What is Emmental? A Guide to Switzerland’s Cheese Haven

Emmental - A Comprehensive Guide to Switzerland's Cheese Haven - Cheese Origin

Picture this – rolling Swiss meadows dotted with contented cows, traditional alpine chalets, and the aroma of fresh, nutty cheese wafting through the air. This is Emmental, Switzerland’s cheese haven.

In this guide, we will take you on a journey through the heartland of Swiss cheesemaking.

From the history and heritage of Emmental cheese, its unique production process, to its unmistakable flavor profile, and how best to enjoy it – we’ve got it all covered.

Whether you’re a cheese enthusiast or a curious traveler seeking to discover the gastronomic treasures of Switzerland, this guide promises to deepen your appreciation for Emmental.

Quick facts about Emmentaler cheese

Fact CategoryDetails
OriginEmmental, Switzerland
TypeHard cheese
Milk SourceCow’s milk
Production ProcessRaw milk is heated and mixed with rennet. The curd is cut, heated, and pressed into molds. The cheese is then brined and aged for a minimum of four months.
TasteMild, slightly nutty and fruity
TextureFirm, smooth with characteristic large holes
ColorPale yellow
AgedMinimum of 4 months, up to 14 months for reserve varieties
PairingsFruity white wines, crusty breads, fruits and nuts
Use in DishesFondue, sandwiches, quiches, gratins
Nutritional FactsHigh in protein and calcium, contains essential vitamins such as A, B2 and B12
PDO StatusYes, Emmentaler AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée)
Fun FactThe holes in Emmentaler are formed by carbon dioxide released by bacteria during the maturation process.

What is Emmental cheese?

Emmental, also known as Emmentaler, is a type of Swiss cheese that hails from the Emmental region in Switzerland. It’s famed for its characteristic large holes or ‘eyes,’ and its pale yellow color. This hard cheese is made from cow’s milk, and it undergoes a unique production process, which includes heating the milk, adding rennet to form curds, pressing the curds into molds, and aging the cheese for several months.

The result is a cheese with a firm yet smooth texture, and a flavor profile that is mild, slightly nutty, and fruity. Emmental is often used in a variety of dishes, including fondue, sandwiches, quiches, and gratins. It pairs well with crusty breads, fruits, nuts, and fruity white wines.

Emmental has a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status, which means that only cheese produced according to specific methods and in the designated geographic area can be officially labeled as Emmentaler.

Its unique taste and texture have made Emmental a popular choice among cheese lovers worldwide, contributing to the rich culinary heritage of Switzerland.

What does Emmentaler cheese taste like?

What does Emmentaler cheese taste like?

Emmentaler cheese is renowned for its distinctive, complex flavor profile. It has a mild taste that is subtly sweet and slightly nutty. Some people also detect a hint of fruitiness in its flavor. As the cheese ages, it can develop a more robust and deeper flavor, becoming sharper and more savory.

The texture of Emmentaler complements its taste. It’s firm yet smooth, with a creamy mouthfeel that melts delightfully on the tongue. The characteristic large holes or ‘eyes’ in the cheese add an interesting textural element when eaten.

It’s this unique combination of taste and texture that makes Emmentaler a versatile cheese, enjoyed on its own, in cooking, or as part of a cheese board. Whether melted into a fondue, layered in a sandwich, or paired with fruits and nuts, Emmentaler imparts a delicious and unmistakable flavor.

Emmental tasting notes

  • Appearance: Emmental is a pale yellow cheese with characteristic large holes or ‘eyes’. It often comes in large wheels with a natural rind.
  • Texture: Emmental has a firm yet smooth texture. It’s not as hard as Parmesan but not as soft as Brie. The cheese has a creamy mouthfeel that melts well, making it perfect for cooking. The large holes add an interesting textural element when eaten.
  • Smell: Emmental has a mild, slightly sweet aroma. There may also be subtle notes of fresh hay and nuts.
  • Taste: The flavor of Emmental is complex. It’s mildly sweet with a slight nuttiness. Some people also detect a hint of fruitiness. The flavor can become more robust and savory as the cheese ages.
  • Aftertaste: Emmental leaves a lingering nutty and slightly sweet aftertaste. It’s pleasant and not overpowering.
  • Pairings: Emmental pairs well with a variety of foods and drinks. It goes nicely with crusty breads, fruits like apples and grapes, and nuts. For beverages, Emmental pairs well with fruity white wines, light beers, and even apple cider.

What do you use Emmental cheese for?

Emmental cheese is an incredibly versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes.

  1. Fondue: Emmental is one of the classic cheeses used in traditional Swiss fondue, along with Gruyère. Its excellent melting properties and mild flavor make it a perfect choice.
  2. Sandwiches: The cheese’s smooth texture and ability to melt well makes it great for sandwiches, particularly grilled cheese sandwiches.
  3. Quiches and Pies: Emmental can be used in a variety of baked goods like quiches and pies, where it adds a lovely creamy texture and mild flavor.
  4. Pasta Dishes: It can be grated over pasta or melted into a cheese sauce for dishes like macaroni and cheese.
  5. Pizza: Emmental is often used on pizza, either on its own or blended with other cheeses.
  6. Raclette: This is another traditional Swiss dish where the cheese is melted and scraped onto potatoes and pickles.
  7. Cheese Boards: With its distinctive holes, Emmental adds visual interest to a cheese board. Its mild, nutty flavor pairs well with fruits, nuts, and a variety of crackers or breads.
  8. Casseroles and Gratins: Emmental can be used in a variety of baked dishes like casseroles and gratins, where it forms a deliciously bubbly and golden topping when baked.

Is Emmental cheese the same as Swiss cheese?

Emmental, or Emmentaler, is a type of Swiss cheese, but not all Swiss cheese is Emmental.

The term “Swiss cheese” is often used in North America to refer to any cheese with large holes or ‘eyes’, similar to those seen in Emmental. However, Switzerland produces a wide variety of cheeses, over 450 types, in fact. These include but are not limited to Gruyère, Appenzeller, and Raclette, each with its own distinct flavor and texture.

Emmental is a specific type of Swiss cheese that originated in the Emme Valley (thus the name) in the canton of Bern. It’s known for its pale yellow color, large holes, and mild, nutty flavor. So, while all Emmental is Swiss cheese, not all Swiss cheese is Emmental.

>> Click here to read our in-depth guide on Swiss Cheese

Is Emmental cheese good for cooking?

Is Emmental cheese good for cooking?

Yes, Emmental cheese is excellent for cooking due to its rich flavor and exceptional melting properties. This makes it an ideal ingredient for various dishes, from appetizers to main courses.

Emmental cheese can be served rolled or cubed for snacks, sliced in sandwiches, or used in a range of other recipes. Its sweet, nutty, and slightly fruity flavor adds depth to different kinds of dishes. For instance, you can use it in classic fondue, where its ability to melt smoothly and evenly is a significant advantage.

It’s also perfect for gratins and any dish that requires melted cheese. The cheese’s smooth texture and balanced flavor profile enhance the overall taste of these dishes. Baked dishes like Spinach and Emmental Cheese Double Baked Soufflé and Mediterranean Quiche filled with red peppers and zucchini are other excellent examples of how Emmental cheese can be incorporated into your cooking.

For sandwich lovers, Emmental cheese adds a delightful twist. Whether it’s a simple grilled cheese sandwich or a low-carb lettuce wrap with turkey, Emmental cheese contributes a unique flavor that elevates the dish. Even breakfast options can be enhanced with Emmental cheese. A hearty breakfast of super cheesy eggs and blackened Cajun beans featuring Emmental cheese can start your day on a delicious note.

Regardless of how you choose to use it, Emmental cheese’s versatility and distinct taste make it an excellent addition to a wide array of recipes.

Is Emmental good for grilled cheese?

Absolutely, Emmental cheese is a great choice for grilled cheese sandwiches. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Melting Quality: Emmental cheese melts evenly and smoothly, which is perfect for achieving that gooey texture in a grilled cheese sandwich.
  • Flavor Profile: Emmental has a sweet, nutty, and slightly fruity flavor that can add a unique and delicious taste to your sandwich.
  • Versatility: You can pair Emmental with various other ingredients. For instance, it works well with bacon, grilled onions, and honey BBQ sauce in a recipe from JavaCupcake.
  • Mixing with Other Cheeses: Emmental can be combined with other cheeses like cheddar for a more complex flavor profile

Does Emmental taste like Cheddar?

While both Emmental and Cheddar are popular types of cheese, they have distinct flavors and are not typically considered similar in taste.

TasteEmmental has a mild, slightly nutty and fruity flavor. The taste can become more robust as the cheese ages.Cheddar has a richer, often sharper flavor that ranges from mild to extra sharp, depending on its aging process.
TextureEmmental is known for its smooth and creamy texture. It’s characterized by large holes or “eyes”.Cheddar typically has a firm and slightly crumbly texture, especially when well-aged. It lacks the holes found in Emmental.
UsageEmmental melts well, making it ideal for dishes like fondue, sandwiches, and casseroles.Cheddar also melts well and is versatile in use. It’s commonly used in sandwiches, soups, sauces, and baked dishes.
SimilarityWhile both are popular types of cheese, they have distinct flavors and textures. Emmental is not typically considered to taste like Cheddar.Similarly, Cheddar doesn’t taste like Emmental due to its unique, often sharper flavor profile.



Emmental is known for its mild, slightly nutty and fruity flavor. It has a smooth and creamy texture with characteristic large holes or “eyes”. The flavor can vary somewhat depending on the age of the cheese, with older Emmental being more flavorful and robust.



On the other hand, Cheddar cheese has a richer, often sharper flavor that can range from mild to extra sharp depending on how long it has been aged. Cheddar also has a slightly crumbly texture, particularly when it’s well-aged.

>> Click here to read our in-depth guide on Cheddar

So, while both are delicious in their own right, Emmental and Cheddar offer different taste experiences. If you’re looking for a cheese with a stronger, more pronounced flavor, you might prefer Cheddar. But if you want something milder and creamier, then Emmental could be a good choice.

What is special about Emmental cheese?

  1. Distinctive Flavor: Emmental cheese has a mild, slightly nutty, and buttery flavor that sets it apart from other cheeses. Its taste can range from fruity to savory, depending on its age.
  2. Characteristic Holes: Emmental is renowned for its large holes or “eyes”. These are formed during the fermentation process when bacteria release gas as they consume the lactic acid in the cheese. The gas gets trapped, creating these iconic holes.
  3. Origin and Production: Emmental cheese originates from the Emmental region of Switzerland. It is made from cow’s milk and traditionally produced in large wheels, which contributes to its unique texture and flavor. The cheese must also be aged for a minimum of four months.
  4. Versatility: Emmental is an incredibly versatile cheese. It can be eaten on its own, used in cooking (it melts beautifully), included in sandwiches, or paired with fruits and nuts on a cheese board.
  5. Nutritional Value: Emmental is high in protein and calcium. It also contains beneficial bacteria that promote gut health.

is Emmental healthy?

Yes, Emmental cheese can be healthy when consumed in moderation.

  • Nutrient-Rich: Emmental is a good source of several important nutrients, including protein, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin B12, and vitamin A.
  • Vision Health: 100 grams of Emmental cheese contains around 290 micrograms of vitamin A, which supports healthy vision.
  • Bone Health: The cheese is also rich in phosphorus, providing about 37% of your recommended daily intake.
  • Immune System Boost: A bacteria used in the fermentation of Emmental cheese has been found to decrease inflammation and boost the immune system.
  • Gluten-Free: Emmental cheese is naturally gluten-free, making it suitable for people with celiac disease or those following a gluten-free diet.

However, it’s important to consider some potential downsides:

  • High in Fat: Emmental cheese is high in fat, so it should be consumed in moderation.
  • Sodium Content: People watching their sodium intake may need to limit their consumption of Emmental due to its sodium content.

Emmental nutrition facts

NutrientQuantity (per 100g)
Calories377-400 kcal
Total Fat27.6-32.14g
Dietary Fiber0g
Phosphorus254.8mg (37% of RDA/RI)
Copper0.244mg (18% of RDA/RI)
Vitamin B120.56µg
Please note that the exact nutritional values may vary slightly depending on the specific brand or type of Emmental cheese.

Top 10 best Emmental substitutes

Comte CheeseThis cheese is a French variety that has a similar texture to Emmental and a nutty, almost sweet flavor. It’s a great substitute in recipes where you need the cheese to melt well.
Fontina CheeseAn Italian cheese that is semi-soft and has a slightly nutty flavor. It melts beautifully, making it a good choice for fondue or grilled cheese sandwiches.
RacletteAnother Swiss cheese, Raclette is known for its superb melting qualities. It has a creamy texture and a robust, slightly sweet flavor.
Cheddar CheeseA widely available cheese with a strong and sharp flavor. It’s a bit stronger than Emmental, but its excellent melting properties make it a good alternative.
Manchego CheeseA Spanish cheese with a distinctive flavor that can range from nutty to slightly piquant. It’s a hard cheese, so it won’t melt as easily as Emmental.
GruyèreLike Emmental, Gruyère is a traditional Swiss cheese. It has a creamy, nutty flavor that is similar to Emmental, and it melts very well.
GoudaA Dutch cheese that is mild and slightly sweet. It’s a semi-hard cheese, so it doesn’t melt as easily as some of the other alternatives, but its unique flavor makes it a good substitute.
JarlsbergA Norwegian cheese that is often compared to Swiss cheese because of its large holes. It has a mild, sweet, and nutty flavor that is similar to Emmental.
HavartiThis Danish cheese is creamy with tiny holes throughout its body. It has a buttery aroma and can be slightly acidic. It melts well, making it a good option for cooking.
Parmesan CheeseAn Italian hard cheese that is more flavorful and salty than Emmental. It doesn’t melt as well, but in recipes where the cheese is used as a garnish or topping, it can be a suitable substitute.
These cheeses were selected based on their flavor profiles, melting properties, and texture, which are similar to Emmental cheese. However, the choice of substitute can also depend on the specific recipe and taste preferences.

What pairs well with Emmental?


Food that goes well with Emmental

CategoryFoods That Pair Well with Emmental
MeatsSalami, red meat, poultry
SeafoodGenerally, it’s recommended to avoid pairing Emmental with fish or seafood
VegetablesSpinach, red peppers, zucchini, leeks
EggsEmmental is often used in egg-based dishes like omelets and quiches
Breads & GrainsEmmental can be used in sandwiches, as a topping for pizza, or mixed into macaroni and cheese
Other DishesSoufflé, fondue, gratin, tarte flambée, pancakes, spiced cauliflower cheese

Beverage that goes well with Emmental

CategoryBeverages That Pair Well with Emmental
WineChardonnay, Meursault, and other medium-bodied white wines
BeerBelgian Tripel, Lagers, Kolsch, and Pale pilsners
SpiritsGenerally, spirits are not typically paired with Emmental, but if you prefer, mild and smooth spirits might work

Also read: Best Wine and Cheese Pairings: The Ultimate Guide

The History and Origin of Emmental

Emmental, also known as Emmentaler, is a traditional Swiss cheese that originated in the Emme River valley (Emmental) in the canton of Bern, Switzerland. The name ‘Emmental’ comes from this region where cheesemakers first started its production.

The history of Emmental cheese dates back to the 14th century, making it one of the oldest types of cheese. In fact, it is almost as old as the Swiss Confederation itself, which was founded in 1291.

Emmental cheese is a hard, unpasteurized cheese made from cow’s milk. It is well-known for its distinctive large holes or “eyes”, and its mild, slightly nutty, and fruity flavor.

Swiss immigrants brought the traditional Emmental cheese recipe to America in the mid-1800s and started small cheese production. The cheese has since become popular worldwide, and is now produced in various countries, although the Swiss version remains the most iconic.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does Emmental cheese melt easily?

Yes, Emmental cheese is known for its excellent melting properties. It melts smoothly and evenly, making it an ideal choice for dishes like fondue, grilled cheese sandwiches, casseroles, and more. Its mild yet distinctive flavor enhances the taste of various dishes when melted.

2. Does Emmental cheese taste salty?

Emmental cheese is generally not considered salty. It’s known for its mild, slightly nutty, and fruity flavor. However, like most cheeses, it does contain some sodium, so there might be a hint of saltiness to its taste.

The exact flavor can vary depending on the specific brand and how long the cheese has been aged. As always, personal taste perceptions can differ, so it’s best to try it out for yourself to see if you find it salty.

3. Can Emmental cheese be eaten raw?

Yes, Emmental cheese can be eaten raw. It is often enjoyed on its own or paired with fruits, bread, and wine. The cheese is aged, which makes it safe to consume raw. Emmental cheese is made from raw cow’s milk and only natural ingredients are added, ensuring its quality and safety.

However, as with all cheeses, proper storage is important. Emmental cheese needs to be refrigerated to prevent bacterial growth and maintain its freshness.

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