Top 10 Swiss foods – with recipes

Top 10 Swiss foods – with recipes

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Does 'Swiss food' even exist, so to speak? You can decide with these 10 top Swiss foods you have to try.

Some argue that 'Swiss food' doesn't exist, in a sense, because what are considered the top Swiss foods typically come from many regional foods and specialities found across Switzerland's 26 cantons. You will find top Swiss foods with heavy French, German and north Italian influences, with bases of Swiss cheeses, potatoes and traditional Swiss ingredients that were readily available to the first Alpine farmers. You certainly won't go hungry in Switzerland. Here are just 10 of the top Swiss foods you should try – or cook at home.

1. Cheese fondue

Cheese fondue is a great meal with friends and perhaps one of the most iconic foods that people relate to Switzerland. It's a dish made of melted cheese (gruyère and emmentaler) and other ingredients, such as garlic, white wine, a little cornflour/corn starch and often kirsch (cherry brandy), served up at the table in a special ceramic pot called a caquelon, with a small burner underneath it to keep the fondue at constant temperature. You spear small cubes of bread onto long-stemmed forks and dip them into the hot cheese (taking care not to lose the bread in the fondue). The term ‘fondue' has come to describe other dishes where food is dipped into a pot of hot liquid, such as fonduebourguignonne (beef cooked in hot oil) and chocolate fondue.

Make your own:

Top 10 Swiss foods – with recipes: Cheese fondue

2. Rösti

Rösti is a potato dish made by frying (or occasionally baking) flat round patties of coarsely grated raw or parboiled (semi-cooked), seasoned potato in oil. They're crisp on the outside and soft and melting inside. Sometimes bacon, onion, cheese – and even apple – are added to the mix. It's eaten as a side dish to accompany fried eggs and spinach or a sausage meat called fleischkäse. It was originally eaten as a breakfast by Bern farmers but these days you'll find it enjoyed all over the world as well as in Switzerland where it's considered a national dish.

Make your own:

Top 10 Swiss foods – with recipes: Rosti

3. Bircherműesli

You hav probably eaten muesli for breakfast before, but may not have known it was invented in Switzerland around 1900, by Dr Maximilian Bircher-Benner. Believing that a diet of cereals, fruits and vegetables was better for humans than a heavy meat-based diet, he created birchműesli – a mix of rolled oat flakes, fruit, nuts, lemon juice and condensed milk – for patients in his Zurich sanatorium. It's still eaten today, and not only eaten at breakfast but sometimes in the evening, too.

Make your own:

Top 10 Swiss foods – with recipes: Birchermuesli

4. Raclette

Raclette is the name of a Swiss cheese made from cow's milk (slightly nutty, a little like gruyère) but it's also the name of a very popular meal in Switzerland. In the old days, an entire wheel of cheese was held up in front of a fire and as the cheese melted, it was scraped off onto a plate to be eaten. The name is derived from the French racler, meaning ‘to scrape'. Today, slices of raclette are melted in table-top raclette pans or grills, and can be accompanied by small potatoes cooked in their skins, vegetables, charcuterie, pickled gerkins, onions and bread. With a modern raclette grill, you melt the cheese on one grill layer and can scrape it over grilled vegetables and meats.

Make your own:

  • Try this traditional Swiss recipe.
  • This fondue recipe pairs the rich cheese with carrot and celeriac salads.
  • Here's a Swiss recipe (in German) for raclette with chicken.

Top 10 Swiss foods – with recipes: Raclette

5. Bűndnernusstorte

The bűndnernusstorte, sometimes called an engadinernusstorte, is a yummy caramelised nut-filled pastry originating from the canton of Graubűnden. It's made in small independent bakeries all over the canton, each of which have their own variation on the basic recipe of short-crust pastry with a filling of caramelised sugar, cream and chopped nuts, usually walnuts. Enjoy a piece as a dessert (it's very rich), with a cup of coffee or tea.

Make your own:

Top 10 Swiss foods – with recipes: Bűndnernusstorte

6. Saffron risotto

Saffron is grown in the Swiss canton of Valais and is an essential ingredient of this traditional Ticino dish, often served with a luganighe sausage, a raw sausage made with pork, spices and red wine. Ticino is the southern most canton of Switzerland, sharing a border with the Italian regions of Piedmont and Lombardy, and the one canton where Italian is the official language. Saffron risotto is a comforting dish made from risotto rice cooked slowly with onions, stock, saffron threads, wine and cheese, and easy to make at home.

Make your own:

  • Here's a recipe for saffron risotto with luganighe sausage.
  • This is a Swiss recipe in German of the same dish above.
  • This recipe uses charred leeks in the saffron risotto.

Top 10 Swiss foods – with recipes: Safron risotto

7. Zurchergeschnetzeltes

This translates as ‘cut meat Zurich style', but if you see it on a menu in Switzerland the dish will be made using strips of veal (calf meat) and sometimes veal liver. The veal is cooked with mushrooms, onions, wine and cream and usually eaten with rösti (see above), noodles or rice. You can substitute the veal with chicken or pork if you're making it yourself.

Make your own:

Top 10 Swiss foods – with recipes: Zurchergeschnetzeltes

8. Zopf

There are many types of bread in Switzerland but one of the most popular and delicious is a soft white loaf called zopf. You'll be able to recognise it easily because it's a plaited loaf (the word zopf means ‘braid'), with a golden crust, very much like the Jewish bread called challah. Some say it originates from an ancient custom of widows cutting off their braids and burying them with their husbands. The dough is made from white flour, milk, eggs, butter and yeast, plaited into a braid and then brushed with egg yolk before baking. It's traditionally eaten on Sunday mornings.

Make your own:

  • This recipe has rave reviews.
  • There are great photos with this recipe, including how to braid the bread (it's easier than it looks).
  • Here's an authentic Swiss recipe translated into English.

Top 10 Swiss foods – with recipes: Zopf

9. Berner platte

If you like meat and are feeling very hungry, then you'll love the Bernese speciality the Berner platte (‘Bernese platter'). It consists of a whole range of meats and sausages, which may include beef, ham, smoked bacon, smoked beef and pork tongue, spare ribs, pork knuckle, pork loin and shoulder, marrow bone­­ – plus there's some juniper-flavoured sauerkraut, potatoes and dried beans in there, too. The dish was created on 5 March 1798 after the Bernese defeated the French army at Neuenegg. To celebrate they held a huge feast, with everyone bringing along whatever they had to hand, hence the variety and predominance of preserved meats and other foods.

Make your own:

Top 10 Swiss foods – with recipes: Berner platte

10. Älplermagronen

Sometimes called herdsman's macaroni, alplermagronen ­is a traditional all-in-one dish from the German part of Switzerland. It uses all the ingredients that were available to the herdsmen who were looking after their cows on the mountain pastures of the slopes of the Alps: cheese, potatoes, onions, macaroni, milk or cream – and apples. The classic version is made by layering cooked potatoes and macaroni with cream and cheese, baking it in the oven and then serving it with fried onion rings and a stewed apple sauce on top. Sometimes it comes with bacon as well. It's a hearty meal that really warms you up a cold night.

Make your own:

  • Try this authentic recipe from Switzerland (in English).
  • This recipe, in German, is easy and delicious.
  • Here's one expat's take on the dish.

Top 10 Swiss foods – with recipes: Älplermagronen

Local Swiss specialities

According to the Swiss tourism board, there are a few dishes and specialities – such as fondue, Älplermagronen and chocolate – that are typical of Switzerland but there is no real 'Swiss cuisine' to speak of. The food in Switzerland is a potpourri of influences from various countries, using the cuisines of its neighbours to create Swiss versions with local ingredients.

Swiss cuisine also exists in its regional dishes, for example, the speciality Bernese Platter and Bernese Rösti, the Vaud dish of sausage and leeks, or food from St Gallen Ribelmais and whitefish from Lake Constance.

The Valais is famous for raclette, Graubünden is renown for its Capuns, Zurich's speciality is its Geschnetzeltes, Lucerne is famous for Chügelipastete and in Ticino you should try Mortadella und Luganighe.

You will also find sausages everywhere – Switzerland is home to almost 350 different regional varieties. In terms of land area, that is probably a world record.

For beverages, although Switzerland is not quite the world leader for wines, there are many rising Swiss wines. Besides the classic wines and grape varieties, Switzerland also provides unique tasting experiences with new types of wine and development of rare, indigenous varieties.

Read more on local and traditional foods in Europe



Expatica

Upated 2016.

Photo credit: Encoded 9 (rosti), Amelia Crook (bircherműesli), becre8tive (raclette grill), Claudia Walther-Dornleden (zurchergeschnetzeltes), Pakeha (alplermagronen), Alexander Klink (bűndnernusstorte), Sandstein (Berner Platte).

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