Fontina cheese is another example of delicious cheese to come out of Italy. It has a place in many Italian recipes and is the perfect finishing touch for any number of pasta dishes. Sometimes, however, it can be quite hard to come by and we’ve frequently been asked ‘what is a good substitute for Fontina Cheese?’
In this article we take a look at the best alternatives for Fontina. Whether you’re looking for a substitute because it’s difficult to find in your area or if you’re just after something a bit different, we’ve got you covered.
What is Fontina Cheese?
Fontina cheese originates from the Val d’Aosta region of Italy. Made from cow’s milk and aged for at least 3 months before consumption, Fontina is known for its strong smell and nutty, buttery taste.
Fontina has a soft and smooth texture with a surface that is marked by small holes.
Whilst the original version of Fontina is made in Italy, there is also a Danish version that has a slightly sweeter taste available.
What Can you Cook with Fontina Cheese?
Like many types of Italian cheese, Fontina has a well-earned reputation for being a ‘grate’ (yes, we love a good cheese pun!) choice to sprinkle over pasta dishes. The fact that it melts so evenly means that you don’t need huge quantities to give your meal a delicious cheese flavor.
However Fontina isn’t just for pasta – it’s also a wonderful accompaniment for gnocchi, Italian chicken recipes, salads and soups. Baked Fontina is also a brilliant cheese dip to serve at your next dinner party.
Why Would You Want to Substitute Fontina Cheese?
Whilst we’re big fans of Fontina cheese, we appreciate that there are reasons why you might seek out a substitute.
One of the first reasons why you might be interested in a replacement is availability. Depending on where you live you may find it difficult to buy Fontina year-round. This makes finding a good alternative vital if you’re looking to make any recipes that call for Fontina.
Another reason you may want to seek out a replacement cheese is the amount of calories in Fontina. It’s a delicious cheese but does contain a high number of calories. If you’re looking to lose weight whilst keeping some cheese in your diet an alternative may be a better choice for you.
12 Delicious Substitutes for Fontina Cheese
When putting together any list of Fontina cheese substitutes you’d be remiss not to start with another Italian cheese that packs a flavorful punch. To find that you need look no further than Montasio, another mountain cheese.
Montasio has very similar characteristics to Fontina and is one of the best choices if you would like to replicate its taste and texture.
However, there are a couple of drawbacks. If you’re looking for a Fontina cheese substitute because it isn’t available in your area, you’re also likely to struggle to find Montasio cheese. You’ll most often find Montasio in the same delicatessens or specialist shops as Fontina.
The other drawback of Montasio is that, like Fontina, it has a very high fat and calorie content – so isn’t a great replacement if you’re looking for a low fat alternative.
That said if you can find it we strongly recommend giving Montasio a try as a replacement for Fontina next time you want to try something a bit different.
Mozzarella, unlike some of the other cheeses on this list, is not aged at all and is sold and served fresh. As a result it doesn’t have an overpowering taste and at the same time doesn’t have the strong smell that may put some people off aged cheeses such as Fontina.
Originally made exclusively from water buffalo milk, these days it’s easy to pick up mozzarella made from regular cow’s milk. Whilst buffalo mozzarella is more expensive than the cow’s milk version, the superior quality is noticeable.
Although mozzarella has a more mild flavor than Fontina cheese, it is nevertheless a perfect accompaniment for any Italian meals that require a helping of melted, creamy cheese. Melted mozzarella also has a stringy texture that we just love!
Like Fontina, Parmesan is an aged cheese with an intense aroma and strong nutty taste. Great when served on pasta dishes, it’s also an excellent choice to sprinkle on salads, soups and risottos.
One piece of advice we’ll share is to be careful with the amount of parmesan you add to your dishes. This is because the flavor is so strong that too much can easily overpower everything else in the recipe. We recommend starting with a small amount of parmesan and gradually adding more until you achieve the desired taste.
Whilst we prefer grating our own parmesan, it is commonly sold in pre-grated tubs at many stores. This manner of packaging is ideal for those who may be put off by the strong smell of parmesan, whilst also being much more widely sold if you need to run out and grab some Italian cheese in a rush.
Vacherin is a soft cheese made from cow’s milk. There are two varieties of Vacherin depending on the country of origin – the Swiss Vacherin Fibourgeous and the French Mont d’Or.
Though it isn’t an Italian cheese, Vacherin makes an excellent alternative to Fontina cheese if you’re looking for a slightly more creamy taste in your pasta bakes. When melted, Vacherin also makes an excellent cheese for dipping bread.
Vacherin does have a high fat content so it isn’t the best substitute for anyone who is watching their calorie intake.
Like Fontina, Gruyère is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk that is aged for a number of months. As a result is shares many of the same properties and is one of our favorite fontina cheese substitutes.
Gruyère has a nutty taste and a creamy texture when melted, making it an ideal choice for replacing Fontina as a complement for Italian dishes.
Gruyère is a fantastic cheese to use for toasted sandwiches, being the most common cheese used to make croque monsieur. It is also highly recommended for making fondue due to the fact that it is an excellent melting cheese.
Like many of the other cheeses we’ve listed though it does have a high fat content so should be consumed in moderation and avoided if you’re looking to cut down on fat consumption.
Gouda is a yellow Dutch cheese most commmonly made from cow’s milk and with a mild taste. Popular across the world, Gouda has a delicious flavor that makes it a wonderful alternative for Fontina in sandwiches, pasta dishes and fondue.
As well as cow’s milk, there are also goat’s milk and sheep’s milk varieties of Gouda available.
Delicious and versatile, it’s no surprise that cheddar is consistently ranked as one of the best selling cheeses in the world.
A key benefit of cheddar is that it is widely available in stores – you may even have some in your fridge right now! This makes it a perfect substitute for Fontina cheese if you’re in a real pinch and need a something to grate over your pasta bake.
For best results we recommend you go go for a mature Cheddar that has been aged for a little while as this provides the most impactful flavor.
Edam is a cheese that originates in the Netherlands and is made from cow’s milk. The cheese itself is a pale yellow color however it’s instantly recognisable in stores due to the red wax coating that this cheese is commonly sold in.
Because of its relatively low fat content, Edam is a great substitute for Fontina if you’re looking to keep cheese in your diet whilst cutting back on dietary fats.
Provolone makes an excellent substitute for Fontina if you’re looking for an authentic Italian cheese for your dish with a more subtle flavor.
Aged for four months and with a very sweet and mild taste, Provolone is perfect for adding to other dishes or serving as part of an appetizer with prosciutto and salami.
If you can find provolone at your local supermarket or deli, we strongly recommend giving it a try.
Havarti is a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese that hails from Denmark. Widely known as a dessert cheese, it has a delightfully creamy texture.
As a substitute for Fontina, Havarti does a good job of replicating the way it melts whilst offering something a bit different in terms of flavor. The taste is more mild and depending on the version you buy may also include garlic and herb in the cheese itself.
Havarti is a great choice for sandwiches or melting over pasta dishes.
Appenzeller is a semi-hard cheese produced in Switzerland. In terms of texture it sits between Fontina and Parmesan and is best served sprinkled over other foods – it’s quite overpowering in big chunks!
Appenzeller is known for a spiced flavor which helps it boost the taste of any dish that you add it to.
Emmental is a hard cheese made from cow’s milk that is produced in Switzerland. It’s so associated with its country of origin that Emmental is likely the image that comes to mind when you picture ‘Swiss Cheese’.
Easily recognisable by its characteristic holes, Emmental has a strong, nutty flavor. Aside from being a great cheese to serve in sandwiches or melt in fondue, it can also replace Fontina as an option to add to Italian dishes.
The longer Emmental is allowed to age, the stronger its flavor becomes. Accordingly you’ll find that more mature Emmental costs more. However it’s definitely worth experimenting with if you want to add a different twist to your recipes.
What is the Best Fontina Cheese Substitute?
As like-for-like replacements with similar properties, Montasio or Gruyère are our top pick as the best substitutes for Fontina cheese.
However, like Fontina they are often considered ‘speciality’ cheeses outside of their countries of origin. This means that they can also be difficult to find without taking a trip to a specialist delicatessen.
If you’re in need of a delicious Italian cheese to sprinkle over your finished pasta, we recommend that you opt for Parmesan. This is much more widely available in stores, either as a whole cut (the best choice) or in a pre-grated format, which will do just fine as a backup.
If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a Fontina alternative that will give your sauce a more creamy texture whilst cooking, we suggest you use mozzarella or provolone.
Experimentation is the name of the game, though, and we recommend that you give a chance to as many of these cheeses as you can – they’re all delicious!