The Best Gruyere Cheese Substitutes Yet!

Written by Peter Allen on . Posted in food

When we talk about finding a substitute for Gruyère cheese, we are presented with a unique challenge. Every cheese lover knows that each block of cheese is different from the next and finding substitutes for cheese is near impossible – but a good cheese lover knows his way around this hurdle.

Cheese is a regular on most grocery lists and lives in most pantries. It has also found its way to the most delicious of recipes (pizza, lasagna anyone?) and this has made it one with humans. But the best of cheese is yet to be seen.

Guyere cheese origins

Gruyères is a small town in Switzerland that produces the world-famous Gruyère Swiss cheese. The term ‘Swiss cheese’ refers to cheeses produced in Switzerland. This is rather broad and is often further enlarged to include cheese produced in other regions of the world, but according to set Swiss guidelines.

Before Gruyere gained the appellation d’ origine contrôlée (AOC, now AOP) status in 2001 as Swiss cheese, some controversy existed as to whether similar French cheeses could also be called Gruyère. French Gruyère-style cheeses include Comté and Beaufort.

Gruyère is a hard yellow cheese made from cow’s milk and stands in production for about six months. It has a sweet salty taste that changes with age. It starts out creamy and nutty when young, becomes more earthy with time and when it is fully matured, it develops small cracks that give it a slightly grainy texture and look that you’ll remember quite well from Tom and Jerry.

These cracks or holes are formed by the bacteria that age the cheese and are quite common with Swiss cheeses but the holes in Gruyere are fewer than most other Swiss cheese. Gruyere cheese is young when it’s about 2 months old and fully matured when it is a year old or more. It originates in the cantons of Friburg, Vaud, Neuchâtel, Jura and Bern in Switzerland. Apart from France, Gruyère-style cheeses are also produced in Greece and the United States of America.

Gruyère is hard, and this makes it a great table cheese.

A table cheese can be easily sliced and used in a sandwich or as part of a salad – the main point is that it is solid enough to hold its shape and not fall apart. Gruyère is also a great melting cheese and is especially used for baking and making fondues.

It can also be used to make pizza, casseroles, gratins, soufflés, baked dishes and soups. You can grate it over salad or pasta and it is iconic in a French onion soup. Gruyère has three types based on aging time: Organic Gruyère Cheese, Le Gruyère Switzerland AOC Alpage and Le Brouere.

The production style of Gruyère is long, tasking and very detailed not to mention seriously guided by laws so when you’re talking about cheese comparable to Gruyère or closest cheese to Gruyère, there are a lot of factors to consider. For the best results, there must be similarities between the Gruyere and the substituting cheese.

Finding the Right Cheese Similar to Gruyère

You can easily pick up a packet of gruyère in your local supermarket, it’s not rare or difficult to get or anything like that but it can be a bit pricy and this makes most people just steer clear of it.

If your recipe calls for Gruyère and for some reason it’s unavailable, don’t stress because you could easily substitute for a cheese like Gruyère. But bear in mind that the tastes will definitely differ so it’s always a good idea to buy the substituting cheese in small quantities for trials before you make up your mind.

In the same vein, you can’t just walk into a supermarket and pick any cheese off the shelf to substitute. You will need to take so many things into account first. The best cheeses that you can substitute for gruyere must have a flavor and texture similar to gruyère’s in that particular recipe.

You might have to ask yourself, what role is the Gruyère playing in this recipe? Is it giving an earthy flavor or a melty one? Then you will need to substitute with an earthy or melty cheese. It could be there solely for the color, in which case any yellow cheese will do.

What about the taste?

The cows that produce the milk used to make Gruyère cheeses are not fed with silage – they are allowed to roam freely on pastures with freshwater streams and hills in the Swiss Alps. This natural foraging contributes to the taste output of the milk and cheese and is quite difficult to replicate elsewhere. So you need to ensure as much as you can that the alternate cheese you intend to use tastes something akin to Gruyère otherwise the meal may not come out the same.

And the size?

If you’ll be using a lot of cheese in your recipe, you may want to go for something that has mass and is quite cheap. If the recipe does not require a lot of cheese, you can use your favorite replacement and not worry about the quantity changing the overall output.

What if you’re looking to make fondue?

Gruyere is great in fondue because it melts so easily so a great Gruyère cheese replacement in this case will have to be a cheese that melts just as easily, something that has high moisture. Emmental and Vacherin Fribourgeois are great melting cheeses perfect for fondues.

Do not forget to check the age of the cheese. This is very important because young gruyere and aged gruyere do not taste and look the same and this is the same for the substituting cheese. You do not want to be caught dead using an aged substituent in place of a young gruyère. Go for substitutes that are in the same age group. Also, old mountain cheeses have enhanced flavors because they have been washed with brine.

Above all, do not substitute with a cheese that has a very potent flavor. The flavor of gruyère is distinctive, noticeable but not overpowering. If you use cheese with a strong, overpowering flavor to replace gruyère, it may completely ruin the meal.  Now that you know what to look out for when replacing gruyère, let’s look at some gruyère cheese alternatives.

  1. Emmentaler

Just like Gruyère, Emmentaler cheese is a hard Swiss cheese made from cow’s milk that is named for the region in which it is produced (Emmental, Switzerland). It is characterized by large cracks – larger than Gruyère – and melts just as well which makes it good for making fondues, ravioli, pasta, sandwiches, pastries, bruschetta and a host of others. Emmentaler is actually creamier than Gruyère so if you intend to use it to make fondues, you’re good to go.

Because it is made in Switzerland and from cow’s milk, we can safely conclude that the cows were treated the same way the Gruyère cows were so the tastes are somewhat similar. If what you’re looking to replace in Gruyère is the hardness, melting property and the taste, then Emmentaler is your best bet. It is also easy to find, this is the most common Swiss cheese usually found in local supermarkets. Emmentaler is aged from 2 to 18 months, depending on the variant.

  1. Raclette

Raclette is famous for its melting ability. It is a not-so-hard Swiss cheese originating from Valais, Switzerland and substitutes well for Gruyère when what you need most is the melting ability. It is great in sandwiches, pasta, lasagna, pizza and fondue. It is best served with a warm beverage as a cold one will cause the cheese to harden in the stomach and cause indigestion. This cheese ages for about 3 to 6 months.

  1. Appenzeller

Appenzeller is a hard Swiss cheese originating in Appenzell, Switzerland and it has a unique property not seen in the cheeses previously discussed. Appenzeller cheese is coated with brine that contains either wine or cider. It has a distinct flavor made even more discerning by its age. The silver Classic variant is aged for 3 to 4 months, the gold Surchoix is aged for 4 to 6 months and the black Extra is aged for 6 months or longer.

  1. Jarlsberg

This is a soft cheese originating from Jarlsberg, Norway. It is made out of cow’s milk and also has big holes just like Emmentaler cheese. Jarlsberg replaces aged Gruyère cheese well because it has a taste that is rich and yet not overpowering. It also has a mild, nutty flavor and can be used for baking and cooking. Jarlsberg pair well with beer or white wine and is a great substitute for Gruyère when you want that unique nutty taste.

  1. Comté

Comté is a French Gruyère-style cheese made from unpasteurized cow’s milk – so no holes – and it is a great substitute for Gruyère cheese. It doesn’t have a similar texture to Gruyère but it does taste alike. In fact, one could say they are siblings from separate parents. Comté is a mountain cheese that has been brine-washed to enhance its taste – it is quite strong and has a slightly sweet taste.

It is made from the Montbéliarde cattle or French Simmental and it is aged for 8 to 12 months. Comté comes in small quantities – cubes and slices – so if you need just a small amount, it is quite convenient to go with Comté.

  1. Beaufort

Looks like Gruyère, tastes like Gruyère, Beaufort cheese has a semi-soft, semi-firm texture and is best used in baking or boiling recipes. If you’re baking and your recipe calls for an unavailable Gruyère, Beaufort is your next best bet. But between Beaufort and Gruyère, you might actually have more luck finding Gruyère as Beaufort is not quite common.

Beaufort is also a mountain cheese made from the milk of the Tarine breed cows. It tastes amazing when eaten with fish and burgundy white wine and is aged for 8 to 12 months.

Both Comté and Beaufort cheese are best for making carpaccios, bruschette, tarts and sandwiches.

  1. Cheese Mix

If you can’t quite find the exact cheese you need to replace Gruyère in that perfect recipe, you could always make your own replacement. Combine different cheese of similar texture and desired taste and create your own perfect gruyère cheese replacement. But there’s a catch to this. It can only be done in recipes that require melted cheese like fondues or in baking or broiling as the fluidy state of the cheese will help the flavors and textures mix well.

So what you’ll want to do is locate a cheese strong enough to give its flavor and another that’s creamy enough to give the cheese mix the right texture. For example, you could try parmesan and fontina cheese – parmesan for flavor, fontina for texture.

Substitute for Gruyère Cheese in French Onion Soup

As far as soups go, French Onion Soup is the soup to have when you want to have quality soup. The steaming bowl of hot onion broth is a perfect hand and body warmer for those lazy, chilly days or any day for that matter. It is a classic flavorful blend of onions caramelized to perfection, slowly simmered in an ethereal dance of white wine and beef broth, topped up with a splash of the finest Cognac and a creamy swirl of gruyère cheese-infused croutons.

The starter magic of the soup is in the caramelisation of the onions which needs to be done for at least 40 minutes and its crowning glory is the melted cheese on toast or croutons. Gruyère is the official cheese of the French Onion Soup and it is used majorly for its melting ability. Aged gruyère, although more expensive, is exactly what is needed to seal the deal with this soup.

If gruyère is completely out of your reach, there are other equally great melting cheeses that will glory up this French Onion Soup just as well. To really get the best of cheese in the soup, you should mix up two or different cheeses in ratios that you’re comfortable with to give that ultimate gruyère flavor.

The Italian mozzarella cheese is a good substitute for gruyère in French Onion Soup. Mozzarella has a clean, mild, somewhat salty taste without the sweetness common to Swiss cheese and is generally good for making pasta, but it has high moisture and melts well, which is a good property for cheese used in the French Onion Soup.

Jalsberg, Emmentaler, Provolone, Parmesan and Comté are superb melting cheeses and work wonders in the soup as well. Like I said before, you could also grate up two or more different cheeses for that extra flavorful touch.

Substitute for Gruyère Cheese in Quiche

Quiche is a baked dish of pastry crust filled with eggs, milk, cheese, meat, seafood and vegetables. The great thing about dishes like this is that you’re not limited to what you put in the dish. Anything that’s in your fridge, anything that resonates an appetizing chord with you is welcome to be a part of the meal. I like bacon and I regularly use it in this dish. The only standard is the pastry crust, filling of eggs, milk or cream.

Everything else can be added as you see fit.

I did not include cheese in the list of the standards because there are different variants of the quiche and some of them do not use cheese in the recipe. You may not like the taste of a cheese-less quiche but if you don’t mind, the cheese-less variant is a good gruyère cheese alternative.

Quiche Lorraine is one such variant. Cheese is sometimes added in modern recipes of the dish but originally it was an open pie with eggs, cream and lardons. No cheese.

Cheddar cheese is also most often used to make the quiche, especially in English-speaking regions of the world. Comté and Beaufort can also be used for the quiche. Since the quiche will be baked, it is wise to use a melting cheese although this is not compulsory.

Because they melt, Emmentaler and Jalsberg are good replacements but they are quite far down the replacement list. Then you could also use the regular store-common ‘American’ Swiss cheese. If you use cheese farther down the replacement line, it’s always a good idea to mix in some aged hard cheese to make up for the flavor-texture difference.

Final thoughts

The thing about food is that it has a way of uniting peoples and cultures and just warming hearts in the most mouth-watering and delicious way possible. I just love it and cheese is an essential part of the gorgeousness that is food.

So, here we talked about different substitutes for gruyère cheese and there are quite a lot. It would seem like virtually every famous cheese can substitute in some way. You just need to know what way and apply it accordingly. Have a beautiful life and don’t forget to say cheese!

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Peter Allen

Peter Allen

Peter's path through the culinary world has taken a number of unexpected turns. After starting out as a waiter at the age of 16, he was inspired to go to culinary school and learn the tricks of the trade. As he delved deeper, however, his career took a sudden turn when a family friend needed someone to help manage his business. Peter now scratches his culinary itch on the internet by blogging, sharing recipes, and socializing with food enthusiasts worldwide.

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