How To Find A Fontina Cheese Substitute: Tips And More!

Unless you have ready access to very specific ingredients all the time, finding a genuine fontina cheese can be tough on a normal day. If you are trying to make a recipe that requires a fontina cheese but you don't have one handy, we will help you weigh your options in figuring out your options.

Besides which, commercial brands often have varying textures and flavors depending on the price you are willing to pay for it but which can make the difference between an impressive dish to a subpar one. We are going to help you understand what fontina cheese really is, what it is supposed to be like then find excellent fontina cheese substitutes you can use to give any dish you are planning to make that authentic flavor. Continue reading to learn more.


What Is A Fontina Cheese?

Before we even attempt to substitute a fontina cheese with a different type of cheese, we would like to give you some very relevant background so you can have a better appreciation of this cheese and what attributes it has that may be of interest to the dish you are about to make.

One Of The Oldest Cheeses Still Used Today

Fontina cheese is oldest cheese

We are not referring to the actual age of a cheese block, even though fontina cheese is one of those cheeses that gets better with age. One of the fascinating things we like about Italian dishes and foods are their history. Fontina, for one, dates back to 1477 from the Val d'Aosta region in Italy. That's centuries-old of worthwhile history, which is more than can be said of most modern dishes today.

However, finding an original fontina cheese that was made from the original century old make will probably be quite impossible- more's the pity. It has been imitated, not to mention replicated, so many times that trying to figure out which one is closest to the original somewhat unlikely ever to happen. The substitutes we will be recommending is only for the modern day fontina cheese that is available in the market today.

One Of The Most Versatile Type Of Cheese In The World

Fontina cheese is most versatile

Obviously enough, not a lot of mid-century foods have made it to the 20th century, and this cheese is one of the few that did. What made this cheese surpass the test of time and people’s ever evolving tastes? One of the main strengths of Fontina cheeses is in their ability to adapt so well, wherein they can make great table cheeses and still be ideal for cooking.

As mentioned earlier, this cheese has been replicated many times and has had to evolve to adapt to people’s ever-changing preferences. Some of the most popular styles and versions are the ones from Italy, Sweden, and Denmark, but there are plenty of other variations out there we will not be able to tackle.

Nowadays, all three styles are being produced by cheesemakers in many places around the globe, especially in Wisconsin where many cheese producers are currently located.

The Most Popular Fontina Cheese Styles And Their Characteristics

All three different variations of a Fontina cheese have their own unique characteristics. It is important to know what they are to help you appreciate that even if you use an actual Fontina cheese, the different styles of the same cheese alone can change the taste of the dish.

1. Italian Style Fontina Cheese

The Italian-style fontina cheese is, as a matter of opinion, the cream of the crop when it comes to fontina cheeses. While there are ones that are still affordable, it can be a bit more expensive than the other styles you can get.

It is characterized by its smooth, supple texture with tiny holes. It has a brown coating while the cheese itself can range from anywhere to ivory to a pale gold coloring. While it doesn't have a rind, it does have a brownish coating. When it comes to the flavor, it is mild, earthy and buttery at the same time.

2. Swedish Style Fontina Cheese

Swedish fontina cheese

The Swedish-style fontina cheese, on the other hand, has a somewhat tart and nutty taste but still has that mild earthy flavor, which depending on the age of the cheese can be anywhere between mellow to sharp. In terms of appearance, it has a red wax coating and straight corners. The color of the cheese itself may be a pale ivory to a straw yellow.

3. Danish Style Fontina Cheese

It'll be very hard to tell a Danish-style from a Swedish-style fontina cheese since these two are very similar, especially if you are not very well versed when it comes to this type of cheese. Just like the Swedish-styled ones, it also has a red wax coating while the cheese itself also has that ivory to light yellow color.

The only thing that can separate a Danish-style to a Swedish-style fontina cheese is the shape of the corners. While Swedish-style has straight corners, Danish-style ones would have a slightly rounded corner. However, this is going to be especially tricky if you are getting sliced ones rather than a whole block.

How To Substitute For Fontina Cheese

Now that you know more about what a fontina cheese, we will talk about some of the best cheeses you can use as a substitute. Some of the key features we are looking for is the butter-like creaminess, the sharp taste, and the nuttiness of the flavor. We also want to look for something that is mild. Here are some of the best substitutes you should consider:

Substitute With Emmental Cheese

Emmental cheese

Emmentaler or Emmental is what most of us would know as a Swiss cheese. Emmenthal is another spelling variation which is pronounced the same way and still pertains to the same cheese. There's no such thing as Swiss cheese if you are in Switzerland, but there are many Alpine kinds of cheese like Emmentaler, Gruyère, Fontina and others from different regions.

Emmental cheese is a pale yellow in color, but one of its distinguishing features are its holes or eyes which riddle the entire cheese. It has a hard, thin rind with a sweet smell, and some would describe this aroma as similar to fresh-cut hay. The flavor is very comparable to a fontina cheese, in the sense that it has that nutty and buttery taste.

However, the Emmental cheese has a hint of fruitiness and acidity to its tone. Of course, since traditional Emmental cheese comes with a premium price tag, you would be well advised to use it in a recipe that best showcases its subtle nuances.

Substitute With Gruyere Cheese

Gruyere cheese

Gruyere is coined after a Swiss village. It is a traditional, creamy, unpasteurized, semi-soft cheese. It has a naturally rusty brown surface which is hard, dry and pitted with tiny holes.

This cheese is a darker yellow than fontina cheese and has a dense and compact texture that is slightly grainy. Gruyere has an incredible complexity of flavors. It would taste fruity at first then becomes earthier and nuttier, making it a great substitute for fontina cheese.

Substitute With Provolone


Provolone is also an Italian cheese originating from this southern part of Italy. It is made from cow’s milk. There are two classifications of this cheese- the Provolone Dolce and the Provolone Picante. Provolone Dolce possesses a pale yellow to white color and sweet taste and would usually age around 2-3 months.

Provolone Piccante, on the other hand, is aged four months or more and would possess a sharper taste. It has a semi-hard texture very similar to a fontina cheese and works great with grilled meat and other cooking applications.

It also pairs really well with wine and can make an excellent table cheese like fontina. The main downside to using provolone as a substitute for fontina cheese is the lack of that nutty flavor.

Substitute With An Aged Gouda Cheese

Aged gouda cheese

Gouda cheeses are one of the easiest cheeses to love because of its very delicious flavors that make it easy to use with different recipes and even to be eaten on its own as a snack. While a regular Gouda cheese may not exactly be a great substitute for a fontina cheese, once a Gouda is aged, both the flavor and the texture will change.

As the flavor gets more grounded with age, Gouda's taste will become sharper yet sweet at the same time. It is usually described as caramel-like but with nutty and buttery flavors, making it very similar to fontina cheese.

Substitute Based On Your Requirements!

Try to decide which characteristics of this cheese you would like to retain most in your recipe when it comes to selecting the best cheese to use as a substitute for fontina. While all of the cheeses we have recommended are the best alternatives you can use, they are still, in essence, a different cheese and will, therefore, exhibit characteristics that are distinct from the original cheese ingredient you are meant to use.

Let us know what you think in the comments section below. Happy reading!

Paula Hughes

I’m Paula, and I’m absolutely in love with food blogs. I’m a foodie at heart but being the mother of two small boys, it’s not always easy to keep up with fancy dinners… so I rely on the support of other blogging moms like me to help along the way.

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