When you’re a turophile — the technical term for cheese lover — there’s a cheese for every occasion.
For fondue, casseroles, soufflés, soups, and more, you may want to reach for the Swiss cheese, Gruyere. Its mild, nutty flavor adds a mellow touch to savory dishes, and a low melting point keeps it stretching ’till the cows come home.
Sometimes, though, finding Gruyere can be an elusive prospect — or you may need to swap it out for something else. Price, availability, or following a vegan diet can all mean you won’t be taking a gustatory field trip to the Swiss Alps.
Searching for an alternative to this melty European wonder?
Here’s the rundown on what to substitute for Gruyere.
First, a little lesson in cheese: Gruyere (pronounced groo-YARE) is an Alpine-style Swiss cheese. It’s named for the town of Gruyères in the Swiss canton of Fribourg. (You’re not wrong if you’re picturing large wheels toted down the mountains on the backs of bell-wearing cows.)
Like any cheese, Gruyere takes time to make. Wheels age anywhere from 3 to 10 months. Younger Gruyeres are creamier with a hint of nutty flavor, while the taste of aged varieties is often described as earthy and complex.
With a semi-firm texture, Gruyere can be sliced or grated, and unlike other Swiss varieties, doesn’t have the signature peekaboo holes known as “eyes.”
Gruyere is widely celebrated as a melting cheese. (And we’re all too happy to join the celebration.) As a semi-firm variety, it contains more moisture than harder cheeses, helping it get nice and ooey-gooey when heated.
And here’s a fun fact: In generations past, it was difficult to ship salt to the high Alpine regions where Gruyere is made. For this reason, Gruyere has relatively little sodium, which enhances its ability to melt at lower temperatures (and means it won’t add too much salty taste to recipes).
Foods that get a boost from Gruyere’s delightful meltiness include fondue, grilled cheese, gratins, casseroles, and even pasta dishes. Oh, and that layer of stretchy goodness atop French onion soup? Gruyere, baby.
The best cheese to substitute for Gruyere may depend on the flavors and cooking techniques in your recipe.
In general, though, when seeking a Gruyere alternative, you’ll want to select an option with similar physical properties, like firmness, smell, and (of course) taste.
Once you’re familiar with Gruyere, it won’t be too difficult to compare other cheeses by getting a whiff of earthy scent, tasting (if possible) for nuttiness, or feeling for that signature semi-firmness. (Just be careful you don’t press too hard as you’re poking around options at the cheese counter.)
Another easy way to select a Gruyere runner-up: Opt for something else from the Alps. Gruyere isn’t the only cheese to come from this region of Europe, and many Alpine cheeses are made with similar production processes, levels of sodium, and taste.
In fact, once you venture down the path of Alpine cheeses, you’ll find variety galore. (Be prepared to feel like a kid in a, um, cheese shop.)
Comté and Beaufort, for example, are variations of Gruyere made in the French, rather than Swiss, Alps. Emmentaler, Appenzeller, Abondance, fontina, and raclette are just a handful of others made with traditional Alpine techniques. Jarlsberg, although originating in Norway, is also classified as an Alpine-style cheese.
With mellow flavor and meltability, these are all interchangeable with Gruyere.
Basic grocery store Swiss cheese is another potential substitute. Technically, a knockoff of Alpine Emmentaler, American Swiss is made with pasteurized cow’s milk and has smaller “eyes” and milder flavor. For a low price and convenience, it’s a sturdy Gruyere alternative.
In a real bind, other mild, semi-firm cheeses like Wensleydale or Edam could stand in for Gruyere. Just note that you won’t get the same flavor, texture, and melting point.
Try Gruyere (or its many substitutions) in these gooey, stretch-for-days meals.
- Caramelized shallot and Gruyere fondue from The Endless Meal
- French onion soup with Gruyere toasts from What’s Gaby Cooking
- Zucchini gratin with Gruyere and panko breadcrumbs from Yay! for Food
- Gruyere and leek lasagna from A Menu for You
- Fig and Gruyere grilled cheese from Foodal