creamy texture and restrained blue cheese bite.
Fondue isn’t just for Swiss cheese – cheddar also makes an indulgent, extra-thick dip.
The best cheddar for fondue is aged at least five years for a sharp, concentrated flavor that doesn’t get drowned out when melted. Younger cheddar needs to have that strong taste.
Cheddar fondue has a smooth, almost stretchy texture. It coats bread and veggies in a rich orange hue. This fon-don’t may not be authentic, but it sure satisfies cravings for a gooey cheese fix!
For ultimate creaminess, use a blend of 60% aged cheddar with 40% Monterey Jack or Gouda.
What to Look for in Fondue Cheese
Certain cheese characteristics make for the ideal melted fondue consistency:
- High-fat content – creates a rich, creamy sauce instead of watery or greasy.
- Low moisture – prevents wateriness and separation when melted.
- Pronounced flavor – strong-tasting cheeses retain their punch when heated.
- Aged – develops sharper, more complex flavors to come through.
- Small eyes – result in a smoother texture when melted.
Firm, low-moisture Swiss cheeses are perfect for fondue for these reasons.
Tips for Melting Cheese for Fondue
To keep fondue smooth and lump-free, be sure to:
- Shred or dice cheese into same-sized 1/2-inch pieces so it melts evenly. A cheese grater helps get uniform shreds.
- Heat gently over medium-low, stirring frequently with a whisk or rubber spatula.
- Add a starch slurry as the cheeses melt to emulsify the fat and prevent separating.
Starch Slurry for Fondue
A slurry is a mixture of 2-3 tablespoons of cornstarch or flour dissolved in 3-4 tablespoons of cold water or wine. Slowly stir this into the melted cheese to bind it together.
Adding the slurry gradually prevents clumping. Letting it sit for 5-10 minutes allows it to absorb for maximum thickness fully.
What is the Best Cheese for Fondue?
In summary, the ideal fondues use:
- Gruyere blended with Emmenthaler and Comté – delivers classic Swiss fondue with a creamy, dense texture and nutty flavor.
- Blue cheese, like Gorgonzola – offers a spicy twist with a bold blue flavor.
Whatever your favourite style is, seek out high-quality cheeses that melt well. Cut into similar-sized pieces, heat gently, and use a starch slurry for an irresistibly gooey gooey cheese dip. Dip, swirl, and savor!
Let me know if any other details could be added or expanded upon in this cheese fondue blog post. I’m happy to keep enhancing the content.
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