This beautiful country, Switzerland, has many names: Helvetia, Suisse, Svizzera, Svizra, and the officially Swiss Confederation. Swiss cuisine is just as diverse as the naming. To be more precise: Swiss food is diverse because on the one hand there is a hodgepodge of food and drinks borrowed from neighboring countries Germany, France, Italy, and Austria and on the other hand traditional dishes change from canton to canton.
The typical Swiss cuisine does not exist, but there are some Swiss specialties that are associated with the country. These are primarily chocolate, cheese, cheese fondue, raclette, Zürcher Geschnetzeltes, herb sweets, and hash browns. In general, it can be said that the Swiss like to eat hearty, with plenty of fat in the form of cream, butter, and sauces.
Culinary journey through Switzerland
As in every country, in Switzerland, too, individual regions and individual cantons offer traditional dishes. Here is a small selection:
Appenzeller cheese is known far beyond the borders of the Appenzeller Land. Furthermore, the “Biber”, a filled or unfilled gingerbread biscuit, which is available as large and small (the Biberli) Appenzeller biscuits, is a typical traditional culinary delicacy. Characteristic is the image embossing on the baked goods, which often shows the Appenzell heraldic animal, the bear.
The Mostbröckli, a salted, smoked and dried horse, cow or beef, as well as the Appenzeller Siedwurst, a light scalded sausage with caraway, and the Appenzeller cheese flatbread, also called Chäswähie or Chäsflade, are among the Swiss specialties of this region. Popular drinks in the Appenzeller Land are the Appenzeller Alpenbitter, the “Quöllfrisch”, a beer made from pure Pilsner malt and different types of hops, and “Flauder”, carbonated mineral water with a lemon balm and elderflower flavor.
The Zürcher Geschnetzelte is also known in Austria and Germany. These are veal kidneys, veal, and mushrooms with cream sauce. Traditionally, it is served with hash browns. The Birchermüesli is also appreciated outside the country. Many breakfast tables can no longer be imagined without this muesli made from oat flakes, other grain products, (dry) fruit, milk, soy milk, fruit juice, or yogurt.
The Züriläckerli, a pastry made from a nut or almond paste, is more of an insider tip. By the way, it is a popular souvenir from Swiss specialties among tourists. Likewise, the Tirggel, a thin and very hard honey cake with motifs, which is mainly available at Christmas time, is a popular culinary souvenir from Switzerland.
Traditional Basel cuisine includes the Basel flour soup made from flour and water, which is also known to us in parts of Austria. Furthermore, one likes to eat a flat cake with cheese and onions, the cheese flan. Also “suuri Lääberli”, sour, sliced veal liver, and the Basler Läckerli, a type of gingerbread biscuit, are among the regional delicacies.
The lush Bernese Platte is best known here. In addition, different types of meat and sausage, which are literally a matter of taste, are served with side dishes on a large plate. Other specialties are the Zibelechueche, an onion cake, the Bernese gingerbread with hazelnuts, and the hash browns, a pulpy mass made from grated potatoes that are fried in hot fat, poured a few tablespoons of milk over them in this region and baked on both sides.
Sweet delicacies are the meringues, meringues, which are served with whipped cream, and “girl’s legs”, as the Meitschibei are translated. The latter is a nut pastry shaped like a horseshoe.
Known and popular are the white OLMA bratwurst and the St. Galler Schüblig, a smoked scalded sausage made from pork and beef with bacon and served hot or cold. The whole of Switzerland is also familiar with St. Gallen bread made from yeast dough with its typical round shape. Less known is “Ribel” or “Ribelmais”, a type of corn porridge that is eaten both salty and sweet.
As fresh as possible from Lake Constance, you can enjoy the whitefish that occurs there in the region around St. Gallen, tasty relatives of trout and salmon. A completely different fish, because actually none at all, is the Toggenburg almond fish, a pastry in the shape of a fish.
Bündnerland / Graubünden
Typical of this area are the pizokel reminiscent of spaetzle, which is eaten as a kind of stew, similar to pizzoccheri. It is made from buckwheat noodles, cheese, and various vegetables or bacon and onions. Furthermore, every culinary guide who deals with the Bündnerland mentions the Capuns as a real specialty. Capuns are roulades made from Swiss chard or Swiss vegetable lettuce filled with spaetzle dough. Also worth mentioning is the Bündner barley soup with bacon and the Chur meat cake, which is reminiscent of a meat pie and is eaten warm.
At Maluns, like the ribel already mentioned, only made from grated potatoes, you eat alpine cheese or applesauce. Once a poor man’s meal, today you can find the Plain in Pigna, a hearty potato gratin with bacon, on numerous restaurant menus. The people of Graubünden also love their pear bread, a thin bread dough filled with dried fruit and nuts, as well as the Bündner nut cake.
In central Switzerland, north of the Alpine ridge, the Älplermagronen, a tasty gratin made from potatoes, macaroni, roasted onions, cheese, and cream, belongs. There is apple sauce as a side dish.
A lot of cheese is prepared here. But stew dishes with the names Stunggis and Hafenchabis, which for us sound rare, also like to be on the table. Another delicacy is the Lucerne Chügelipastete filled with bread dumplings in white sauce. And those who like it sweet will get their money’s worth with the Zuger Kirschtorte with cherry cake cream and cherry syrup.
French-speaking Switzerland (Romandie)
The French-speaking areas of Switzerland are referred to as French-speaking Switzerland. This is where the Swiss cheese dishes known from the crossword puzzle are at home: cheese fondue and raclette. Doesn’t “cholera” sound appetizing? But it is! It is a kind of vegetable cake that is mainly made from potatoes, apples, and cheese.
Whitefish, perch, and trout are tasty fish that can be found in Lake Biel, Lake Geneva, and Lake Neuchâtel. Who is surprised that fish dishes are typical in this area !?
You can cook raw sausages almost everywhere in the area. They have the French name Saucisson here. They are often cooked on vegetables, served as Marc sausage on Lake Biel, or poached.
Do you know the Moutarde de Bénichon, sweet mustard? The residents of French-speaking Switzerland like to enjoy it simply as a spread. Gâteau du Vully – in Swiss “Nidlechueche” -, a yeast dough cake, is served as a dessert or just with coffee.
The Valais can not only call the gigantic Matterhorn its own, but it also offers numerous specialties that are generally part of the special food and drink in Switzerland. The Valais plate, for example, is characteristic. In addition to thin, salted beef slices that have been made long-lasting by air-drying – the so-called Valais dried meat – and eaten cold, there are also Valais rye bread, cheese, Valais raw pork ham, Valais dry bacon, and Valais dry sausage. With it, you drink Valais red wine.
Another regional product is Gsottus – also known as boiled meat – which consists of boiled and air-dried pork and beef along with sausage and bacon. It is eaten with white or sauerkraut and potatoes. By the way, Valais is produced both white and red wine.
Ticino, with its slight Italian touch, is often based on Italian cuisine when it comes to culinary specialties. The people of Ticino also love their firm corn porridge, the polenta, which is mixed with cheese as a main course or as a side dish.
Sausages are also very popular: the thin, smoked sausage known as Luganighe or Lucanicae, richly refined with herbs and spices, as well as the mortadella, which is also known to us, are popular. Chestnuts are indispensable in Ticino. They are served as roasted, hot chestnuts or as vermicelles, boiled, sugared, and pressed into spaghetti form.
The list of regional, traditional dishes could go on and on. Anyone who is interested in getting tips and tricks, as well as recipes and much more on the subject of “Household, Cooking & Enjoyment” will find what they are looking for in the Betty Bossi online portal.
Switzerland – land of cheese
When it comes to Switzerland cuisine, Switzerland keeps coming back to cheese. Swiss cheese can be bought directly from the manufacturer in many places here in the cheese country, and the wide range on the weekly markets often exceeds our imagination.
Well-known and popular cheeses in Switzerland
- Appenzeller is a tasty raw milk cheese.
- The Emmentaler or Emmental cheese has made its way across the world. The hallmarks are the large holes.
- The Gruyère or Gruyère Suisse has also made its way out into the world. It may only be produced in a few cantons and is a medium-hard to hard hard cheese made from raw milk.
- The Tête de Moine – translated “monk’s head” – is a semi-hard cheese made from untreated cow’s milk, which is sliced into rosettes using a special cheese slicer – the girolle.
- Sbrinz is less known in this country. It is one of the oldest European cheeses and is still prepared in a copper kettle using traditional methods.
- For cheese fondue, one likes to choose the Vacherin Fribourgeois, which is also made in a copper kettle. It is available in the flavors creamy, strong, mild, or spicy.
- The Vacherin Mont-d’Or comes from both France and the Swiss Jura. It is a cow’s milk soft cheese.
Eating in Switzerland is often associated with a lot of cheese. Here is a shortlist of the most popular and well-known dishes in Swiss cuisine:
- Raclette: In the original, it is melted cheese with jacket potatoes, vinegar onions, pickled cucumbers, and mustard fruits. It’s a traditional winter dish. A special raclette machine with small pans is used for this.
- Cheese fondue: Small pieces of bread are skewered on a long fondue fork and dipped in a cheese sauce consisting of melted cheese, white wine, kirsch, cornstarch, nutmeg, pepper, and garlic. The taste changes depending on the cheese.
- Chässchnitte: It is a slice of bread that is coated with a mix of grated cheese, flour, cream or milk, and egg yolk and then fried in oil.
- Chäsgatschäder: bread is fried with onions and then boiled with milk. Now you dissolve the cheese in it and stir everything until creamy.
- Chäsflade: Cheese flatbreads are made with either yeast or bread dough. The topping is grated cheese, chopped onions, eggs, and nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
Meat, sausage & ham
There are numerous different types of sausage and sausage dishes in Switzerland. Here is a small selection of the most characteristic ones:
- Salsiz is small salami in different flavors made from pork.
- Appenzeller Siedwurst is a lightly boiled sausage with caraway seeds.
- Ticino Luganighetta is the name of a raw pork sausage that is twisted and skewered in a spiral shape.
- St. Gallen bratwurst is also known as OLMA bratwurst. It is a white, fine bratwurst that – unlike the Bavarian white sausage – is fried. It consists of veal and pork as well as various spices, milk protein, and milk or milk powder. According to the residents of St. Gallen, it should not be eaten with mustard or sauces.
- Bündner Fleisch is a ham that is produced as follows: Beef is cured for a few weeks at temperatures around freezing point and then air-dried for a quarter to a half year. During this time it is pressed several times into its typical rectangular shape.
- Appenzeller Mostbröckli is cured, smoked, and dried beef, cow or horse meat. You cut it into very thin slices and eat it cold. It’s a kind of ham.
Typical Swiss meat dishes
- We know Züri-Gschnätzlets under the name “Zürcher Geschnetzeltes”. It is a dish made from veal kidneys, veal, and mushrooms on a cream sauce.
- Beef birds have different names. We know it as a roulade. Very thin slices of beef or veal are topped with onions, bacon and perhaps other side dishes, rolled up and tied, and then fried.
- Prättigauer Chnödli is strongly spiced meatballs that are served with sauce.
With the Berner Platte, different products are prepared separately and served decoratively on a plate. Meat and sausage products dominate. The other traditional ingredients are smoked pork and beef tongue, beef, pork belly, Rippli (pork ribs), Schüfeli (pork shoulder blades), Gnagi (pork feet and heads), sausage with tongue and pork tails or pork ears that are cooked. The whole thing is garnished with juniper sauerkraut, green or/and dried beans, sour beets, and boiled potatoes.
Switzerland is not a nation where an extremely large amount of fish is eaten. Rather, hearty meat and sausage dishes are preferred. In the vicinity of Lake Constance, however, the perch is often found on the menu. It is a perch that is traditionally filleted. The fillets are briefly seared or steamed. The “Egli Knusperli” is a fillet fried in beer batter, which is usually served with boiled potatoes and a tartare sauce, a cold sauce based on mayonnaise.
In Switzerland, people love soups, whether as a starter or as a main meal. Here are some of the most popular traditional soups:
- “Soup with sparrow” – also known as “pot au feu” – is a clear broth with potatoes, vegetables, and “sparrow”, small pieces of beef soup.
- The Bündner barley soup is a clear bouillon in which pearl barley – rolled barley – cooks. Potatoes, carrots, and other root vegetables, ham, Bündnerfleisch, sausage, or bacon are also added.
- For many tourists, chestnut soup is the attraction but also a real question of taste. For this, chestnuts – so-called chestnuts – are pureed and then boiled together with whipped cream, chives, and lemon to make a soup.
- The minestrone, a substantial vegetable soup, is known far beyond the Swiss borders and is traditionally eaten in Ticino.
- Cheese shouldn’t be missing in soups either, and that’s how Emmental potato soup is enjoyed. It consists of potatoes, leeks, and carrots – carrots – is seasoned with nutmeg, marjoram, and vinegar and is eaten with Emmental cheese.
- The Soledurner Wysüppli stands out visually from other soups: the soup made from white wine, fine leek strips, cream, and egg is hidden under a kind of puff pastry roof.
- Hay soup doesn’t sound good, but it tastes good. First, you cook a bouillon with hay, in which later, when the solid parts have been sieved off, vegetables are cooked and then pureed. The whole thing is refined with cream.
- The St. Gallen velvet soup is a simple, clear broth that is bound with egg yolk and refined with cream.
- Lucerne’s Chriesi soup is a soup that is out of line: it’s sweet. For this purpose, flour is first roasted briefly, then milk is added. A milk pulp is created. If it is cold, add cherries and sugar. The whole thing has to be in the refrigerator.
- The delicate “Soupe de Poisson du lac”, a fish soup, is made from the fillet of whitefish or perch. In addition to the fish, carrots and tomatoes “swim” in the white wine-based delicacy.
Local side dishes
Of course, the Swiss also know jacket and boiled potatoes as well as french fries, mashed potatoes, rice, and other pasta, but we would like to mention three typical side dishes here:
- Blue St. Galler is a new breed of potato, the distinguishing feature of which is the blue-purple flesh. The special thing about it: the potato retains its color even when cooking and deep-frying.
- Rösti is a flat cake made from grated potatoes that are fried in a pan. Berner Rösti is poured with a little milk, turned again, and fried. Emmentaler Rösti has bacon as an ingredient.
- Polenta is a firm pulp made from corn grits.
- Gschwellti is the Swiss name for cooked potatoes, known in Germany as jacket potatoes.
- Chestnuts, also called chestnuts, were once a poor man’s food, today even gourmets appreciate this ingredient. They are available in a wide variety of processing variants: like a cake and cake filling, in bread, as honey or jam, as puree or pasta, as marrons glacés, i.e. candied confectionery, and, and, and …
Eating in Switzerland also means eating bread, with a seemingly endless range of different types of bread to be found. In the Italian- and French-speaking countries, white bread is preferred. In the German-speaking part, you will find gray bread.
The most popular, traditional types of bread include:
- the Basler Laibli, an elongated, oval yeast bread loaf
- St. Gallen bread, a round bread baked with yeast
- the Tessinerli, also called Ticino bread, a white bread to which oil is added
- the Lucerne Weggen, a sourdough bread
- Züpfe & Butterzopf, a light-colored bread in the form of a plait, which we in Austria call “Striezel”
- the Valais rye bread, also called roggubroot, a round, hearty tasting wholemeal bread made from sourdough that consists of at least 90 percent and that lasts for a long time
- Ruchbrot, a kind of yeast mixed bread
Sweet dishes: desserts, cakes & pies
The Swiss are also familiar with numerous sweet dishes such as desserts, cakes, and pies. If you come across the word “flan”, you must know that it is a flat sheet cake. In general, some names require a translation. Here is a small culinary guide on typical Swiss sweets:
Cakes & pastries
- Nidelfladen, also known as gâteau à la crème, are round, flat cakes with a creamy-sweet filling, the nidel. The filling varies depending on the region.
- Carrots are carrots, so a carrot cake is a carrot cake. It consists of a sponge cake with hazelnuts and grated carrots. It can be recognized by the marzipan carrots that decorate the cake.
- Appenzeller Biber is round gingerbread cookies with a marzipan filling.
- Meringues are nothing more than meringues, i.e. frothy egg white sugar cookies that are served with whipped cream, chestnut puree – vermicelle – or vanilla ice cream.
- The Bündner Nusstorte is a flat, round cake made from shortcrust pastry with a lot of sugar and nuts.
- The Zuger Kirschtorte is made from two meringues and two sponge bases. There is also cherry syrup and cherry pie cream. It is decorated with roasted almonds and powdered sugar.
- Bündner Pirnbrot or Birebrot is an elongated, round yeast dough that is filled with dried pears, nuts, and sultanas. In some places, dried apples and figs are added.
- Vully cake sounds French – Gâteau du Vully – more elegant, but means the same thing. It is a yeast cake that is both sweet and savory and salty. The sweet Vully cake is covered with crème Gruyère, a cream with higher fat content, while the salty version is seasoned with caraway seeds and bacon.
- The Swiss understand Glarner pate to be a round, deep piece of puff pastry filled with a marzipan and almond mixture and plum jam. The filling is then closed with a kind of lid made of dough.
Popular sweets in Swiss cuisine
Other Swiss specialties include the following desserts and sweets:
- Nidelzeltli or cream patties are small, flat, square cream caramel.
- Vermicelles are cooked and then pureed chestnuts (sweet chestnuts) that are refined with kirsch, butter, and sugar. The mass is then pressed through a perforated plate, which results in small spaghetti-shaped “worms”. Vermicelles are eaten with whipped cream, with meringues (meringue), or with suser, a wine that is just beginning to ferment. – Incidentally, vermicelles can be taken home as a souvenir in a tube.
- The Brönnti Crème is a roasted caramel cream similar to the Spanish-Portuguese Crema Catelana or the French Crème brûlée.
- A culinary guide on the sweet Swiss specialties must of course not ignore the chocolate. Switzerland and chocolate, that’s tradition. They are called “Schoggi” in Schwyzerdütsch. In German-speaking countries, milk chocolate is more likely to be produced and used, whereas in French-speaking Switzerland, dark chocolate is preferred.
Drinking in Switzerland
Eating & drinking in Switzerland belongs together as everywhere else. As far as typical drinking in Switzerland is concerned, one is relatively inexperienced beyond the Swiss borders. However, you can be sure that here, too, Swiss cuisine has its own characteristics.
In addition to beer and wine, which, by the way, are produced in small quantities in the country, the “harder” spirits are known and also popular with tourists. Not just as a souvenir …
Switzerland and wine? Is that possible?
Of course, and not just as a neighbor of the wine countries Italy, France, Austria, and Germany. Switzerland also has some wine-growing regions, such as in Valais or Ticino.
Switzerland has around 200 grape varieties in a relatively small area. There are wines with a wine-growing region defined by their origin and the corresponding AOC seal, country, and table wines. There are red and white, but also rosé wines, the majority of which are light and are served young. Most of the Swiss wines are drunk in their own country.
Probably the best known and most popular types of wine in Switzerland include the Fendant, a dry white wine, and the Dôle, a red wine made from pure or at least predominantly Pinot Noir. Both come from the Valais.
Beer is also drunk in Switzerland, but most of the varieties originally come from abroad. Over 40 percent of beer sales are accounted for by the Feldschlösschen Brewery, which is owned by the Danish Carlsberg brewery group. Nevertheless, there are also some regional, mostly smaller breweries.
Beer is mainly consumed in the German-speaking part of the country. Apparently the Swiss prefer to drink lager, which is less brewed and has a lower alcohol content.
A culinary travel guide lives from naming a few examples, but it would go beyond the scope of this section to be complete. Therefore only three examples of a typical Swiss beer are representative:
- Calanda Lager, a beer that is made exclusively from good Bündner mountain spring water
- Bärner Müntschi, a light, naturally cloudy beer with a mild, slightly hoppy taste
- Wädi Bräu Hanf, a sweet-tasting organic beer to which hemp flowers are added when brewing
Liqueurs & schnapps
Drinking in Switzerland often means having a good schnapps or liqueur after or before eating. Below are some of the typical Swiss specialties:
- Träsch, an apple brandy
- Bätziwasser, a clear one made from dried apple rings
- Alpenbitter, a dark herbal bitter
- Härdöpfel, a clear potato brandy
- Carrot brandy, an aromatic and slightly sweet tasting carrot brandy
- Grüne Fee, green absinthe that owes its color to the ingredients wormwood, fennel, anise, and other botanicals
- Whiskey, on the rise in Switzerland, is less smoky but spicy and fruity in taste
- Alpwhisk is considered whiskey but is more of a kind of chestnut schnapps with a nutty and vanilla flavor
Soft drinks in Swiss cuisine
Drinking in Switzerland does not just mean alcohol, there are – in addition to the non-alcoholic beverages that we are familiar with – some typical Swiss drinks that you should try. This includes:
- Rivella, is considered the national drink of the Swiss and comes in different flavors. It is a carbonated soft drink and 35% whey.
- Gassosa, a sweet, carbonated lemonade that is also available in other flavors such as tangerine (Mandarino), raspberry (lampone), or coffee.
- Orange cider, a traditional carbonated drink made from apple and orange juice.
The typical Swiss coffee is a milk coffee that consists of half milk and half coffee. It is traditionally drunk for breakfast. Here is a small culinary guide on how to order different coffee specialties in Switzerland:
- Cup is a milk coffee.
- Café crème is a 120 ml espresso with whipped cream.
- Café mélange is a coffee with whipped cream, the latter usually being served separately.
- Schümli Pflümli is a rather thin coffee with plum schnapps, sugar, and whipped cream. There is also the Träsch coffee or the Lucerne Kafi, which are coffees with a schnapps made from pome fruit, as well as numerous other variants. It is served in a glass each time.
- Kafi GT is a coffee with schnapps and coffee cream. It is also known as the GT.
By the way, if you order a “Café complet” or a “Kafi complet”, you will get nothing more than a full breakfast with milk coffee. And another special feature: Ristretto is a very small coffee, espresso a small coffee.
Meal times in Swiss
Eating & drinking in Switzerland also has its time, but this is not so different from our normal customs. It certainly varies from family to family, from person to person, but the following rules of thumb can be used:
Breakfast, also called morning meal or breakfast, is the first meal of the day and, like us, also consists of a hot drink – usually a milk coffee – as well as bread or rolls, sweet spreads or sausage, and cheese. The Swiss-based Birchermüesli is also found on some breakfast tables.
Lunch is taken between noon and 2 p.m. Dinner is served between 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. How long and to what extent food is fed strongly depends on the region. Meals in Italy and France are much longer and more extensive than in other parts of Switzerland.
There are restaurants and pubs, especially in the cities, where you can get hot meals from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
In the country where Heidi, Geißenpeter, and Alp-Öhi are based, you will also find various options for enjoying typical food in Switzerland and drinking in Switzerland. The most “rustic” food and drink is certainly also here in families and in small towns. In turn, very few holidaymakers ever have the opportunity to do so. But do not worry: many localities also offer traditional Swiss cuisine, with the ambiance and selection as well as prices vary greatly.
You can stop off at an alpine hut, visit an excursion restaurant with or without a mountain panorama, a traditional inn, a modern middle-class restaurant, or a Swiss gourmet restaurant and go on a culinary tour of discovery.
As far as the wallet is concerned, there is something for everyone. As elsewhere, the prices in busy excursion restaurants and gourmet restaurants are much higher than in local inns. The cheapest – but not always typically Swiss – eat in a quick snack or in department store restaurants. Here are some (saving) tips:
- Ordering a menu of the day for lunch is cheaper than eating “à la carte”, which usually consists of a starter in the form of soup or salad and a main course.
- The same as for lunch also applies to dinner.
- For the main course by menu, you pay an average of between 20 and 50 Swiss francs (CHF), which at the current exchange rate corresponds to a price of around 18 to 44 €.
Small restaurant etiquette for Switzerland
The Swiss themselves are very polite people, but it can never be wrong to remember good behavioral rules anyway. The service staff here is very well trained and knows their way around. And don’t forget: as you call into the forest, it rings out!
Here are a few “rules of conduct”:
- In simpler restaurants, you can choose your seats freely, in more upscale restaurants you are assigned a table. As a rule, if there are several couples, the women are placed in the middle. If there is no space available, you may be asked to take a seat at the bar and have an aperitif. The waitress will later escort you to your table and bring the drinks that you should leave at the bar.
- The waitress is not called, rather you should make yourself noticeable by glances and hand signals if you want something.
- Get an appetizing little bite, don’t say you didn’t order it! It is an amuse gueule, a “palate tickler”, a welcome snack from the kitchen.
- There is a rather funny traditional custom with cheese fondue: if the man drops the piece of bread into the fondue, he has to pay for a drink. The woman pays for this with a kiss. By the way, cheese fondue is never eaten in summer!
- In principle, tips are included in the invoice, but 10 percent of the invoice amount is considered the usual tip.