Whether you’re planning to throw a small party, impress a certain someone or simply enjoy some family time over delicious food, a classic Cheese Fondue is guaranteed to be a winner. This creamy Swiss dish has such a cozy and communal aspect to it, it’s hard to find a more enjoyable way to celebrate holidays and special occasions as a group. Although it sounds fancy, Cheese Fondue is incredibly easy to prepare. No advanced cooking skills, extraordinary techniques or even specialized fondue pots are required – all it takes is a couple of quality ingredients and a bit of patience. That’s it!
Though easy to prepare, fondue can also easily go wrong if you’re not careful. But no worries – we have some simple tips that will help you make the creamiest, richest, most indulgent Swiss Cheese Fondue in no time.
How to Make the Perfect Cheese Fondue at Home
To get a smooth and rich cheese fondue, it’s important to work with quality ingredients. First things first, you’ll want a proper, good-quality cheese and a nice dry white wine if you’re going for a classic fondue. Finally, you should also have some nice fondue dippers, like a good bread (French baguette and sourdough bread work best), toasted croutons or perhaps some veggies or fruits.
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Because fondue is a Swiss dish, the cheeses used in a traditional fondue recipe are usually Gruyère or Emmentaler. You can, of course, use other cheeses, including Fontina, Gouda, even Cheddar, although the last one would make the dish taste less traditional. Ideally – both for the fondue taste and your budget – you’ll use a blend of different cheeses. We find that an even blend of Gruyère, Gouda and Fontina work really well. The flavor combination is perfect as it’s not too strong but definitely not bland either.
Since cheese is the main ingredient here, it’s a good idea to pay a little extra for good quality cheese. That being said, there’s no need to use Gruyère only –after all, it is very expensive – as a blend of two or three cheeses (like our recipe calls for) works really well. Whatever cheese you choose to use for the fondue recipe, make sure it’s buttery and easy to melt.
If you’re going after that classic, traditional Swiss cheese fondue, wine is essential. It’s important to choose a good-quality wine too, and we’re not (only) talking about the flavor – the acid in wine matters greatly too. The tartaric acid in wine prevents the casein protein in cheese from sticking and clumping together, which is to say you need a wine that is high in natural acid for a creamy and smooth fondue. The taste of the wine also matters, of course. You don’t have to spend a fortune on wine, but do make sure it’s something you’d enjoy drinking with lunch or dinner.
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In essence, you want a good-quality dry white wine that is crisp and light. If you’re not great with wine selection, no worries – you can increase the acid needed for smooth fondue by adding a little bit of lemon juice. This will not only help with fondue texture, but its stability too. Plus, the brightness and tartness of lemon juice will nicely balance that rich dairy fat. That all being said, it still is important to get a good-quality wine.
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Now that you have your good cheese and wine, it’s time we start making that fondue.
What You’ll Need:
- 1/3 pound firm mountain-style cheese (Gruyère works best)
- 1/3 pound Fontina
- 1/3 pound Gouda
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tablespoon brandy or dry sherry
- Salt and pepper (optional)
- Cheese dip like bread, veggies or fruits
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- Start with grating the cheese with a coarse side of a large box grater. You’ll need to apply some elbow grease, but grating the cheese is so much better for creating a creamy fondue than chopping.
- Once grated, toss the cheese with cornstarch thoroughly. This will help emulsify the cheese when you mix it with wine and also prevent it from clumping. Set the cheese aside for now.
- Take your pot, skillet or saucepan of choice and rub a clove of garlic on the bottom. This will help put some nice garlic flavor in the fondue but won’t overpower the dish.
- Pour the wine in the pot and bring to simmer over low to medium heat. Now add the cornstarch-coated cheese little by little (do not dump everything in immediately!), mixing it into the warm wine thoroughly. Before adding each new handful of cheese, wait till the old one is mostly melted.
- Once all the cheese is added and melted and you have a smooth, creamy sauce, add the lemon juice and stir some more. Next, add the brandy or dry cherry and mix the sauce well. If you want to, you can also add certain spices at this time, like nutmeg or pepper, or whatever else you think would go well with melted cheese (spices are totally optional).
- That’s it! You can add extra salt to the fondue if you want to, although it should be salty enough if you used the right cheese(s). All that’s left now is arranging some tasty, bite-sized dipping foods, such as bread bites (sourdough bread or French baguette is ideal!), croutons, lightly blanched broccoli, sliced apples, boiled baby potatoes with skin, celery sticks, etc.
- Before you start making the fondue, make sure the cheese is at room temperature. If you start adding cold cheese to warm wine, the cheese won’t emulsify properly and may start separating, which is exactly what we want to avoid.
- To ensure your fondue is smooth and rich, cook it on low to medium heat, never high. High heat can easily break the fondue and turn it into a clumpy, lumpy mess; or even worse, a strange mix of separate cheese and wine.
- If you find that your fondue is a little bit too stiff, you can add more white wine to loosen it. Just make sure you stir it in really well.