Fontina cheese is a cow’s milk cheese that originated in the Aosta Valley of northern Italy. Depending on when it is produced, its texture ranges from soft to semi-hard. It is scattered with tiny holes, much smaller than Swiss cheese.
This straw-yellow Italian cheese offers a unique creamy, nutty, full flavor. Its elastic properties are tolerant to heat, making it suitable for melting in a fondue. Other popular uses in Italian dishes are risotto and fonduta (their local version of fondue). Fontina is also an excellent addition to cheese platters, soups, sauces, and as a topping on pizza.
If you need a replacement for Fontina cheese, then suitable options will offer a creamy mouthfeel and won’t be too overpowering in taste. The alternatives we provide below are all commonly available in most supermarkets or online.
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Recommended Substitutes for Fontina
Provolone is a semi-hard Italian cheese that is smooth and creamy in texture with a mild, nutty, smoky flavor. If you need a cheese similar to Fontina in mouthfeel but want a milder-tasting cheese, then Provolone is a good option. Keep in mind that there are a range of variants, such as Provola and Provoleta, which each have different flavors. We recommend a mild alternative to mimic Fontina closely.
Provolone is ideal for melting into sauces, soups, grated into risotto, or sliced in sandwiches.
Gruyere originated in Switzerland and is a hard, yellow cheese that’s a mild combination of nutty, sweet, and salty flavors. It’s this mild flavor, along with a creamy mouthfeel, that makes Gruyere a perfect Fontina cheese replacement.
As gruyere matures, it develops an earthy undertone with a more intense nutty flavor along with a grainy, less creamy texture. Choosing a block of young gruyere that’s under one year old will work best for imitating the taste of Fontina.
Emmental, or Emmenthal, is a Swiss cheese that’s pale yellow and firm-textured. It has a nutty, buttery flavor akin to Fontina; however, it has a sharper “bitey“ taste and a slight grittiness, which may not be ideal for some.
The best part about Emmental is its melting properties; this is the reason it’s an essential ingredient in traditional fondue recipes. Any meal that calls for melted Fontina could easily be replaced with Emmental. Our favorite use for this cheese is in a croque madame or a luxurious croque monsieur. Not sure which is which? Check out our article on croque madame vs croque monsieur here.
Gouda originated in the Dutch city of Gouda and is an ancient cheese, mentioned as far back as the 1100s. Like many of the cheese varieties on this list, it has a very mild, nutty flavor with a hint of sweetness. Gouda has a similar density and texture to ordinary cheddar, although its flavor profile is blander.
Gouda’s subtle flavor makes it a close match to Fontina, and it can be used for slicing and grating. It is also ideal for melting in toasted sandwiches, sauces, fondue, and soups. Look for a wedge of gouda that isn’t too mature. As the cheese ages past two years, it develops a stronger fruity undertone and becomes much sweeter.
Roquefort is a French cheese produced from sheep's milk. This dairy produces a sharp, pungent, tangy flavor, and there are veins of blue mold present. It has significantly more aroma than Fontina, along with a crumbly texture.
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The use of Roquefort is not a good option if you are looking for something with that Fontina cheese taste and texture. It is a creative replacement if you want a dish with more pizzazz. If you're cooking for children, then forget this option; there aren’t many kids that enjoy blue cheese. Roquefort is an alternative for serving foodies that like something a little different.
Mozzarella originated in Italy and is hugely popular around the world, thanks to its melting properties. Its flavor doesn’t perfectly match Fontina, but it will work wonderfully on pizza, lasagna, or any dish that requires melted cheese.
Mozzarella and Fontina differ in their mouthfeel. Mozz is significantly richer, which is well suited to acidic dishes such as those with tomato-based sauces. For some other meals, it may be too rich, and an option such as gruyere would be better.
Mozzarella has a very stretchy consistency, like Fontina, once melted and may not be suitable for every application. If you prefer the cheese to lack stretch then choose an option like gouda or Emmental.
Did you know?
In the United States, fontina is commonly imported from Denmark, which is softer and milder than the Italian version.
Learn more about Fontina
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you shred Fontina?
Fontina is an exceptional melting cheese, so shredding is not only possible but recommended for many dishes. This cheese has a high-fat content, and the individual shreds tend to stick together if they aren’t cold enough. To counter this problem, freeze the fontina for 15 minutes, then hand-grate for best results.
Can I substitute Fontina for Parmesan?
Parmesan cheese is not a good substitute for Fontina, as its flavor profile is a lot stronger and will overpower many dishes. It also doesn’t have the same melting properties at Fontina. Instead of producing a silky smooth liquid once melted, parmesan will brown and turn crispy on the edges.
Is Havarti similar to Fontina?
Havarti is a similar cheese to Fontina due to its creamy texture, mild flavor, and ability to melt into a smooth liquid.
What type of cheese is Fontina?
Fontina is an Italian cheese made from cow’s milk. Depending on when it is produced, the texture ranges from soft to semi-hard. This straw-yellow, Italian cheese offers a unique creamy, nutty, full flavor.
How is Fontina served?
Fontina is a versatile cheese served in a variety of ways such as fondue, risotto, cheese platters, soups, sauces, and as a topping on pizza. In Northern Italy, Fontina is frequently eaten with a slab of fresh bread, honey, or on its own. The locals in Val d’ Aosta, where the cheese originated, use it as an essential ingredient in polenta.
What is fonduta?
Fonduta is an Italian recipe type of cheese fondue that incorporates egg yolks, milk, butter, pepper, and Fontina. The ingredients are heated to produce a smooth cheesy sauce.
Fontina is a versatile cheese that will complement many recipes. However, it isn’t as commonly found in stores as other cheese types like mozzarella, cheddar, and Camembert. If you need a Fontina substitute, then your best options are provolone, Gruyere or Emmental. They all have similar taste profiles and melting properties that make them ideal candidates.
Of course, if you’re looking for a Fontina cheese alternative because you don’t enjoy its taste, then consider using Roquefort. It is a punchier, hard-hitting cheese with plenty of aroma! You could also use any blue cheese to a similar effect. They’re great for adding to soups, sauces, or as an addition to cheese platters.
What is your favorite cheese that you use in cooking, and why? Let us know in the comments below.