We’re keeping it retro and cheesy today. Pull out your skewers, because it’s time for Cheese Fondue! This post covers how to make cheese fondue at home, from the kinds of cheese to use to what to dip in fondue. Spoiler: homemade cheese fondue is EASY. You’ll feel inspired to throw a fondue party by the end!
One of my best early memories in Milwaukee is making this cheese fondue recipe for my (now) girlfriends. We had recently moved to town, and I was looking to form deeper relationships with a group of girls I’d met through a volunteer organization. I wooed everyone via an invite to a fondue party. I still remember the giddy looks when I set the big, bubbly pot of fondue in the center of the table.
These ladies are now my closest friends in town. Could it have been the fondue?
Why I Love This Fondue Recipe
Cheese fondue carries with it such a fun, communal aspect. Hosting friends for fondue is a fabulous way to celebrate the holidays as a group. You can also make this recipe for a special occasion, Christmas dinner, or New Year’s Eve.
Though it sounds fancy, this fondue is shockingly simple to prepare. (Can you stand at a stove and stir? Excellent! You can make cheese fondue.) It feels like a special treat and, above all, is welcoming and cozy. It’s exactly what I’d serve my guests at my charming Swiss chalet to warm them from the chilly alpine air if, you know, I owned a Swiss chalet.
Besides being creamy, wonderful, and indulgent in the best possible “this is so worth it” kind of way, fondue also makes for stimulating dinner table debate. One of the guests drops a dipper into the pot—is it the person to the right or to the left she’s supposed to kiss when the breads slips from the fork? Discuss.
For the curious: According to Martha Stewart—the supreme source of party etiquette—a woman who drops something in the fondue pot must kiss every man at the table, while a man must buy the table a round of drinks. The extent to which you allow these rules to influence the guest list at your next fondue party is at your discretion.
To ensure your fondue is rich, smooth, and categorically wonderful, here are a few simple tips and FAQs. Stick to these, and your dinner party will transport you to the Alps upon first bite.
Which Cheese Is Good for Fondue?
- Fondue Rule #1: Use Good-Quality Cheese. It will be more expensive but worth it. Even if you ignore all of the other tips, keep this one. Fondue truly is all about the cheese, and the quality and types of cheeses you use will have an enormous impact on the final product.
- For classic Swiss cheese fondue (meaning one like what you would find in Switzerland), a mix of traditional, firm mountain-style cheeses is best. In today’s recipe, I used an even blend of gruyere, fontina, and gouda. The flavor combination is complex and lush.
- Make sure it is a buttery, creamy cheese that melts smoothly. Cheddar fondue would work well, though its flavor would be less traditional. In this case, I’d use cheddar as one of the cheeses, then mix it with a more traditional cheese like gruyere.
How to Prepare the Cheese to Make Fondue
- Fondue Rule #2: Grate the Cheese. For quicker melting and a smooth fondue, grate—do not chop—the cheese.
- Whenever I’m grating a large amount of cheese (ahem, when I’m making this fondue recipe), I like to use the grater blade of my food processor. It’s super fast and worth the extra few minutes to wash the blade afterwards.
- If you don’t have a grater blade on your food processor, the coarse side of a box grater like this one or a coarse microplane grater like this one work nicely too. You’ll just need to apply some extra elbow grease (which entitles you to an extra fondue dipper!).
Once you have the cheese grated, you are ready for:
- Fondue Rule #3: Toss the Cheese with Cornstarch Thoroughly. Cornstarch helps thicken the fondue and prevents the cheese from clumping. Lumpy bumpy cheese? Not in our pot!
Using Wine in Cheese Fondue
- Classic cheese fondue does call for white wine. Choose something dry and high acid, such as Sauvignon Blanc. The acid in the wine will help keep the cheese smooth and give it an even texture. Also, don’t forget to follow…
- Fondue Rule #3: Use Good Wine. The taste of the wine directly impacts the taste of the fondue. You don’t need to crack the piggy bank, but make sure it’s a wine you’d enjoy drinking with dinner.
- If you’d like to make this cheese fondue recipe without wine, you can substitute unsalted chicken or vegetable stock.
- For beer cheese fondue, swap the wine for your favorite beer. This would be especially delicious with a cheddar cheese fondue.
How to Keep Cheese Fondue Smooth
- Fondue Rule #5: Add the Cheese Slowly and Stir Constantly. This is SO important to make sure the cheese fondue you make at home is buttery smooth and tastes even better than a cheese fondue restaurant.
- Resist the urge to dump all of the cheese into the pot in large handfuls.
- Grab a small handful and sprinkle it into the pot. Stir constantly and wait for each addition to melt before adding the next.
- Don’t try to rush it—you won’t win. Just enjoy the moment at the stove at peace with yourself, the cheese, and the promise of a luscious fondue.
What to Dip in Cheese Fondue
- Bread. The most classic and always delicious. Grab a French or sourdough baguette and cut it into 1-inch cubes so that it can be easily skewered.
- Apples. Tart apples like Granny Smith are dreamy dipped with cheese fondue. Instead of slices, which are harder to spear, cut the apples into cubes.
- Cherry Tomatoes. One of my absolute favorites!
- Bacon. Even better than you think it’s going to taste. Make sure you use baked bacon, so that it’s nice and crisp and won’t break off in the pot. Since bacon can be harder to skewer, direct guests to dip their slices right into the pot.
- Roasted Baby Potatoes. Or if you are in a hurry, potato chips.
- Steamed Broccoli. Like a shortcut broccoli cheese soup.
- Pickles. Surprisingly, addictively good. I recommend cornichons, which are the ideal dipping size and complementary flavor.
Which Fondue Pot to Buy
- While you don’t have to own a fondue pot to make cheese fondue (I find it is best and often required by the fondue pot manufacturer to make it on the stove, then pour it into the pot anyway), using a real fondue pot does add extra flair to the experience. It is also helpful because fondue pots keep the fondue warm and melty. If you don’t use one, you’ll likely have to keep returning the pot to the stove to rewarm it.
- Fondue Pot Option #1: Electric Fondue Pot like this versatile model. Pros: You don’t need to purchase separate fuel to power a flame below it. You can use it for cheese, chocolate, and oil-based fondues. It’s easy to control the temperature. Cons: You have to extend a plug to the table. It also can be tricky to wash and avoid the plug.
- Fondue Pot Option #2: Ceramic or Cast Iron Fondue Pot like this beauty (this is the kind I own). Pros: No plug required, so it’s easy to place anywhere. Classy looks. Easy to clean. Cons: You will need to purchase a sterno like this for the flame. Less precise temperature control.
Be sure you also have enough fondue forks or skewers for each guest. Most fondue sets only come with four, but you can easily order a few supplemental ones. I like this set and this set, which color code the handles so that if someone sets their skewer down or drops it, they don’t get mixed up.
This also makes a fantastic holiday gift. A beautiful basket filled with a fondue pot, ingredients, and dippers (along with a self-addressed invitation to the first fondue party) would make even Santa envious.
Who’s ready to party?!
Classic Cheese Fondue
For the fondue:
- 1/3 pound firm alpine-style cheese - such as gruyere
- 1/3 pound fontina
- 1/3 pound gouda
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 cup dry white wine - such as Sauvignon Blanc
- 1 clove garlic - minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon brandy
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Assorted fondue dippers:
- Boiled baby new potatoes in their skins - quartered if large
- Lightly steamed broccoli florets
- Lightly steamed cauliflower florets
- Lightly steamed asparagus
- Button mushrooms - wiped clean and stems removed
- Cherry tomatoes
- Sliced firm apples - such as Granny Smith
- Cooked sliced hot sausage
- Cubed French, sourdough, and/or pumpernickel bread
- Grate all of the cheeses. In a medium bowl, combine the cheeses with the cornstarch, tossing thoroughly to coat all pieces.
- In a stove-safe fondue pot or large heavy saucepan, bring the wine, garlic, and lemon juice to a simmer over medium-low heat. Add the cheeses to the simmering liquid a little at a time, stirring well between each addition to ensure a smooth fondue. Once smooth, stir in the brandy, mustard, and nutmeg.
- Arrange an assortment of bite-size dipping foods on a platter. If necessary, carefully pour the fondue into a fondue pot. Serve with fondue forks or wooden skewers. Dip and enjoy!
- Cheese fondue can be made 1 day in advance and kept in the refrigerator. Reheat gently over a double boiler, adding additional white wine as needed to thin the fondue and reach the right consistency.
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