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Renowned for its world-famous cheese and chocolate, natives and tourists alike will tell you there’s far more to Swiss foods than first meets the eye.
From the bustling towns to the green alpine regions, Switzerland’s strong agricultural roots and rich European influence have helped develop a cuisine that is full of heart, warmth, and flavor.
Guided by a local writer, let’s embark on a culinary journey to the heart of Europe, and explore Switzerland through 20 of its most popular and beloved dishes.
Foods to Try in Switzerland
1 – Zopf (Bread)
Having Zopf for breakfast is a golden way to start the day. This beautiful soft bread is made of eggs, sugar, milk, yeast, and flour. It is kneaded into a braid and lightly brushed with egg yolk to give it its golden crust.
Typically, one will enjoy a slice of zopf with butter and jam. A slightly more indulgent alternative to the sourdoughs or whole wheats of the bread family, this particular Swiss bread is therefore perhaps best enjoyed on Sunday mornings, as is done traditionally.
2 – Birchermuesli (Overnight Oats)
Over the last few years, muesli has become a trendy breakfast item across the world because of its numerous health benefits. Bircher muesli is a traditional, healthy, yet filling Swiss breakfast, that continues to grow in popularity among a more health-conscious generation of Swiss people.
These nutritious oats are often enjoyed with some yogurt and sliced fruits such as berries, apples, or bananas, topped off with some honey.
3 – Nüsslisalat (Small Nut Salad)
Directly translated, the word ‘nüsslisalat’ means small nut salad, aptly named not only for its use of crushed nuts, but also type of salad leaf, lamb’s lettuce, which is known for its nutty flavor. This lovely, mild, yet delicious salad is often eaten as an appetizer, but you can also have it as a main.
While there are several variations including fresh fruits, the classic nüsslisalat is a dish of thinly cut rectangular slices of hard-boiled egg, a generous amount of lardons, crushed walnuts, lamb’s lettuce, cooked mushrooms, and cubes of hard mountain cheese, such as Emmentaler.
Once prepared, the salad is doused in a dressing of white wine vinegar, cream, sunflower oil, mustard, salt, and pepper. As you can imagine, this is a very flavorful salad and a favorite at many Swiss restaurants.
4 – Bündnerfleisch (Dried Meat)
Bündnerfleisch is a type of dried beef meat, commonly plated on a wooden tray and served with pickled onions, gherkins, slices of cheese, and chopped cherry tomatoes.
The word ‘bündnerfleisch’ means meat (Fleisch) from Graubünden, which is situated in Eastern Switzerland and borders Austria. This kind of charcuterie is generally served either by itself, as an appetizer with sliced bread, or as a side dish for raclette.
5 – Zweifel Paprika Crisps (Snack)
These might just be the best paprika-flavored crisps in the world! Much like the Cervelat sausages, these crisps are a staple in Switzerland and can be found in every supermarket and corner shop.
One certainly cannot host a barbeque or a party without a bowl of these. Zweifel crisps are produced in Switzerland and made with natural ingredients, predominantly potatoes and rapeseed oil. The crisps are then seasoned to perfection with alpine salt and lots and lots of smokey paprika flavor.
Whether you’re on a road trip or spending your summer days at a lake with friends, these will cater to your gluten-free, vegan, and lactose-free buddies.
6 – Spätzli (Noodle Dish)
Spätzli is a delicacy popular in Swiss cuisine, German cuisine, Austrian cuisine, and several others. It resembles short, thick, and chunky egg noodles, while texturally spätzli feels like a lighter version of gnocchi.
Spätzli derives from the word ‘spatz’, which means ‘sparrow’, as when this dish was first invented the little noodles looked like birds. The ingredients needed to make spätzli include flour, eggs, milk, and water. These delicious German noodles can either be served straight from boiled water, or they can be fried until a layer of crispiness forms on the outside.
Spätzli are more commonly offered as a main dish, rather than a side dish. It is commonly served as käsespätzli, where the spätzli are covered in cheese (käse), broiled in the oven, and topped off with some caramelized onions and either a brown onion sauce or cream sauce. If you decide to have spätzli on the side, it’s best paired with a sausage or Zürich geschnetzeltes (veal).
7 – Rösti (Grated Potatoes)
This Swiss staple is so popular, it is guaranteed to be served in practically every restaurant in the country. Rösti is the easiest food to make on this list, and it is a simple but filling dish of pan-fried grated potatoes, enjoyed by people of all ages.
Rösti is similar to the British hash browns, but it is not deep-fried, and the grated potatoes are a little less compact. The beauty of rösti is that you can eat it at any time of day and opt to have it as a main or side dish.
If ordered as a main dish, rösti is commonly served with a fried egg and creamy spinach. As it originates from the canton of Bern, this version, also known as the “Berner rösti”, is slightly different, as the pan-fried grated potatoes come with lardons.
8 – Älpler Magronen mit Apfelmus (Alpine Macaroni with Apple Sauce)
Looking to elevate your standard mac and cheese? Switzerland has the answer to satisfy your cravings, and it’s known as Älpler magronen!
This warm, carb-loaded dish consists of macaroni pasta, peeled and diced potatoes, cream, Gruyère cheese, and bacon, and it is garnished with caramelized onions – it is simply perfect on a cold winter’s night.
But there’s more! What makes this dish even more unique is that it’s traditionally served with a side of apfelmus (apple sauce). This helps create a dish with a sumptuous blend of both sweet and salty flavors. Unique and truly delicious.
9 – Raclette (Cheese Dish)
Raclette is a type of cheese, native to the western side of Switzerland. This delicious cheese, made from the milk of alpine cows, is renowned for its melting properties.
Raclette has a balanced flavor, initially salty, but with both sweet and nutty undertones. A fragrant cheese, its aroma becomes stronger the longer it ages.
Racelette’s ability to melt make it ideal for using in a range of dishes. Be it smothering boiled potatoes, or enjoyed in slices with pickled onions and salami, Racelette is up there with Grueyere as one of the country’s must-try cheeses.
10 – Käsefondue (Cheese Fondue)
Similar to raclette, this melted cheese meal is also shared with friends and family. Swiss fondue cheese is ordinarily a blend of melted Gruyère and Emmental cheese, mixed with white wine.
Traditionally, käsefondue is eaten with diced bread, which is dipped in the thick, creamy cheese with a long, narrow fork. The fondue is served in a large pot or cauldron, kept warm by chafing fuel, making it the perfect dish to feed families, friends, and guests at large gatherings.
11 – Cervelat (Sausage)
Cervelat originates from France, Switzerland and Germany, dating back to the 16th century. A cervelat sausage is pink/red in appearance and is made of a combination of pork and veal, renowned for its smokey undertones.
Cervelat is one of Switzerland’s most popular sausages and is served at many events, such as football games or ski races. Two of the best ways to enjoy cervelat is either grilled and served in a crusty baguette, hotdog-style, or ordered in restaurants with a side of rösti or spätzli.
Moreover, it also exists in the form of a salad, in which the cervelat is sliced into bite-size pieces and combined with other ingredients such as cheese (Gruyère or Emmentaler), sliced onions, garlic, chives and gherkins. The salad is finished with a tangy dressing, consisting of olive oil, mustard and vinegar.
12 – Zürich Geschnetzeltes (Creamy Veal Dish with Rösti or Pasta)
As the name suggests, this rich dish originates from the canton (state) of Zürich, and consists of sliced veal, onions, and mushrooms.
The ingredients are then added to a reduced, creamy demi-glace sauce, with a splash of white wine to give it that extra flavor. And of course, a choice of rösti, spätzli, or pasta is offered to complete the meal, finished with a drizzle of lemon juice and a sprinkle of parsley.
Zürich geschnetzeltes is a succulent, rich, and creamy dish, and anyone looking for hearty, filling, and indulgent food in Switzerland should look no further than this classic.
13 – Fleischkäse (Meatloaf)
Unlike your typical meatloaf, fleischkäse is light pink in color, and has a uniform texture resembling the inside of a sausage. It’s simple to prepare, easily purchased from Swiss supermarkets, and only needed to be baked in the oven for about an hour.
Fleischkäse can also be bought as individual slices, which can then be pan-fried for deeper flavor. After being cooked, this popular type of meat can be consumed hot and typically accompanied with creamy spinach and boiled potatoes, rösti or spätzli. If you have any leftovers, they can either be reheated, or used cold as luncheon meat in a sandwich.
Fleischkäse is also found in German cuisine where it’s known as Leberkäse as well as in Austrian cuisine where it’s known as Leberkäs.
14 – Schaffhauser Bölletünne (Onion Tart)
A Schaffhausen speciality, hence the name, Schaffhauser bölletünne is best described as an onion (bölle in Swiss-German) tart/quiche.
The dough of the tart is made from a simple yet wholesome mixture of butter, flour, water, and salt. The filling of the onion tart is similar to that of a French quiche, consisting of onions, lardons, cream, eggs, salt, pepper, and milk.
A delicious option in cafes and restaurants, if you want to make this dish at home and you’re short on time, you can get the dough premade from the shops, then simply add the filling, pop it in the oven, and lunch or dinner is served!
15 – Filet de Perches (Perch Fillets)
Filet de perches is another food well worth trying for any seafood lovers who grace the green slopes of Switzerland. Popular in the French-speaking part of Switzerland (Valais), these tender perch fillets are caught from Swiss lakes, owing their breathtakingly fresh taste to the purity of the waters.
To prepare this dish, the perch fillets are usually pan-fried in vegetable oil or butter. Children often order them coated in breadcrumbs for some extra crunchiness, and they’re commonly served with a portion of French fries or roasted potatoes.
16 – Mailänderli (Christmas Cookies)
Christmas in Switzerland is truly an enchanting and magnificent time to visit the country. During the festive season, Christmas cookies are always a hit at parties or perfect for a midday snack.
Mailänderli originates from the south of Switzerland, in the Italian-speaking region. These cookies are made with sugar, butter, flour, and eggs, and finished with a glaze of icing sugar and lemon juice. These sweet treats are deceptively light, and there’s no doubt that you will be reaching for more.
17 – Spitzbuben (Christmas Jam Cookies)
Another type of Christmas cookie definitely worth giving a try is Spitzbuben. The term Spitzbuben is used to describe cheeky, mischievous, up-to-no-good young boys.
If you’ve lived in the UK, these cookies are similar to Jammie Dodgers, also named after the mischievous comic book character Roger the Dodger.
Each rich, sweet treat consists of a top and bottom cookie layer, held together with a central layer of fruit jam, such as strawberry or raspberry. The top cookie will typically be dusted with icing sugar and have a small star or circle shape, carved out of the biscuit, allowing the sweet jam to fill the gap and set.
18 – Chestnut Vermicelli (Chestnut Dessert)
Chestnut vermicelli is a classic Swiss dessert, renowned for its appearance and unique taste. The dish originates from the south of Switzerland, and it is typically offered in restaurants during the fall.
The main ingredient of this sumptuous dessert is a chestnut paste, made from chestnuts cooked with butter and vanilla extract.
The vermicelli is made by squeezing chestnut paste through a press, creating thick, gooey strings of chestnut goodness that weave and gather in a heap, similar to a nest. Topped with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream swirls for decoration, this is very much a sweet Swiss dish for the Instagrammers!
19 – Bündner Nusstorte (Walnut Dessert)
The Bündner Nusstorte is one of Switzerland’s best-known foods, originating from Graubünden. This sweet treat is a large, dense, pastry, and essentially resembles a top-crust pie, filled with caramelised walnuts.
A beloved Swiss dessert, bündner nusstorte is renowned for its sweetness, texture, and filling nature. So much so, it is often shared among friends, family, and gatherings of people, eaten with tea or coffee.
20 – Apfel Wähe (Apple Tart)
A wähe can be either sweet or savory, depending on the ingredients and the occasion. But few Swiss can argue that apfel wähe, Switzerland’s take on the apple tart, is one of the country’s most popular and sought-after tarts, no matter what time of year it is.
The pastry is made of shortcrust, cinnamon and crushed hazelnuts, and the filling consists of a sweet, indulgent mixture of heavy cream, red apples, eggs and vanilla powder. Despite being a dessert, apfel wähe is commonly enjoyed at lunch by Swiss, due to its richness and filling nature.
Swiss Food Summary
As this diverse list shows, Swiss food goes far beyond the novelty chocolates, cheeses, and dairy products the world has come to know and love.
Beyond those delicacies lies a cuisine packed with fresh produce and tender meats, sourcing ingredients from the sweeping alpines, green forests, and shimmering lakes that make up the natural beauty of Switzerland.
With considerable central European influence, great food was always going to exist between Swiss borders. The hearty pastries, sweet tarts, and organic meats can tantalize the tastebuds of even the most casual of foodies.
A world of wonderful food awaits in Switzerland. Naturally, gorge on cheeses, chocolates, and dairy products. But don’t let your time in the country pass you by without trying some of these classic dishes, be you in the bustle of the city or the beauty of the rural villages.
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Contributor: Leila Brutsch is a London-based Swiss multi-lingual translator and content writer, passionate about shedding more light on Swiss food, culture, and tourism with the world.
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