Switzerland's national dishes

Some traditional Swiss dishes, such as fondue and raclette, are more typically eaten in the winter. Others, such as muesli – also known in Switzerland as Birchermüesli – and rösti are popular all year round and come in many variations.

Rösti, a kind of potato cake.
Rösti, a kind of potato cake, is popular throughout Switzerland and can be combined with almost any ingredient. © patate.ch

Cheese fondue

A cheese fondue – the name comes from fondre, the French for 'to melt' – can be made in lots of variations and with different cheese mixtures. The most common combinations include grated Gruyère, Vacherin Fribourgeois and/or Appenzeller cheese. The cheese is melted with white wine and served warm in a wide-topped pot known as a caquelon. To eat the fondue, diners dip small cubes of bread on a long-handled fork into the pot. The pot sits over a burner with an adjustable flame level, keeping the cheese warm and melted.

As it's quite a heavy meal, a fondue is best paired with a dry white wine or hot tea, or even a shot of kirsch. The tradition goes that if you lose your piece of bread in the fondue while stirring, you have to accept some form of penalty. This is usually something quite innocuous, but there are no set rules and you may end up having to run barefoot though the night-time snow!


Rösti is a kind of potato cake served as a main course or side dish. The potatoes are first cooked in their jackets, then peeled and grated before being fried in butter to form a round flat cake. As a main course, the rösti can be garnished with your choice of ingredients, such as fried egg, cheese, vegetables, mushrooms or meat. Rösti is also a tasty accompaniment for many main courses, such as sausages, Geschnetzeltes (creamy meat stew) or fish. What makes rösti unique is the Röstiraffel – a coarse potato grater invented in Switzerland in the late 1800s.

Each region now has its own rösti recipes. In Bern, for example, rösti is served with cheese, onions and bacon. In Zurich, where rösti originally comes from, the potatoes are not cooked before being grated. As a speciality from the German-speaking part of the country, rösti also lends its name to the Röstigraben, the cultural and linguistic 'trench' between French and German-speaking Switzerland. Rösti is now one of the country's best-known national dishes. 


Raclette is a typical dish from the canton of Valais. Traditionally, half a cheese wheel is heated on one side and, as it melts, the cheese is scraped off onto a plate. An easier way to do it is with slices of Raclette cheese, which are melted on small pans in a special grill – a staple in almost every Swiss home. Raclette is eaten with potatoes, garnished with pickled onions and gherkins. It is best paired with a local white wine such as a Fendant. 


Muesli, known in Switzerland as Birchermüesli, is a breakfast or snack consisting of cereal (oat) flakes, chopped fruit and milk. There are countless variations with, for example, honey, yoghurt and nuts. Muesli was created by the Swiss nutritionist Max Bircher-Benner at the beginning of the 20th century. His 'apple diet dish', developed as part of a raw food diet, was originally served to sanatorium patients as an easily digestible evening meal. Nowadays muesli is a staple in Western breakfast culture and is especially popular among athletes as a nutritional supplement.