Fontina cheese is among the must-have ingredients of any gourmet Chef. Its natural flavor adds richness to almost any dish. However, you can look for alternatives, in case you don’t have this kind of cheese in your kitchen.
Before anything else, it is important to know that Fontina Cheese is only one of the many variants of cheese. If you aren’t familiar with this variant, then read on to find out more about it.
What is Fontina Cheese?
Lots of cheese lovers would surely be delighted to have Fontina Cheese in their kitchens. It’s a high-quality cheese that can make your dishes more mouth-watering and scrumptious. Unlike ordinary cheese in your local convenience store, Fontina Cheese has a unique flavor.
Fontina Cheese originally comes from the Italian Aosta valley. This place is home to the world’s best Valdostana cows — The only cows that can produce the milk used in the making of Fontina Cheese.
Valdostana cows produce high-quality milk. This is responsible for the creamy and nutty flavor of Fontina Cheese.
Producing Fontina Cheese isn’t as easy as you think. To achieve the perfect flavor, farm owners move the cows to higher ground where the grass is rich and healthier. At about an altitude of 550 to 700 meters, during the summer season, grass grows well in the valleys of Italy. This is the best time to milk the cows and produce the highest quality milk they can ever give.
But the cow’s milk still needs to be aged perfectly to produce the best Fontina Cheese. Vast mountains and caves surround Aosta valley, and this gives the place relatively low temperatures. This makes it a perfect place to age the cheese naturally. This is also the reason why Fontina Cheese has semi-hard outer layers yet smooth and soft insides.
Another good reason why many are crazy over Fontina Cheese is that it’s a good melting cheese. This characteristic makes it perfect for pasta, pizza, sauces, and many other dishes.
Different Types of Cheese
But before looking for Fontina Cheese substitutes, it will be helpful to know the different kinds of cheese available today. And here are some of them:
#1 – Soft Cheese
This kind of cheese needs no cooking or melting. You can enjoy this cheese variant as it is, straight from its packaging. Soft cheese is what you normally put on your crackers, toasts, or bread. It’s creamy and semi-liquid in form, making it quite easy to spread on your bread or crackers.
The thing about soft cheese is that it doesn’t last as long as hard cheese. If hard cheese lasts for months, then soft cheese can only last a few weeks.
And that’s why you must store soft cheese properly to prolong its shelf life. Avoid wrapping it with plastic as much as possible. This’ll only shorten its shelf life.
#2 – Hard Cheese
Another variant of cheese that you should know about is Hard Cheese. This type of cheese is aged longer than soft cheese. This means it has lower moisture content, which explains its firm texture.
The thing about this kind of cheese is that it’s usually crumbly and dry. Because of this, it’s quite hard to slice it perfectly. Some examples of hard cheese include the popular Cheddar cheese, Gouda and Provolone cheese. This type of cheese is perfect for grating.
#3 – Blue Cheese
This is another type of cheese that’s used by lots of professional chefs and kitchen lovers all around the world today. It’s unique compared to the other two types mentioned earlier. Its blue-veined spots and distinct smell characterize blue cheese. Anyone who sees Blue Cheese can easily distinguish it from other kinds of cheese because of those characteristics.
The very reason why this cheese has vein-like spots is that it has molded. At first, you might think it isn’t safe to eat anything with molds in it. After all, that’s what health experts always say. But the molds in this kind of cheese are cultured and 100% safe for human consumption.
Top 12 Fontina Cheese Substitutes
Fontina Cheese may not be as rare as Pule, but sometimes it’s hard to get your hands on this dairy product. And if there isn’t any Fontina Cheese in your neighborhood and your recipe requires it, then the best thing you can do is look for the best substitutes for this ingredient.
So here’s a roundup of the best Fontina Cheese substitutes that you might want to consider for your next cooking session:
#1 – Gouda
Gouda is a very popular variant of cheese that originally comes from the Netherlands. Just like Fontina Cheese, Gouda is made from cow’s milk. It has a mild yellow color and has an almost similar texture as that of Fontina Cheese. They normally sell Gouda cheese per wheel, but some traders sell it on a retail basis (per slice) to make it more affordable and economical.
Gouda cheese is also one of the oldest cheese variants still being produced up to this day. The process of making Gouda is tedious, just like any other semi-hard cheese. However, many manufacturers now produce Gouda cheese industrially. This means they’re making cheese with the help of automated machines inside a factory.
Although Gouda is widely produced industrially, some Dutch farmers continue making it through traditional methods. Many Chefs and cheese lovers worldwide still believe that there’s a huge difference between traditionally produced Gouda cheese and industrially produced ones, especially when it comes to taste, flavor, and aroma.
Also, traditional Gouda cheese is more expensive compared to industrially produced ones. The main reason for this is that the traditional process of making cheese requires more time, effort, and resources from farmers. Producing Gouda using traditional methods is a protected process.
Gouda is one of the best substitutes for Fontina cheese due to many reasons. One of these reasons is that they have an almost similar texture and density. Just like Fontina, this kind of cheese melts easily. So it’s best for pasta, sauces, soups, and sandwiches.
Since Gouda is also made from cow’s milk, it has a similar taste to that of Fontina. It has the same creamy, nutty taste that’ll surely complement almost any dish you wish to cook. This cheese also has a light and mild taste, so you can use a generous amount of this when cooking your favorite dish.
#2 – Mozzarella
Everybody seems to love Mozzarella. This cheese is also among the most popular kinds of cheese and is widely available anywhere in the world. Since it’s quite accessible, it can be a good substitute for Fontina cheese.
Mozzarella is also an Italian cheese that has a mild, buttery taste. There are various sources of milk for making Mozzarella cheese. Among them are cow’s milk, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, and buffalo’s milk. However, the original recipe strictly uses milk from water buffaloes.
The consistency of Mozzarella cheese varies, depending on its age. The fresher the Mozzarella cheese, the gooier it is. You’ll know Mozzarella is fresh when milk oozes out when you slice it. Also, this kind of cheese has a very thin rind, which makes it very easy to slice.
Original mozzarella cheese generally tastes sweet, with a hint of sourness. Its distinct feature is that it’s elastic. It stretches like soft rubber, but it melts in your mouth when you eat it. This elasticity is achieved by hard labor. To have this distinct feature, you have to knead, stretch, and shape warm curd.
In the past, Mozzarella cheese production involved unpasteurized buffalo’s milk. This was why it needed to be eaten fresh so you can get the best taste out of it. Since farmers used unpasteurized milk in making Mozzarella back then, then you’d only have 24 hours to eat it. And if the cheese was stored more than 24 hours, then its taste changed, and its sourness also became more evident than usual.
Today, manufacturers use new processes that help prolong the shelf life of Mozzarella cheese. Thanks to this innovation, you can now store mozzarella cheese in your fridge without worrying it might not taste the same after some time. Plus, makers of Mozzarella cheese now make it available in small packages. This is so it won’t be difficult to store it. And unlike traditional cheese wheels in Italy, Mozzarella cheese is often packed in plastic material and sold in thick slices.
#3 – Taleggio
Italy is home of the best cheeses in the world, and Taleggio is one of them. It usually comes out as a square block, unlike the common wheel-shaped Fontina cheese. It’s semi-soft and melts easily, making it a good substitute for Fontina cheese.
Taleggio has a thin outer rind, protecting the semi-soft cheese inside. It has a distinct aroma that lets you distinguish it from other cheeses. Contrary to its aroma, this cheese variant has a mild and fruity taste, which is perfect for sandwiches, sauces, pasta, salads, and other similar dishes.
In the traditional process of producing Taleggio cheese, farmers add five different types of molds to achieve its unique look and flavor. The longer Taleggio cheese is aged, the more prominent the cultured molds become. And these molds are responsible for the reddish-looking thread-like strips that you see on well-aged Taleggio cheese.
As tasty as it is, Taleggio cheese is high in fat content. It has about 48% of fat, which may be a bit high for health-conscious individuals. It’s made from cow’s milk, which explains its relatively high-fat content. Nevertheless, eating moderate amounts of Taleggio cheese won’t be harmful to your health.
You can find commercially produced Taleggio cheese in most supermarkets in Europe and even in the USA. The Taleggio cheese that you often find in supermarkets is cheaper, compared to those cheese produced by farmers using traditional methods. If you prefer homemade traditional Taleggio cheese, then you can usually find it in Val Taleggio.
Val Taleggio, where this cheese’s name comes from, is an Alpine valley in Lombardy, Italy. This is home to healthy cows that produce the milk used in making Taleggio cheese.
Val Taleggio’s weather is perfect for the cows to stay healthy. This place is also rich in green grass, which makes the cows produce more milk of the right quality.
#4 – Parmesan
Parmesan cheese can also be a good substitute for Fontina cheese. But it falls into a different cheese category.
Authentic Parmesan cheese is classified as hard cheese. This means it’s dry and crumbly. Because of this, you can only enjoy Parmesan cheese when it’s grated.
Today, many Parmesan manufacturers use different kinds of milk to produce this popular product. However, PDO designation indicates that a cheese is considered Parmesan only when it comes from cows feeding on fresh grass and hay. Cheese experts can easily distinguish between authentic Parmesan cheese and generic ones.
The good thing about Parmesan cheese is that you won’t have any issue storing it. Since it is a hard cheese, it has a longer shelf life. All you have to do is wrap the cheese properly and store it in the warmest spot in your fridge. This way, it will not attract that much moisture. Remember, the freshness and quality of your cheese are greatly affected by the amount of moisture present in the product.
Parmesan cheese has a nutty, fruity, and sharp flavor. After consuming a generous amount of Parmesan cheese, you might get a hint of a salty flavor. This cheese, although classified as hard cheese, is still best for pasta, sandwiches, and sauces, just like Fontina cheese. You just need to adjust the portions when substituting Fontina with Parmesan. That’s because you probably don’t want to end up with a strong-flavored dish.
And the good thing about Parmesan cheese is that it contains relatively lower fat, compared to other cheese variants. A normal serving of Parmesan cheese only contains about 25% fat. That’s 13% lower, compared to the fat content of Taleggio cheese. This is perfect for people who are engaged in a low-fat diet.
#5 – Gruyere
Gruyere is probably the closest substitute for Fontina cheese. These two kinds of cheese are so similar that they are often mistaken for the other. Although Gruyere is classified as hard cheese and Fontina as semi-hard cheese, they look undeniably similar. Like Fontina, Gruyere also has a thick rind that holds the softer cheese inside.
Gruyere is a Swiss cheese that has been around for a while now. It comes from raw and unpasteurized cow’s milk. It generally has a sweet taste with a little bit of saltiness in it. The flavor of this cheese significantly varies with its age. When the cheese is young and fresh, it tends to have a sweet, nutty, and fruity flavor. After some more aging, the cheese then has a stronger aroma and flavor. When it reaches the perfect age, at about five months to one year, it’ll be crumbly and grainy.
Many cheese experts love Gruyere so much since they can use it in almost any dish today. Often used in baking, Gruyere cheese gained much popularity from the cake and pastry lovers. The reason why many bakers use this cheese is that its flavor doesn’t overpower other ingredients. It compliments other ingredients fairly well.
Among the best recipes using Gruyere cheese is Croque-Madame. This recipe is an upgraded version of a regular ham and cheese sandwich. It consists of 2 slices of wheat bread with ham and a slice of Gruyere cheese in between. On top of it is a sunny-side-up egg with a little bit of pepper. If you aren’t that much into eggs, then you can exclude it in your recipe and call it Croque-Monsieur instead.
Another good recipe that uses Gruyere cheese is the Slow-Cooker French Onion Soup. This slow cooking process helps produce a well-melted cheese topping for the onion soup. The combination of saltiness, sweetness, and nutty flavor can warm the hearts of your guests when you serve them this dish.
#6 – Provolone
This is another cheese product originating from Italy. Provolone cheese may not be as popular as Mozzarella cheese, but it’s also worth a closer look. It usually comes in an elongated sausage shape, more like a thicker version of French bread. However, there are manufacturers who use different shapes in molding this cheese.
Provolone falls under the category semi-soft cheese, just like that of Fontina cheese. But this product is a little bit different because it doesn’t have a rind. And if it has, then it’s too thin to be noticed. This cheese is usually packed in thick plastic material and often vacuum-sealed to prolong its freshness and shelf life.
Provolone has a sweet taste, something similar to the taste of Fontina cheese. What makes this cheese different from Fontina is that it also has a smoky flavor. Plus, it’s a stretched cheese curd, just like mozzarella.
Today, two kinds of Provolone cheese are manufactured worldwide. One is as Provolone Dolce, which is otherwise known as the mild provolone. And the other one is Provolone Piccante or the aged provolone. These two are equally great substitutes for Fontina cheese.
To make Provolone Dolce, manufacturers need to wait for 2 to 3 months for the cheese to age. At this age, you can already consume it as a table cheese. This means it’s ready to eat, without the need to cook it or melt it. Also, the good thing about Provolone Dolce is that you can readily eat it as it is.
Meanwhile, Provolone Piccante is aged six months to one year. This cheese is now harder and has lower moisture content, compared to Provolone Dolce. This is the perfect Provolone for cooking and baking. Since this cheese is a bit dry, it needs to exposed to heat for it to melt. And for much faster melting, you can grate Provolone Piccante or cut it into small cubes.
#7 – Vacherin
Vacherin is another good substitute for Fontina cheese. This cheese comes from France and Switzerland. It has a soft and creamy texture with a thin rind. Vacherin cheese is made from cow’s milk, just like Fontina. This is the reason why it’s good to be used as a substitute for Fontina cheese.
There are many uses for Vacherin cheese. You can use it as a spread to pair up with your toast or crackers. And you don’t need to expose Vacherin cheese to heat for it to melt. Its consistency is like that of mozzarella cheese, minus the elasticity. It’s readily spreadable after opening the package.
The production of Swiss Vacherin cheese is officially controlled and protected. This is the reason why you seldom see it being sold in different shapes and sizes. The Swiss manufacturers of Vacherin follow certain procedures in making this kind of cheese. Plus, they use specific breeds of milking cows to produce the milk for making Vacherin cheese.
When it comes to taste, Vacherin is somewhat different from Fontina. It has a full creamy flavor that’s a little bit acidic. Some patrons of Vacherin compare it to yogurt since it has that kind of feel. You can also eat this cheese-like Fondue.
Unlike other cheeses with edible rinds, you need to remove the outer layer of Vacherin before eating it. When the cheese matures enough, it becomes almost liquid. This characteristic makes it the best spreadable cheese for sandwiches, crackers, salads, and even certain pasta dishes.
One thing you should consider before substituting Fontina with Vacherin cheese is if you can tolerate its fat content. Vacherin normally contains 45 to 50% fat, which is significantly higher compared to Taleggio cheese. But if you don’t mind its fat content, then this cheese is a good alternative for Fontina cheese.
#8 – Emmental
Here’s another good contender when it comes to the best Fontina cheese substitute. This cheese originally comes from Switzerland. Although it originates from this country, France and Germany also produce authentic Emmental cheese since it became a global hit.
Manufacturers use whole cow’s milk to create this cheese variant. Emmental cheese falls under the category Medium-Hard Cheese. This means you can expect that this cheese is dry and a bit crumbly. Meanwhile, Emmental comes in cheese wheels, but it’s also sold per slice at some stores.
Emmental cheese is quite popular mainly because of its distinct appearance. Unlike other smooth textured cheese, Emmental cheese has holes. This is probably because of bacterial integration into the curd to achieve its perfect taste.
Originally, cheese makers add three types of bacteria to the curd. These are Lactobacillus helveticus, Streptococcus thermophiles and Propionibacterium freudenreichii. All of these are good bacteria that can enhance the taste of Emmental cheese. These help ferment the curd while the cheese ages. The longer the cheese ages, the stronger its flavor.
Emmental cheese tastes fruity, nutty and has a hint of sourness, making it a good substitute for Fontina. Although classified as hard cheese, Emmental is a surprisingly good melting cheese. This characteristic makes it a good cheese for pasta, salads, grilled sandwiches, and many other dishes that use Fontina.
It’s also a good pair for wines since it’s also considered table cheese. Its mild and nutty flavor compliments the taste of wine quite well, making it a perfect side dish that’s easy to prepare. You can try eating this cheese with Merlot or Champagne.
Plus, Emmental cheese is a good pair for certain fruits like peaches, apples, grapes, and pears. Try experimenting with these ingredients, and you can taste a completely new level of deliciousness.
#9 – Montasio
Montasio cheese is another good product of Italy. It falls under the category semi-hard cheese, just like Fontina. Montasio cheese is made from cow’s milk, another good reason why it’s suitable as a substitute for Fontina cheese.
Production of Montasio cheese dates back to the early 13th century. It was originally produced by Benedictine monks in the alps of Giulia. As a protected product, manufacturers need to follow precise procedures for the product to be labeled as authentic Montasio cheese.
This cheese is perfect for lactose-intolerant individuals. It’s 100% lactose-free, which is contrary to popular belief that dairy products always contain lactose. But how is this possible?
Well, the addition of certain types of bacteria to the curd makes it possible. This bacterium transforms lactose into lactic acid. So at an early age of 2 months, this cheese can become lactose-free.
The good thing about using Montasio cheese is that it has components that can greatly benefit your health. This cheese is rich in calcium, just like other cheeses made from cow’s milk, which helps relax the nervous system. It also contains amino acids, which helps regulate your natural sleeping patterns. That’s why it’s best to eat Montasio cheese moderately during dinner.
Many health experts and enthusiasts encourage people not to worry about eating Montasio cheese. Contrary to popular belief, eating this kind of cheese won’t make you fat. It has lower fat content, compared to other kinds of cheese. And, it doesn’t increase cholesterol levels to an alarming rate. That’s why it is safe to eat Montasio cheese regularly.
But if you are on a low-fat diet, then this cheese may not be the best for you. Even though it wouldn’t make you fat, its fat content is still higher than the recommended daily fat intake of people who are on a low-fat diet. So, you should consider looking for other alternatives, or just eat it in moderation.
#10 – Appenzeller
Appenzeller is another Swiss cheese that’s worthy of being part of this list. Up to this day, Appenzeller is mostly produced in a traditional manner. Just as most cheeses mentioned here, it also uses cow’s milk, which is high in calcium content. This is suitable for those who have calcium deficiencies.
Making Appenzeller isn’t an easy task. It’s a long, tedious process. Its production dates back up to 700 years ago.
The cheese-making process for this variant begins by heating the milk in low heat. After it reaches 90 °F, you can start adding culture (bacteria or molds that help in the fermentation process of curd) to the mixture.
And the next step involves adding a specific amount of Rennet to the mixture, for it to coagulate. Then, you need to cut the curd into square blocks to release the whey. Right after that, you can start slow cooking the curd. At this point, you’re now ready to form and flavor the cheese. However, you cannot eat this fresh cheese immediately if you want the cultures to work their magic. It usually takes 2 to 3 months for this cheese to age properly.
Depending on the manufacturer, the flavors of Appenzeller may vary. Sometimes, it could be fruity, and it could also be a bit spicy, but other times, it could be both. The good thing about Appenzeller is that it has a pleasant mild aroma.
Today, there are three varieties of Appenzeller cheese in Switzerland. The first one is Classic Appenzeller, which is aged 3 – 4 months. This is usually Silver labeled. The second is Surchoix, which is aged 4 to 6 months. This variant is Gold labelled. And the third one is Extra Appenzeller, which is aged six months and beyond. This variant comes in a Black label.
#11 – Nutritional Yeast
This is a tad bit different from the others in this roundup when it comes to Fontina cheese substitutes. It’s an alternative that’s specifically recommended for Vegans.
Nutritional yeast is a suitable substitute for Fontina cheese if you’re making pasta dishes. Instead of grating Fontina cheese to top your favorite Vegan pasta dish, you can consider using nutritional yeast.
The good thing about using this product as a Fontina cheese substitute is that it gives you many health benefits, compared to many regular kinds of cheese. Nutritional yeast contains protein, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins that your body needs.
Recent studies indicate that using nutritional yeast as a substitute for other ingredients is likely to lower cholesterol levels. Cheese contains fat and other components that could increase cholesterol levels when consumed in generous amounts, while nutritional yeast doesn’t have fat content.
Another health benefit that you can get from using nutritional yeast is that it protects your body from free radical damage. It contains antioxidants that bind together with free radical cells and destroy them. This means you can have healthier cells as you continue to consume nutritional yeast.
Nutritional yeast is a good source of vitamin B12, which boosts your energy levels. This means consuming nutritional yeast will keep you active and alert during the day. It’s said that this kind of yeast also helps control your metabolism.
This yeast is quite different when compared to baker and brewer’s yeast. The yeast cells in this product are killed in the production process so that it isn’t alive in the final product. Plus, this is a good substitute for Fontina since it has a nutty and cheesy flavor when cooked. And if you’re up for healthier options, then this might be the best Fontina cheese substitute for you.
#12 – Tofu
Last but not the least in this list of the best Fontina substitutes is Tofu. Just like Nutritional Yeast, this substitute is recommended specifically for vegetarians. Tofu is closer to Fontina when it comes to texture. Using tofu as a substitute for Fontina is suitable for making dips, sauces, pasta dishes, and even pies.
Tofu is made from soybeans. The process of making tofu originated in China. The process begins by extracting juice from soybeans. In traditional tofu-making procedures, stone grinds are used to extract this from soybeans. This requires tedious manual labor.
And once all juice has been extracted from the beans, a coagulant is added to help bind the tofu. This coagulant is called Nigari.
The good thing about using tofu instead of Fontina is that it contains more vitamins and minerals. Tofu is high in protein, which is a good substitute for both meat and cheese. It also contains antioxidants, which help your body fight free radicals.
Another benefit of using tofu is that it’s widely available anywhere in the world. If you’re in dire need of an easily accessible ingredient that can replace Fontina, then tofu might be the answer to that. You can find it in your local grocery stores and even in markets. So you can now create a healthier and equally delicious dish without stressing yourself in finding Fontina cheese.
Fontina Cheese FAQs
Now for some of the most frequently asked questions about Fontina Cheese:
What cheese is similar to Fontina?
Fontina cheese has various characteristics. Looking for similar cheeses can depend on each of those characteristics. For instance, if you want to look for cheese that has a similar texture and firmness to that of Fontina cheese, then you can use Gouda, Gruyere, or Provolone.
But if you’re looking for a cheese that has a similar flavor as that of Fontina cheese, then you may try out Mozzarella, Vacherin and Montasio Cheese. All these cheeses have nutty and fruity flavors that are quite close to the taste of Fontina Cheese.
How does Fontina Cheese taste?
The taste of Fontina Cheese varies, depending on its maturity or age. Normally, Fontina Cheese has a mild, nutty taste when you eat it as it is. It also has a hint of honey, which makes it sweeter compared to other kinds of cheese. Also, it has a mild aroma that intensifies as it ages.
What are some of the best Fontina cheese recipes?
Several dishes go well with Fontina Cheese. Here is a sample recipe that uses Fontina Cheese:
Baked Fontina Cheese Dip
You’ll need the following:
- Fontina cheese cut into cubes
- Olive Oil
- Personal choice of herbs
- Cast Iron Skillet
And here’s how to prepare this:
- Place Fontina cheese cubes in the skillet, and drizzle an ample amount of olive oil over it.
- Next, mix your personal choice of herbs, and sprinkle it over the cheese and olive oil in the skillet. Make sure the herbs are evenly scattered to achieve a uniform flavor.
- Then, place the iron cast skillet under the broiler and heat it for about 6 minutes, or until the cheese becomes a golden shade of yellow.
- Wait for the cheese to become bubbly, and then turn the boiler off.
- Serve your deliciously baked Fontina cheese dip with baguette or French toast for a perfect snack.
Where can I buy Fontina Cheese?
Fontina cheese originally comes from Italy. But it has become quite popular that even non-European countries sell this kind of cheese. You can buy it in Walmart or other grocery stores in your neighborhood.
If this product isn’t available in your area, then you can go to online stores on Amazon because they have this for sure.
How much is Fontina Cheese?
The price of Fontina Cheese varies from location to location. Most stores in the USA sell it for around $9.99 per pound, up to as much as $341.00 for an entire cheese wheel. Remember, pricing may significantly differ when you buy it straight from Italy where it’s originally produced.