How To Make Classic Cheese Fondue (Fondue Neuchâtel)

updated Oct 1, 2022
Valentine's Day
How to Make Classic Cheese Fondue at Home

Making the ultimate cheese fondue from scratch is easier than you might think. Serve this perfect cold weather meal with bread cubes, apple slices, cornichon pickles, and pickled onions.

Serves6 to 8

Makes3 cups

Prep12 minutes

Cook15 minutes

Jump to Recipe
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
someone is dipping a piece of bread in the fondue, with the cheese dripping off
Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

I’m not sure when a Swiss person first melted cheese and booze in a little pot, but once the dish hit America, it became the stuff of wedding registry legend. As the story goes, fondue was first marketed to Americans during the 1964 World’s Fair in New York via the Swiss Pavilion’s Alpine restaurant.

From there, North Americans embraced the caquelon (fondue pot) — especially during the 1970s, when sharing food (and your partner) became more popular.

It’s no surprise that fondue took off in America: It’s delicious, decadent, and infinitely customizable. It can be as highbrow (see the Champagne Fondue variation below), or as casual as you want.

If you’re new to fondue, I suggest starting with Fondue Neuchâtel, the basic, traditional recipe that gets its name from a city in the Vaud region, which covers a teeny-tiny area in the western part of Switzerland. But before we start cooking, let me walk you through some fondue basics: selecting your cheeses, choosing your fondue pot, and the dos and don’ts of serving.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

The Many Cheeses of Fondue

In Switzerland, boutique cheeses are often used to make fondue. For example, at Chesery restaurant in Gstaad, the cheese fondue is made from Etivaz and Vacherin Fribourgeois. Etivaz is made by a small cheese co-op in a town of 150 people. It’s essentially a Gruyère made as it was 100 years ago — a creamier, less sharp version of its newer self.

Vacherin Fribourgeois is produced by a very small number of cheese artisans and, consequently, is very difficult to find. It’s fun to taste fondues across Switzerland, because you’re likely to come across cheeses from local dairies that are rare and fresh from the alpage (high mountain pasture), reflecting local flavors.

The cheese in a traditional Fondue Neuchâtel (what I’m sharing here) is a 50:50 mix of Gruyère and Emmental, but feel free to replace either with something interesting or local in your area. I recommend asking your local cheesemonger for suggestions.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

The Best Fondue Pot

Fondue is all about pomp and circumstance, so you’ll want to serve it in something that has some personality. I favor a Le Creuset cast iron set, specifically in “flame” orange for that vintage feel. (Stateside, this cherry-colored fondue set is a good alternative.) I like to begin cooking the fondue on the stovetop until a bit of the liquid has evaporated, and then transfer it to the fuel burner on the table.

Fondue sets are more versatile than you think — they are the perfect vessel, in fact, for any kind of low-and-slow melting or tempered sauce-making. I like to whip up a Béarnaise sauce in mine, while pan-frying sirloin steaks for two. Bring the pot to the table and dip your steak directly in the warm sauce.

If you don’t have a fondue set, you can use a six-cup enameled cast iron saucepan. Just know that you’ll have to continue to stir the fondue as you’re dipping, and when it’s not over the flame it will cool quickly.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

How to Serve Fondue

Preparing, serving, and eating fondue comes with many rules, which is very, very Swiss. Here are a few to keep in mind.

  1. Always stir the melted cheese in a figure-eight motion. (This helps keep the cheese and wine from separating.)
  2. Never double-dip.
  3. Reach your fork all the way to the bottom of the pot. The cheese in the area directly above the burner will have crisped and toasted into delicious morsels of caramelized goodness — it’s known as la religieuse (“the nun”), perhaps because of its heavenly flavor. You’ll want to fight others for it.

Although I always recommend serving fondue with bread cubes, cornichon pickles, and pickled onions, you can swap out the bread with apple slices if you want to keep the feast gluten-free. For dessert, try pears poached in Gewürztraminer, and a maybe a shard or two of dark chocolate.

As for what to drink, the Swiss say that combining hot cheese with a cold beverage causes the cheese to coagulate in your stomach, which is why room-temperature kirsch or white wine or tea is often served with fondue.

To this I say, let common sense prevail. If you eat three pounds of cheese, I doubt it’s the cold wine that’s causing your stomachache. Accordingly, spend a little more for good-quality cheese and maybe eat a little less of it?

But back to the booze. Try a cellared Hock (German white table wine), or perhaps that gifted bottle of Etter Kirsch you never know how to use, or whatever wine you used for the fondue. Stemware should be as fun as your fondue pot.

Tester’s Note

It doesn’t take much to convince me to serve a pot of melted cheese for dinner — and it really is doable even without a fondue pot. Melt the cheese in a saucepan on the stove, then transfer it to a trivet or wooden cutting board for serving. The cheese will stay warm enough for dipping for 12 to 15 minutes. To keep it warmer longer, transfer the fondue to a mini slow cooker set on low. —Patty Catalano, February 2021

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk
1 / 12
How to make classic cheese fondue at home.

How to Make Classic Cheese Fondue at Home

Making the ultimate cheese fondue from scratch is easier than you might think. Serve this perfect cold weather meal with bread cubes, apple slices, cornichon pickles, and pickled onions.

Prep time 12 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes

Makes 3 cups

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces

    Emmental cheese

  • 10 ounces

    Gruyère cheese

  • 1 clove

    garlic

  • 1 1/2 cups

    dry white wine, such as Chablis or dry Riesling

  • 1 teaspoon

    freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 3 tablespoons

    kirsch

  • 1 tablespoon

    cornstarch

  • Freshly ground white pepper

  • Freshly grated nutmeg

  • Sweet paprika

  • For dipping: 1-inch cubes of day-old French bread or country loaf, apple slices

  • For serving: cornichon pickles, pickled onions

Equipment

  • Fondue set with burner (I favor a Le Creuset cast-iron set, specifically in “flame” orange for that vintage feel) and fuel, or a 6-cup enamelled cast-iron saucepan/saucier pan to use stovetop

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Box grater

  • Chef’s knife and cutting board

  • Wooden spoon or heatproof rubber spatula

  • Whisk (optional)

Instructions

  1. Grate the cheese. Grate 10 ounces Emmental cheese and 10 ounces Gruyère cheese (about 2 1/2 cups each).

  2. Rub the pot with garlic. Rub the inside of a fondue pot or medium saucepan (preferably nonstick or enameled cast iron) with 1 garlic clove.

  3. Heat the wine and lemon juice. Add 1 1/2 cups dry white wine and 1 teaspoon lemon juice and heat over medium heat until steaming, about 4 minutes.

  4. Whisk the kirsch and cornstarch. Meanwhile, place 3 tablespoons kirsch and 1 tablespoon cornstarch in a small bowl and whisk with a fork until smooth.

  5. Slowly stir in the cheeses. While stirring constantly in a figure-eight motion, gradually add both cheeses a handful at a time, waiting until each handful is completely melted and incorporated before adding the next.

  6. Stir in the paste. When the mixture begins to bubble, stir in the kirsch-cornstarch paste.

  7. Season the fondue. Continue to cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, and season with a little white pepper, nutmeg, and paprika. Should your melted cheese begin to separate, increase the heat and whisk or stir the mixture quickly to bring it together again.

  8. Light the flame. Carefully light the flame on your fondue set, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

  9. Transfer the pot to the fondue set. Carefully transfer the pot to your fondue set. If you’re going without a fondue set, simply place the pan on a wooden board or other heat-resistant material.

  10. Serve the fondue. Serve the fondue with bread cubes or sliced apples, cornichon pickles, and pickled onions.

Recipe Notes

To make Champagne fondue: To make Champagne fondue, replace the wine with the same amount of Champagne and omit the lemon juice. Feel free to grate a truffle onto the fondue just before serving. It might seem baller to pour most of a bottle of Krug into your fondue caquelon, but let me suggest these two sparkling wines instead: Belluard’s Perles du Mont Blanc (Savoie) and Christoph Hoch’s Kalkspitz (Austria). I like them for three (very Alpine) reasons. The wines are both biodynamic and made in the style of Champenois vintners. They add a nice aromatic element to the cheese, but still have enough minerality and structure to prop the cheese up (unlike Krug, which has too much sugar to do so). They are in our Alpine circle (Hoch is Upper Austria, but relatively close). I don’t think it’s a coincidence that fondue’s best accomplices are made from grapes grown at the altitude where neighboring cows like to graze.

To make fondue without kirsch: To make this fondue without kirsch, toss the cornstarch with the grated cheese to prevent it from clumping.

Adapted with permission from Alpine Cooking: Recipes and Stories from Europe's Grand Mountaintops by Meredith Erickson, 2019. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Credit: Christina Holmes