Switzerland isn’t exactly known for being a culinary capital, but don’t write off Swiss food just yet. Swiss cuisine isn’t a culinary group of flavors and dishes in the same way as, say, Spanish food; instead it’s a group of dishes influenced by the surrounding regions, especially German, French and Italian cuisine mixed with the Swiss history of farming. Most traditional Swiss dishes consist of basic ingredients like potatoes and cheese, making them simple — yet satisfying — comfort foods that vary from region to region.
Even though there isn’t a distinct “Swiss cuisine,” there are a lot of unique dishes beyond cheese and chocolate — the two most notorious Swiss foods. So if you’re wondering what to eat in Switzerland, here are dishes you can’t leave the country without trying.
7 Foods to Eat in Switzerland
Eat in Geneva, Matterhorn, Zermatt
Raclette is a both a cheese and a dish, but here we’re talking about the dish, which includes the cheese. Let me break it down: raclette (the dish) consists of small potatoes, pickled onions, gherkins (pickles), dried meat (like salami) and sometimes pickled fruit covered with melted raclette (the cheese) and sometimes topped with an egg. The semi-hard cow’s milk cheese is heated, then scraped over the rest of the dish. Its name comes from the French word racler, meaning “to scrape.”
The dish is both comforting and rich — and is very filling. Order with a glass of Swiss white wine; locals believe that water causes the cheese to harden in the stomach and lead to indigestion.
2. Zürcher Geschnetzeltes
Eat in Zurich
Zürcher Geschnetzeltes is a traditional Swiss dish from the German region of Switzerland that consists of sliced veal (or sometimes veal kidney), onions and mushrooms in a savory white wine cream sauce, usually served with rösti (see below). Its name literally means “sliced meat Zurich style” in German.
It reminded me of beef stroganoff in the most delicious way. Zürcher Geschnetzeltes is one of the dishes I will dream about until I have it in Zurich again.
Eat in Geneva (but found throughout Switzerland with each region having its own variation)
Of course fondue is on this list — it’s one of Switzerland’s trademark dishes that’s made its way around the world! And it’s no wonder why: who can resist dipping food into a pot of rich melted cheese? But in Switzerland, they aren’t dipping just any food. In fact, they’re only dipping bread. (I was shocked too.) The cheese is so flavorful, it doesn’t need other foods to distract from the taste.
Fondue is a blend of different cheese (typically Gruyere and Emmentaler), dry white wine, seasoning and a touch of garlic, consumed via cubes of bread dipped in the hot cheese that’s warmed in front of you. Don’t forget to add pepper after you dip it! It is so rich but it is so worth it!
Originally from Bern, now found all over German Switzerland
You may not have heard of rösti, but I’ll bet you’ve already eaten it. The simple dish consists of shredded potatoes, fried in butter or fat. Yep, rösti is practically hashed browns or latkes. Rösti originally started as a breakfast food in Bern before spreading throughout the country and eventually eaten as a side dish throughout the day.
Rösti is sometimes flavored with onions, spices, cheese or vegetable broth, but most of the rösti I had was in basic form.
Eat anywhere and everywhere in Switzerland!
Germany may have a reputation for sausage, but Switzerland actually holds the record for number of varieties per area, with almost 350 different types of sausages calling Switzerland home. Different regions have different styles and different sausage-eating customs (it’s considered an insult to eat sausage with mustard in Eastern Switzerland), but the bottom line is that sausage is everywhere in Switzerland, so try them as much as you can.
My favorite sausage in Switzerland was a farmer’s sausage served with an onion balsamic sauce and a side of rösti in Lucerne. It looks plain (at best) but was one of the most memorable meals I had and I’m not even a big sausage fan!
Chocolate is as synonymous with Switzerland as the Alps. The Swiss began making chocolate in the 17th Century but it wasn’t until they focused on exporting it in the 19th Century that they became known for it worldwide. Some of the most famous names in chocolate began as small Swiss companies, like Nestle and Lindt, and milk chocolate was supposedly invented by a Swiss chocolatier. The best chocolate in Switzerland is highly debated, but finding good chocolate isn’t difficult at all. Chocolate, like Swiss Army Knives and watches, are everywhere.
Instead of hunting down bars of chocolate, I went the pastry route and consumed Swiss chocolate in the form of delicious pastries at Honold’s Tea Room in Zurich. (In all honesty I was just overwhelmed by choosing a chocolate there!)
7. Luxemburgerli Macarons
Eat in Zurich, Basel, Bern, Winterthur, Zug
Switzerland has its own variation of the famous French macaron, called Luxemburgerli. They are smaller and lighter than their French counterparts, but made with the same almond meringue and buttercream filling. Unlike in France, where macarons can be found all over, Luxemburgerli are only available at Confiserie Sprüngli, where they were invented. Sprüngli first opened in 1836 selling chocolates and has been selling Luxemburgerli since 1957. Today they make more than 1,430 pounds of Luxemburgerli daily!
The flagship Sprüngli is in Zurich, but locations are also in Basel, Bern, Winterthur and Zug, plus you can order Luxemburgerli online to ship to the United States. Oh, did I mention some of these little lovelies have alcohol in them?! It goes without saying that my favorite was the bourbon vanilla. :)
And don’t forget Swiss wine!
Switzerland may be overshadowed by its neighbors when it comes to wine, but Swiss wines are nothing short of amazing. Many of their wines aren’t exported to the United States and, frankly, we’re missing out. Some of the white wines I tasted were some of the best I’d ever had. The Swiss are really proud of their wines, too, so I asked my server to recommend something local whenever I ordered a glass and I enjoyed everything I drank (plus it paired perfectly with whatever I was eating).
All I can say is after doing more research about the foods to eat in Switzerland, I definitely didn’t try everything I should have. Guess I’ll just have to go back!
Stay tuned for a bowl of Japanese ramen in Zurich, a day in Lucerne and more in Switzerland.