I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of fontina substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion. Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or want a swap that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
The best substitutes for fontina are other mild cheeses that melt well like Havarti, Gouda, Provolone, or Emmental. All these cheeses are creamy with fruity or nutty notes. For something with a slightly stronger flavor try Gruyère.
I did a taste experiment of fontina cheese side by side with a load of other cheeses, and I also tested each cheese’s meltability. Only the closest cheese made it onto this list.
Fontina cheese originates from the Aosta Valley in Italy. Its flavor is nutty and a little earthy, making it a favorite in dishes where you want some cheese, but don’t want it to be overwhelming. Its texture is semi-soft and creamy, and it’s often likened to a more robust version of Brie. Fontina is also renowned for its excellent melting properties.
You’ll find it in fondues, pizzas, pasta, and even grilled sandwiches. Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Havarti||Melts just as well||9/10|
|Gouda||Go for young Gouda||9/10|
|Gruyère||Slightly stronger flavor||9/10|
|Emmental||Mix with a creamy cheese to improve melted texture||8/10|
|Nutritional Yeast||A vegan option||5/10|
Havarti, a Danish cheese, is renowned for its buttery aroma and slightly tangy taste. It’s mild and creamy like fontina, but with less of a nutty aftertaste. I found it was a bit sweeter than Fontina, but nothing drastic.
Havarti melts just as well as Fontina too. And it’s a fantastic choice if you’re whipping up a creamy pasta or a melt-in-your-mouth fondue.
Psst… did you know havarti is named after the farm where it was first produced?
How to substitute: Replace Fontina in a 1:1 ratio with Havarti.
Originating from the Netherlands, Gouda is a cheese that varies significantly with age. Young Gouda is soft, creamy, and mildly sweet, while aged Gouda becomes crumbly with a robust, caramel-like flavor. For a fontina substitute, young Gouda is your best bet due to its similar texture and mild taste.
I could detect the same nuttiness as Fontina, but the gouda didn’t have the same earthy notes. And one big advantage of Gouda is that it’s more budget-friendly than Fontina and you can use it in pretty much all the same ways.
How to substitute: Replace Fontina in a 1:1 ratio with Gouda.
Hailing from Switzerland, Gruyère is a semi-hard cheese with a slightly sweet, nutty flavor. Its taste profile is close to fontina, but Gruyère can be a bit more intense, so it’s great for those real cheese lovers (like me!).
Pro tip: To bridge the gap between the two, mix Gruyère half and half with Havarti. This blend offers a balanced flavor that closely mirrors fontina, gruyere adds the nuttiness while havarti brings the butteriness.
Or you can simply mellow out the flavor with a bit of extra butter in the recipe. You’ll also need to grate the Gruyere before adding it to your dish if you want to melt it because I found it doesn’t melt quite as easily as Fontina (and therefore wouldn’t make a great fondue).
How to substitute: Replace Fontina in a 1:1 ratio with Gruyère (or use a little less if you find the flavor too strong).
Another Swiss gem, Emmental, is known for its characteristic holes and a fruity, savory flavor.
It’s got a delicious butteriness that will remind you of fontina, and I followed some advice I read on a forum to mix it with another cheese to bring a touch of extra creaminess.
Monterey Jack is a great option. Mixing Emmental with a creamier cheese also gave it the same richness as Fontina when I melted it. By itself, Emmental is smooth but not as velvety.
Psst… Emmental is also known as Swiss cheese.
How to substitute: Replace fontina in a 1:1 ratio with Emmental.
Hailing from Italy, Provolone is a semi-hard cheese known for its smooth texture. While it shares some flavor notes with Fontina, Provolone is generally milder, with a unique subtle tang that sets it apart.
When it comes to preparation, I found Provolone didn’t grate very well, but its melting abilities were top-notch, which is why I’m suggesting it as a good substitute option.
Psst… did you know provolone belongs to the same family as mozzarella?
How to substitute: Replace Fontina in a 1:1 ratio with Provolone.
Taleggio is an Italian soft cheese that can be a suitable substitute for Fontina, especially when meltability is a priority. Its soft texture ensures a smooth melt, making it ideal for dishes like fondues or baked recipes.
Taleggio has a pronounced aroma that might put you off because you think the taste will be just as strong, but don’t worry! Its flavor is actually pretty subtle, and I thought it had a nice fruitiness to it.
One downside is that Taleggio isn’t as widely available in America as the other cheeses on the list. Its distinctive smell means it’s not as popular!
How to substitute: Replace Fontina in a 1:1 ratio with Taleggio.
Nutritional Yeast (Vegan)
If you want a vegan alternative to Fontina, nutritional yeast is a game-changer. These golden flakes offer a cheesy flavor without any dairy. While they won’t replicate fontina’s exact taste or texture, they do have a slight nuttiness to them like fontina.
Pro tip: If you’re after the texture of melted cheese, blend nutritional yeast with silken tofu to make a cheese sauce. This is a very simplified version of the ‘cheese’ sauce recipe I follow (here).
How to substitute: Start by adding half the amount of nutritional yeast to the dish and then adjust to taste.
Other substitute options
Those are my top picks for fontina cheese substitutes, but they aren’t the only options. Here are some more:
- Edam: This Dutch cheese has a mild, nutty flavor and a smooth texture, making it a good swap for Fontina when you’re looking for a cheese that complements other ingredients without overpowering them.
- Monterey Jack: Known for its exceptional meltability and mild taste, Monterey Jack is an excellent substitute for Fontina in dishes where a creamy, even melt is desired.
- Asiago: While it can be sharper when aged, young Asiago offers a semi-soft texture and a flavor profile that can stand in for Fontina, and it’s also Italian.
Substitutes to avoid
You can’t just use any cheese in place of Fontina. While I was researching substitutes, I came across some that didn’t work out in my experiments.
Mozzarella: Mozzarella is renowned for its meltability, but its texture and flavor differ significantly from Fontina. Mozzarella has a much milder, almost neutral taste and a stringy melt, which doesn’t provide the same creamy consistency that Fontina offers.
Parmesan: Parmesan is a hard, aged cheese with a very distinct, salty flavor profile. It doesn’t melt like Fontina, and its robust taste can dominate a dish, making it a less suitable substitute when trying to replicate the nuanced flavors of Fontina.
Best Fontina Substitutes + 3 To Avoid
- 1 portion Havarti
- 1 portion Gouda young variety
- 1 portion Gruyère
- 1 portion Emmental
- 1 portion Provolone
- 1 portion Taleggio
- 1 portion Nutritional Yeast vegan
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen fontina substitutes at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.