But where does fondue come from? And what’s with all the different
cheeses involved? In this guide to fondue, we’ll break down the history and the
different variations of this legendary and cheesy dish.
Fondue’s mysterious origin story
To most cheese lovers,
the concept of fondue conjures images of lush green valleys in the Alps and
giant pots of melted alpine-style
cheese. What most people don’t know, however, is that fondue
can be traced back centuries earlier to almost 800 BC, during the times of
Homer’s Iliad. Literature from that era describes a mixture of goats or
sheep’s milk cheese with wine and flour—something shockingly similar to today’s
Even though there’s no
hard and fast date for when the tradition of modern fondue started, it became popular during the 1800s in the French and Swiss regions of the Alps.
Fondue was born out of a necessity to use aged
cheeses and bread during the winter months when fresh food
wasn’t readily available.
By combining their cheese with flour, wine, and some herbs
over an open flame, peasants were able to create a delicious and celebratory
feast that would take the edge off winter’s chill. Fondue was quickly embraced
by the upper classes as well. After all, who doesn’t love a fondue party?
largely remained a local tradition until the 1930s when the Swiss Cheese Union
(also known as the Schweizerische Käseunion) ran a successful campaign
to name fondue the national dish of Switzerland. In the following decades, fondue
rode a rapid ascent to stardom, with Swiss and German immigrants bringing their
fondue traditions with them to places like Wisconsin.
Fondue Fun-Fact: the name “fondue” originates from the French word fondre, “to
What is fondue?
There are many unique
types of fondue, but nearly all of them involve some combination of melted
cheeses mixed with wine or brandy and herbs. This warm and delicious mixture is
served in a pot that’s continually kept warm over a small flame.
break down three of the most common types of fondue you need to know: Swiss,
French, and Italian. All of them are great options for a cheesy evening at
home—and made even better by using Wisconsin Cheese.
At its most
fundamental, traditional Swiss fondue is a mix of gruyère and emmentaler cheese, flour, garlic, and a crisp, dry white wine. Other herbs
can also be added like paprika, nutmeg, or cayenne.
Depending on the region of
Switzerland though, the type of cheese can vary. Some areas tend to use
appenzeller cheese instead of emmentaler. What’s served alongside the fondue?
Crusty white bread cut into bite-size chunks for dipping, of course! Other
accouterments include cooked and diced potatoes, cornichons, and pickles.
Here in Wisconsin,
Swiss fondue is the most popular type of fondue due to the large number of
Swiss and German immigrants that settled in places like Green County.
Must-try Wisconsin Cheeses for Swiss fondue
Roth’s Grand Cru:
If you’ve never tried Grand
Cru, we recommend that you drop whatever you’re doing and get
yourself a block. Roth’s
cheese is robust, full-bodied, and perfectly melty making it a uniquely
tasty and versatile cheese.
Roelli’s Little Mountain:
This washed rind alpine-style cheese is what happens when a deep appreciation
for appenzeller-style cheeses meets Wisconsin
ingenuity. Each wheel is aged for at least six months to develop a smooth
and nutty flavor that may just make you yodel.
Made in traditional Swiss copper vats, this
3-year-aged emmentaler will transport you to the Swiss Alps
with every bite! Edelweiss Creamery is led by Master Cheesemaker, Bruce
Workman, whose passion for producing handmade Swiss
cheese is evident in every 180-pound wheel of Edelweiss Emmentaler that rolls out
of his creamery.
Given their geographic
proximity, Swiss and French fondue aren’t all that different, but there are some
differences to know. The most well-known French fondue recipe is the Savoyarde
fondue, which uses a mix of gruyere, comté, and Beaufort cheeses. Similar to
Swiss fondue, French fondue also mixes their cheese with garlic, white wine,
and other herbs.
Must-try Wisconsin Cheeses for French fondue
Uplands' Pleasant Ridge Reserve: Meet
America’s most decorated cheese. With more awards to its name than we have time
to list, Pleasant
Ridge Reserve is a Beaufort-style cheese that should be on every cheese
lover’s bucket list. Pleasant Ridge Reserve is only made in the summer months
Cheese can graze their cows on fresh grass, yielding a unique seasonal flavor
that can’t be recreated any other time of year.
If you thought that
Swiss and French fondue were too similar, Italian fondue might be the one for
you! Italian fondue takes a dramatic turn from traditional French and Swiss
varieties by only using one type of cheese: fontina.
profile is like other swiss or alpine-style cheeses, but it melts to a much
lighter consistency, like mozzarella. Italian fondue also doesn’t use any wine or flour, instead
opting for butter, milk, and egg yolks, resulting in a savory custard that’s
Must-try Wisconsin Cheeses for Italian fondue
BelGioioso Fontina: Handmade
by BelGioioso’s Master
Cheesemakers, this fontina
is aged for 60 days to develop its award-winning buttery flavor and
silky-smooth texture. Melt it for a complex, impressive fondue—and get extra
for a tasty sandwich the day after.
If you’re looking for
an appetizer before your fondue, try our selection of over 400 handcrafted recipes
featuring Wisconsin cheese. Share your fondue
feast with us on Instagram or Facebook and become part of the largest cheese community in the world!
Searching high and low for that one Wisconsin Cheese with no luck? You can get all your
favorite Wisconsin Cheeses delivered right to your door with our continuously
updated list of cheesemakers and retailers that allow you to order
cheese online. Award-winning Wisconsin Cheese is just a click