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Most people think of cheese and chocolate when they think of a trip to Switzerland, but you might enjoy finding out what other dishes are unique to Switzerland. Food in Switzerland is inspired by German, French, and Italian cuisine, but they have definitely created specialties that are distinctively Swiss.
This is probably the most famous of Swiss foods. It is a pot of melted cheese (gruyère and emmentaler) and other ingredients, such as garlic, white wine, a little corn flour/corn starch and often kirsch (cherry brandy), served up at the table in a special ceramic pot called a caquelon. It has a small burner underneath it to keep the fondue at constant temperature. You spear small cubes of bread onto long-stemmed forks and dip them into the hot cheese. There are different variations of cheese fondue depending on which region of Switzerland you are, so make sure that wherever you visit, you include experiencing this significant Swiss culinary tradition.
Here's another traditional Swiss dish. Raclette is the name of a Swiss cheese made from cow's milk (slightly nutty, and a little like Gruyère) but it's also the name of a very popular meal. This meal is made by putting slices of cheese on a raclette grill where the cheese is melted and then accompanied by small potatoes cooked in their skins, vegetables, charcuterie, pickled gherkins and onions, and bread.
Rösti is a potato dish that resembles American hash browns. Grated potatoes are fried into round patties in a pan and they're crisp on the outside and soft inside. Sometimes bacon, onion, cheese – and even apple – are added to the mix. Eat it as a side dish to accompany fried eggs and spinach or with a sausage meat called fleischkäse. It was originally eaten for breakfast, but these days you'll find it anywhere in Switzerland and it's considered a national dish.
Älplermagronen is a Swiss macaroni and cheese that is created when combining milk/crème, cheese, macaroni, potatoes, onion and apples! Today Älplermagronen is made of egg pasta, preferably from short thick shapes, such as penne. It is often served with a side garnish of freshly made applesauce.
This translates as ‘cut meat Zurich style', but if you see it on a menu in Switzerland, the dish will be made using strips of veal (calf meat) and sometimes veal liver. It is made with small pieces of veal cooked in a creamy mushroom and white wine sauce and is usually eaten with noodles or rice.
Bircherműesli is a popular breakfast dish based on raw rolled oats and other ingredients including grains, fresh or dried fruits, seeds and nuts, mixed with milk, soy milk, and yogurt or fruit juice. It was developed around 1900 by Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner for patients in his hospital. Muesli is available in a packaged dry form, ready-made, or made fresh and in Switzerland, it is also eaten as a light evening dish.
Stock cubes, also known as Maggi, were invented in Switzerland around 1886 by a Swiss German named Julius Maggi. The stock cube contains a small proportion of meat extract. It was one of the first industrial mass produced foods intended to make stews and soups taste heartier for factory workers who did not have much money for meat! Today, it has become a global brand and embraced worldwide for cooking.
It’s safe to say that chocolate--at least the smooth, delicious confection we know and love today--was invented in Switzerland. Daniel Peter, son-in-law of Francois-Louis Cailler, came up with the idea of adding milk to chocolate to reduce costs and make it more palatable. His neighbor, Henri Nestlé, specialized in condensed milk, and together they developed milk in 1875. Switzerland has the world’s highest per capita rate of chocolate consumption (25.6 lbs. per year). And even today most Swiss chocolate is consumed by the Swiss themselves (54% in 2000) The Swiss produce about 150,000 tons of chocolate per year.
These delicate and airy pastry'confections are made from egg whites and sugar. It is a popular dessert in the Fribourg region where it is paired with the thick battered Gruyères double cream. According to Myswitzerland.com, the pastry was invented around the year 1600, and one of its biggest fans supposedly was French King Louis XV, who therefore named the Meringue "baiser," meaning kiss.
Bűndnernusstorte is a tasty caramelized nut-filled pastry originating from the canton of Graubűnden. It's made from a basic recipe of short-crust pastry made from flour, sugar, egg, butter and salt with a filling of caramelized sugar, cream and chopped nuts, usually walnuts. The Swiss enjoy eating a piece of this rich dessert with a cup of coffee or tea.
Absinthe, also known as the Green Fairy, is a highly potent spirit drink (up to 72% alcohol) which is made from wormwood and anise. It became popular in the Bohemian circles of Paris in the late 19th century before being banned in Switzerland in 1908. That ban was overturned in 2005 and absinthe production and consumption is now legal in Switzerland.
Zopf is the most popular and delicious, soft white loaf bread made in Switzerland. The dough is made from white flour, milk, eggs, butter and yeast, plaited into a braid and then brushed with egg yolk before baking. It's traditionally eaten on Sunday mornings.
Switzerland is also home to Nestle, one of the world's largest food companies and food processing and distribution is an important part of Swiss culture and the Swiss economy. Even food packaging methods that we take for granted were invented in Switzerland. Cellophane was invented in Switzerland in 1908 and was widely used as a food wrap for most of the last century. Even today, many food packagers prefer cellophane since it is cellulose-based and biodegradable. Aluminum foil was first made in Switzerland and quickly became the packaging wrap of choice for chocolate.
If you’re passionate about Swiss food and would like to immerse yourself in the beautiful scenery of the Swiss Alps, then we have a tour that is perfect for you: German Inspired food tour and our French Inspired food tour.