Quick summary: Emmental, Gouda, Edam, Gruyere, or mozzarella make excellent alternatives for fontina. If you are missing all of them, there are plenty more cheesy solutions to turn to.
As if pizza, pasta, and gelato weren’t enough, Italians offer the world another delicious culinary delight – fontina cheese. This versatile dairy product has a distinct savory and buttery flavor and a hint of nuttiness.
If you are craving authentic Italian risotto or cheesy pasta but don’t have fontina on hand, don’t change the menu!
We’ve got a host of just-as-good alternatives you can grab instead. Here are the best substitutes for fontina cheese so you can go ahead and make your favorite pizza, frittata, or ooey gooey toasted sandwich.
What Is Fontina?
Italian fontina, also known as fontinella or fontella, is a semi-hard cheese with a pale yellow color and brown-orange crust.
The original cow’s milk product from northern Italy has a slightly harder texture and stronger flavor than the American version. Both varieties, however, make a good melting cheese ideal for grilled cheese sandwiches, pasta, and pretty much any other dish that requires some ooey-gooey indulgence.
It is commonly grated over gnocchi and meatballs for a delicious earthy and buttery finish. The nutty cheese is also popular in risotto and fonduta. The longer it has matured, the harder it becomes and the more the flavor develops to a sharper intensity.
Fontina can easily stand on its own and pairs well with dried or fresh fruit, sourdough, crackers, and cold cuts for an indulgent wine pairing or snack board. Fontina can also be paired with chocolate and sherry for a sophisticated dessert.
How to Choose a Fontina Cheese Substitute
If you don’t have fontina in the refrigerator but have another type of cheese, you might be able to use it as a replacement. When choosing a substitute, consider whether your dish requires an alternative that:
- Has a low melting point
- Is soft and creamy or firm
- Has an assertive flavor
- Has a mild or slightly sweet taste
The substitute you choose should match the desired properties. Choosing something with a hard texture when you really need something that will melt easily can entirely change your dish. Similarly, an aged product with a sharp flavor can overpower subtle ingredients.
Fontina is high in fat and salt. If you’re trying to cut down on calories or sodium, or follow a vegan diet, consider the nutritional properties of the substitute as well.
Best Fontina Cheese Substitutes
Emmental, also known as Emmenthal, is a Swiss cheese with a mild nutty flavor and a light fruity undertone.
The semi-hard cow’s milk cheese makes a good flavor match for fontina and can be used in almost any application from snack platters and sandwiches to hot dishes.
It’s a great choice for fondue, gratins, pasta, grilled sandwich, and for melting into soups, sauces, and casseroles.
Gouda cheese is semi-hard and has a light ivory color. As this table cheese ages, it becomes crumblier and develops a butterscotch-like flavor with nutty and caramel undertones.
Both young and aged Gouda make a delicious replacement, although the flavor profiles and consistency may not be identical.
Gouda works well in almost any application from sandwiches and pot stickers to sauces and stuffed meat dishes. It works well cubed into salads, as lunch-box snacks, and best of all, it is generally easy to find at most grocery stores.
If you’re looking to reduce fat and calories in your diet, low-fat Gouda is a better option. Smoked Gouda can add a twist with an extra layer of smokiness to dips and BLT sandwiches.
Edam is easily recognizable as large yellow rounds covered in red wax. The wax layer protects it from drying out and developing mold.
Although Edam is still high in fat, it has a much lower fat percentage than fontina. This results in a slightly softer, yet still firm, quality.
Edam has a similar nutty taste and is ideal for slicing, grating, and melting. It pairs well with fruit such as pears, peaches, and melons and is the perfect choice for a snack platter. It’s also a yummy addition to top off casseroles and pizza.
If you are looking for a creamy melting alternative, gruyere is a good substitute. This Swiss product is made from fresh cow’s milk and is beautifully smooth and rich when melted.
Its salty and nutty flavor is a wonderful addition to souffle, potato dishes, and even desserts where it is paired with fruit or berries.
Aged Gruyere is traditionally used in French onion soup, croque-monsieur, and cordon bleau.
Mozzarella is a soft cheese and makes a great healthier alternative since it is lower in sodium and fat. It doesn’t quite match the flavor profile or texture but brings the same creamy cheesy characteristics.
Mozzarella is perfect for a variety of dishes including salads, lasagna, quiches, wraps, casseroles, and to top off pizza.
It’s possible to freeze mozzarella cheese, so you can do that next time you have leftovers and thus always have a portion when needed.
Originally a semi-soft Italian cheese, provolone is used in many dishes worldwide. This semi-soft variety does not grate well but has a unique flavor profile ranging from smokey and tangy to slightly sweet.
The creamy texture of this versatile cheese and its low melting point make it a good substitute for fontina cheese.
Originally produced in Denmark, Havarti is often described as a delicious cheese with attitude. It is a medium-hard cheese that slices easily and brings great creaminess to dishes.
It has a mild flavor, however, develops hazelnut notes as it ages. This makes it perfect to replace fontina. Havarti can be used in dips, pasta and potato dishes, sauces, and sandwiches.
If you’re looking for a substitute when making risotto or polenta, taleggio is a perfect choice.
This semi-soft cheese has a strong aroma, however, the taste is mild and buttery with fruity undertones and a tanginess lingering on the palette towards the end.
Also made from cow’s milk, Vacherin comes in both French and Swiss varieties.
The French type, Mont d’Or, is high fat with a creamy flavor which makes it a great choice in pasta bakes, on sandwiches, with crackers, and even with desserts.
Its soft consistency is similar to that of Brie, but it possesses the same nutty taste as fontina. We really can’t think of a time when Vacherin is not a winning choice.
Munster is originally a French product made by monks in the Alsace region. The French version has a smooth texture, pale yellow coloring, and a mild buttery taste that becomes tangier with age.
Many other countries also produce Munster cheese, however, these versions seem somewhat muted in both flavor and color.
Munster is often flavored with wild cumin and sliced for sandwiches. It is also a good melting option for macaroni and quesadillas.
Montasio makes a wonderful substitute since it comes from the same cheese family as fontina. It is also Italian in origin with a similar taste and texture. You can use Montasio successfully in any dish where you need a replacement.
Nutritional yeast is one of the best vegan substitutes and works great to sprinkle on pasta dishes, casseroles, bagels, and vegetables.
It can also be used to add creaminess to vegan sauces, macaroni, and used as a thickener for soups.
It is available as pale-yellow powder, flakes, or granules and generally comes packaged in a shaker, bag, or plastic container. You can usually find nutritional yeast in the health food section of stores.
Since it is naturally free of fat, sugar, gluten, and is low in sodium it is a much healthier alternative to most processed seasonings, and it has a remarkable umami flavor that enhances savoriness.
Some people describe it as having a nutty taste and cheesy flavor, which is exactly what you are looking for.
Parmesan is another easy-to-find alternative. Parmesan is a granular, hard Italian cheese made from cow’s milk. It is aged for at least 12 months and has an unmistakable cheesy taste. It has a lengthy shelf life, so you probably have it somewhere in your fridge.
It can be sprinkled on any savory dish from pasta and salad to popcorn, soup, pizza, vegetable bakes, and toast. It is largely used as a flavor enhancer and won’t be suitable in large amounts or for fondue.
Parmesan is high in sodium and cholesterol, with low nutritional benefits. If you’re trying to reduce your salt intake, this won’t be the best choice.
Although somewhat similar, Swiss fondue involves a pot of melted cheese that is used as a dipping sauce for bread. The melted base includes wine and sometimes garlic and cornstarch as a thickener. It is served in a communal pot over a portable burner.
Fonduta, on the other hand, is an Italian dish that does not include wine, garlic, or cornstarch. It is made with fontina, milk, butter, and egg yolks as a thickener.
The dish is made in a bain-marie or over a double boiler and comes together like a savory custard.
Yes, if you have too much fontina, you can freeze it, however, the texture may become somewhat crumbly on defrosting.
The best way to use cheese that has been frozen is to melt it into cooked dishes or toasted sandwiches.
Slice or grate the fontina into the desired portion sizes so you can remove only what you need from the freezer at any given time. Make sure to keep it in airtight freezer bags to prevent any exposure to air or moisture.
Yes, Fontina can go off. You can quickly recognize this by its sour taste, off smell, or moldy growth.
If your recipe calls for fontina but it is not something you generally keep in stock, the great news is that there are a large variety of other cheeses you can use to give you the same flavor and melty deliciousness.
Other popular cheeses that can replace original fontina cheese are Gruyere, Edam, mozzarella, Gouda, and Emmental. If you are vegan, nutritional yeast will give you that same nutty savory flavor, although you won’t get the gooey consistency.
Our list offers a wide range of alternatives but is by no means exhaustive. You can even combine two or three different types for a truly indulgent meal. Happy Cooking!
*image by LuigiB2302/depositphotos