Breathtaking mountain panoramas, hiking and skiing hotspots that attract visitors from around the globe, untouched nature, vast lakes and trendy cities with a diverse range of things to enjoy – Switzerland has a lot to offer and is the perfect place for a mini-break or a longer holiday. It’s also home to great traditional cuisine, so foodies will find their fair share to discover here too.
Swiss cuisine is heavily influenced by its neighbours in France, Germany and northern Italy. Therefore, Switzerland’s food is as multicultural as its inhabitants and visitors can find many regional dishes, specialities and fine wines to taste here. It seems no wonder that around 400 different Swiss products, such as Gruyère cheese, are officially recognised as an integral part of Switzerland’s culinary heritage.
Speaking of cheese, did you know that the country has over 450 different cheeses on offer? Furthermore, the Swiss are known to love chocolate: so much so, that they actually eat the most chocolate out of any country in the world – in fact, Swiss people eat 19.4 pounds of chocolate per capita per year. A huge assortment of sausages and dried meat specialities, as well as around 200 grape varieties round off the spectacular culinary offering of this great country.
Let’s take a look at some dishes that you need to sample on your next trip to Switzerland. Do not leave the country without trying…
Fondue. Photo © Switzerland Tourism, swiss-image.ch/Ivo Scholz
It may seem clichéd, but trying a fondue is a must-do in Switzerland as it has been an integral part of the country’s history for centuries. Some say that fondues were first cooked by Alpine farmers hundreds of years ago, who cooked up wine, garlic and herbs with cheese to use up their leftovers during winter when fresh food was scarce. Today, fondue is a must-have for any local or visitor from autumn to spring. I mean, what could be better than dunking rustic bread into melted cheeses, while enjoying a glass of white wine in winter?
Local product – raclette cheese on an open fire. Photo © Valais/Wallis Promotion, Sedrik Nemeth
Another popular and well-known cheese dish that simply needs to be tried in Switzerland is raclette, a semi-hard cheese that usually comes in the form of a wheel of about 6 kilogrammes. The cheese that originated in the canton of Valais is mostly used for melting but can also be consumed as a slice. The best way to try this deliciously cheesy dish is by heating up the cheese and scraping off the melted par onto some potatoes or other side dishes.
Papet Vaudois. Photo: © swiss-image.ch/Andy Mettler
The term Papet Vaudois translates into mash of leeks with potatoes and sausage. A staple of Swiss cuisine, Papet Vaudois gets stewed for hours before an onion-tinged mixture gets used as a bed for fatty crimson sausages from the canton of Vaud. If you happen to visit the canton, be sure to try this exceptionally tasty dish. I will guarantee that you won’t regret it.
Vineyards of the Lavaux, B&B ‘Le Vigny’. Photo: © Switzerland Tourism, swiss-image.ch/ Giglio Pasqua
What does this mean? ‘Zurcher Geschnetzeltes‘ is a Zurich-style ragout with veal and mushrooms. For this national dish, diced veal gets combined with calves’ kidneys and sweetbreads before it gets sautéed in a gravy of onions, butter, white wine, cream and mushrooms. The dish is a hearty, wintertime lunch that can be found on menus across the country – on the piste or off.
Photo © swiss-image.ch/Andy Mettler
Basel-style roasted flour soup
It was once said that a girl from Basel was not able to get married until she learned how to make roasted flour soup. Today, this tradition is fortunately not the norm anymore, but the dish can still be found throughout the region. Even though there are countless ways to make this traditional dish, the most basic recipe contains flour, butter, onion, beef stock and gratings of Gruyère cheese. If you happen to visit the Basel carnival, the soup is a must-have and important staple at the event.
Photo © Jungfrau Region, swiss-image.ch/Jost von Allmen
A visit to Switzerland is not complete without trying the traditional ‘rösti’ dish. This Swiss dish mainly consists of potatoes, butter and salt and comes in the form of a round fritter. Originally a breakfast dish commonly eaten by farmers, the ‘rösti’ is now a Swiss national dish which is highly popular all over the country. Interestingly each region has its own version. The Bernese, for example, are known for their crispy version that gets fried in a lot of butter.
– Il Fermento in Bellinzona. Photo: © Switzerland Tourism, swiss-image.ch/Ivo Scholz
‘Älplermagronen’ (Swiss Alpine macaroni)
This tongue twister can best be described as an Alpine gratin which consists of potatoes, macaroni, cheese, cream and caramelized onions, as well as stewed apple which gets put on the side. This tasty Swiss pasta dish is made by layering pasta and potatoes with cheese and is simply the perfect comfort food when skiing or when the weather gets colder in general.
Chocolate. Photo: © swiss-image.ch/Andy Mettler
Without polenta, nothing really works in the Ticino. So, if you head to this region you’ll be sure to see this dish on most menus. And be sure to try it too! The yellow corn grit is turned into a thick maize mash here. You can choose between mixing it with cheese and trying it as a main dish or choose it as a side dish that is coupled with tasty rabbit, roast beef or local sausages, for example.
Capuns, a typical Engadin speciality. Photo: © ENGADIN St. Moritz, swiss-image.ch/Christof Sonderegger
Since mankind first learned to cook, people have been wrapping their foods in green leaves of many varieties. So, of course, the Swiss also have their own way of doing it, too. In fact, they love to wrap their delicacies in Swiss chard, and the outcome is a delicious dish called ‘Capuns’. Almost every family in Switzerland’s Engadin region has their own recipe for it. It is a traditional food made from Spätzle dough with pieces of dried meat which are rolled in chard leaves. This delicious farmer food is best enjoyed with some local salami. You had better try it on your next Switzerland trip!
Engadin nut tart. Photo: © ENGADIN St. Moritz, swiss-image.ch/Christof Sonderegger
Engadin nut tart
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, Switzerland has a vast array of sweet delicacies on offer. And we don’t only speak of wonderfully tasty chocolate creations! Combine a coffee break with trying the famous Engadin nut tart. It can only be found in the Engadin region and is a soft, sweet pastry that gets wrapped around a caramelized walnut filling. Simply delicious!
TEXT: NANE STEINHOFF | MAIN PHOTO © SWITZERLAND TOURISM, SWISS-IMAGE.CH/ANDRE MEIER