Cheese Fondue Ideas
Cheese fondue is one of the great comfort foods — either to warm-up winter, class up a party, or romanticize a date night. Learn what to dip in — and what to serve with — cheese fondue.
Cheese fondue is the national dish of Switzerland…which makes sense, since that nation is a virtual “melting pot” of German, French, and Italian culture. It’s also home to a number of classic alpine-style cheeses with origins in those cultures, and those cheeses simply love to commingle—in an actual melting pot—for our enjoyment.
The word “fondue” is derived from the French word fondre (“to melt”), and was originally a peasant dish that traditionally used leftover pieces of cheese and old bread along with wine and spices. As delicious as cheese fondue is, the melted cheese craze didn’t gain popularity in America until the 1960s, when fondue parties became an acceptable alternative to formal dinners.
In Switzerland, fondue is typically served as the main dish—not as a first course or appetizer. It is plenty hearty, especially if you serve a variety of breads, vegetables and fruits as cheese fondue dippers.
Cheese Fondue Recipes
Cheese fondue is very easy to make because it only has a few ingredients. In this video, Chef Roland Fürst of the New Glarus Hotel in New Glarus, Wisconsin, demonstrates the classic way to prepare a savory fondue.
Wisconsincheese.com has several cheese fondue recipes to check out, as Wisconsin is home to many Swiss-style cheesemakers. In addition, you can see how popular fondue is by searching for “cheese fondue” on foodie websites like yummly.com and epicurious.com.
Fondue melting pots are sold just about everywhere kitchen cookware is sold. The benefit of using a pot designed specifically for cheese fondue is that its design aids melting, it comes with adorable fondue forks, and it has a heat source (votive candles or a fuel gel such as Sterno) that keeps the pot warm but not too hot so the cheese fondue stays melty while you’re eating it. Electric fondue pots eliminate the need to replace the candle or fuel gel. Of course, you can melt cheese in a regular pot over the stove, but you might have to reheat it a few times while you’re serving the fondue.
Always ensure the cheeses are shredded before adding them to the pot so they melt quickly and evenly. Melting the cheese takes time: add a small handful at a time, allowing each addition to melt fully.
Best Cheeses for Fondue
Alpine-style cheeses such as Fontina, Gruyère, and Emmentaler (Swiss cheese) are styles that are traditionally used for a real Swiss cheese fondue. Alpine-style cheeses are favored in fondue due to their optimal melting properties, nutty flavor, and creamy texture when melted. These cheeses have historical significance in Swiss cuisine and contribute to the authenticity of traditional fondue. Their ability to create a smooth and stable emulsion when melted ensures a consistent and enjoyable texture.
Additionally, these cheeses complement the other ingredients used in fondue recipes, such as wine and garlic. While alpine-style cheeses are commonly used, variations in cheese selection and regional adaptations can also influence the fondue’s final taste and texture.
You can find a Swiss fondue blend offered by a specialty retailer, or you can create your own blend—experimenting is part of the fun!
Other cheeses to add include Cheddar and Muenster. Cheddar is not a traditional fondue cheese, but here in the United States – and particularly in Wisconsin – cheddar enjoys incredible popularity and will richen any dish. When adding cheddar to fondue, look for a younger cheddar, as they will have a higher moisture level and are less crumbly, allowing it to melt better.
Muenster is an outstanding melting cheese that provides the creamy texture of melted American cheese, yet with a deeper, cheesier flavor. While generally mild, Muenster’s flavor and aroma can vary based on its age, with older varieties having a stronger flavor and a more pungent smell. Added to your alpine-style cheeses, it can add depth for the senses.
Beer Cheese Fondue?
Sure! While classic fondue is made with white wine (more on that later), it can also be made with beer. A lager, bock, or pale ale-style beer is perfect addition to cheese fondue. Adding beer to fondue is a popular variation that enhances the dish’s flavor, aroma, and texture. The beer’s malty and hoppy notes complement the creamy cheese, while its natural acidity provides balance and complexity. Incorporating beer can result in a smoother, slightly thinner fondue, making it easier to dip. Different beer styles offer customization options, from light and subtle flavors to richer, roasted undertones. Care should be taken not to overheat the mixture, ensuring a harmonious integration of beer into the fondue.
Cheese Fondue Dippers
So, what should you dip in fondue? Many foods work well as cheese fondue dippers. Bread is the customary selection. Any crusty bread, such as a peasant loaf of French bread, sourdough, or even dense salt-crusted pumpernickel, will do. Pretzels are another favorite party dipper for fondue.
Next, consider a variety of veggies that would taste even better coated in cheesy goodness. Oven-roasted fingerling potatoes, carrots, green beans, and cauliflower are delicious choices, as is raw red bell pepper. Mini tart pickles, such as French cornichons, are also traditional dippers. Sliced apples and grapes pair wonderfully with melted cheese, but use your imagination to find other fresh fruit combinations such as pears, pineapple, and melon.
What to Serve with Cheese Fondue
Most cheese fondue recipes call for a crisp, dry white wine with some acidity, like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. For an extra special—and very traditional—addition, you can add a couple tablespoons of cherry brandy, called Kirsch, or another flavored brandy for an extra kick. The same wine used in the recipe is just fine to drink with dinner, but the best accompaniment is an off-dry riesling or chenin blanc: the crispness will cut through the richness of the cheese, and the fruity notes will complement apples or pears used as cheese fondue dippers.
Cheese Fondue Dipping Ideas
When cheese fondue is served at a party, there is definitely a fondue etiquette to follow. Nobody wants to be grossed out when people double-dip their bread into the pot. Encourage one cheesy coating per dip. Also, the long fondue forks are meant to be a serving tool instead of an eating utensil. If all of the guests ate off their fondue forks…well, you get the idea.
On the other hand, if it’s just the two of you, cheese fondue makes an excellent dinner idea for a romantic date night. The act of huddling over a bubbling warm pot encourages closeness. Making fondue is a simple activity that two can do together, and the long forks are extra fun for feeding one another. Cap off the dinner with chocolate fondue for dessert!
Cheese fondue is a fabulous winter comfort food that should be on everyone’s list for a special occasion, or just a simple dinner idea.