I personally taste-tested a variety of Emmental cheese substitutes to find the best one for every occasion. Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry swap, or want a substitute that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
Gruyere is the best substitute for Emmental cheese and is great in fondues. Other Swiss-style cheeses like Fontina, Jarlsberg, and Gouda are also good alternatives. Looking for a cheaper option? Use mild cheddar.
I made several batches of this caramelized onion grilled cheese to try out different Emmental cheese substitutes.
Emmental cheese (also known as Emmanteler) is a semi-hard type of Swiss cheese with an inedible rind and characteristic holes, or “eyes”. It has a mildly creamy flavor, with subtle nutty and fruity hints. But what makes it a favorite in fondues is its ability to melt into a smooth, creamy mixture.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Gruyère||Very similar, slightly more complex flavor||9/10|
|Cheddar||A budget-friendly and easily accessible alternative||8/10|
|Fontina||Lacks fruity notes||8/10|
|Jarlsberg cheese||Same “eyes”||9/10|
|American Swiss cheese||Mild flavor||7/10|
|Swiss raclette||Great for melting||7/10|
|Provolone||Great for sandwiches||7/10|
Gruyère is the best substitute for Emmental cheese. It’s super easy to find in food stores and should be around the same price as a pack of Emmental. In terms of flavor, gruyere cheese is more complex. Along with the nutty notes it shares with Emmental, there’s also a salty and earthy undertone.
Both cheeses are well-known for their excellent melting capabilities, so you can use them both in the same ways. Gruyere is a favorite for recipes like fondue, croque monsieur, and French onion soup.
Pro tip: Most Gruyere is the Swiss variety, and won’t have any holes. But if your cheesemonger is selling a variety with holes, it’s likely a French-style Gruyere. You can use both as a substitute for Emmental.
How to substitute: Replace Emmental cheese in a 1:1 ratio with Gruyère.
Cheddar is budget-friendly and you might already have some in your fridge. If you do, you’re in luck because it’s a decent substitute for Emmental – as long as it’s mild cheddar!
It doesn’t have the familiar nutty notes of Emmental, but it does have a light tang and creaminess that will round out the flavors of your dish. Younger cheddars also melt pretty well, although I do find them slightly more oily than Emmental (because of the higher fat content).
Avoid using mature cheddar to replace Emmental because the flavor will be a lot sharper and older cheeses don’t melt as well. America’s Test Kitchen goes through the science behind this if you want to know more.
How to substitute: Replace Emmental cheese in a 1:1 ratio with mild cheddar.
Fontina may have Italian roots, but it’s still a solid alternative for Emmental cheese. Its mildly creamy, nutty flavor matches Emmental well, although it lacks the subtle fruity notes you’d usually get and has earthy undertones instead.
But Fontina more than makes up for it with its superb melting capabilities.
Pssst… traditional Fontina is made from unpasteurized milk like Emmental, which may not be suitable for all diets. Most commercial brands have switched to pasteurized milk, but it’s still best to check the labels and ingredients list.
How to substitute: Replace Emmental cheese in a 1:1 ratio with Fontina.
If you’re looking to replicate the visual appeal of Emmental then Jarlsberg is the best option because it has the same eye-catching holes! The holes in Jarlsberg cheese are slightly smaller and more uniform than the holes in Emmental cheese, but the untrained eye wouldn’t notice this.
Jarlsberg has a softer texture than Emmental and melts really well. In terms of flavor its buttery and not very complex. I found it pretty mild compared to Emmental, so this is also a good swap for anyone who prefers a very subtle flavor.
It’s a mainstay in burgers and macaroni, and it’s also great for things like quiches or casserole where you don’t want too many clashing tastes.
How to substitute: Replace Emmental in a 1:1 ratio with Jarlsberg.
American Swiss cheese
If you’re reading this from somewhere apart from the USA, you can skip this option. In the United States, “Swiss cheese” refers to a group of American-made cheeses that are styled after the Swiss Emmental.
They’re pale yellow and medium-hard, and they’re known for their mild, nutty, and slightly sweet taste that is less robust than the traditional Swiss Emmental (to cater to a wider audience). Because they’re mass produced, the holes are also more uniform.
Psst… Real Swiss cheese fans aren’t a fan of the standardized hole sizes because they think it takes away from the charm of the original cheese.
How to substitute: Replace Emmental in a 1:1 ratio with American Swiss cheese.
Ciao, Provolone! This Italian cheese is another solid alternative you can use to stand-in for Emmental cheese.
Like with Cheddar cheese, it’s best to choose a young Provolone, also known as ‘dolce’. It hits the right balance of mild and creamy that’s so signature to Emmental. But it comes with a tangy hint instead of a nuttiness similar to Emmental.
How to substitute: Replace Emmental in a 1:1 ratio with Provolone.
Its exact flavor notes depend on the region it’s made in, but they all have the same creamy, nutty essence as Emmental. One major difference though is the edible rind, which I think adds a rustic charm.
This cheese is typically used for the dish of the same name, where it’s melted and slathered straight onto meats and veggies (video below).
But like Emmental, Raclette is actually really versatile – it tasted fabulous in my grilled cheese sandwich and would be amazing melted into sauces too.
The only caveat with Raclette? It’s not the most common cheese in the grocery store, and you might have to buy a pretty large wheel!
How to substitute: Replace Emmental in a 1:1 ratio with Swiss Raclette.
Other substitutes to consider
The suggestions listed above are my top substitutes for Emmental cheese, but the list doesn’t end there! You can use pretty much any semi-hard cheese with good melting capabilities as a stand-in for Emmental cheese. Here are some more options:
- Gouda: Young Gouda is creamy and can have a sweet note that isn’t too far off from Emmental’s mildness, though it becomes more caramel-like and intense with age.
- French Comte: This is very similar to Gruyere cheese in terms of taste and texture, so makes a really good Emmental substitute. But it’s not as common so can be harder to find.
- Havarti: Although milder, it has a creamy texture when melted, making it a good substitute for texture, if not for flavor.
- Edam cheese: Edam cheese has a nice mild flavor like Emmental, but it doesn’t melt as readily, so it’s better when you don’t need to melt the cheese.
- Manchego: This cheese is ideal if you want something stronger than emmental. It’s nutty, rich, and buttery.
Substitutes to avoid
I saw some blogs suggesting you use parmesan as a substitute for Emmental cheese, but I don’t recommend this. Parmesan is an aged cheese that has a hard texture and doesn’t melt. It’s also much saltier and sharper in flavor. The two cheeses aren’t very similar.
Brie was another suggestion I saw that I don’t recommend. Brie is a much softer cheese that does melt, but not in the same way as Emmental. It becomes more runny and gooey. The flavor is also a lot more creamy and rich, with some variations of Brie also being quite mushroomy.
Best Emmental Cheese Substitutes + 2 To Avoid
- 30 grams Gruyere
- 30 grams Cheddar
- 30 grams Fontina
- 30 grams Jarlsberg cheese
- 30 grams American Swiss cheese
- 30 grams Swiss raclette
- 30 grams Provolone
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen Emmental substitutes at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.