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Six common myths about Swiss food you need to stop believing

Unlike France and Italy, Switzerland is not known for its gastronomy. But if you live here, you probably heard some of these myths.

Six common myths about Swiss food you need to stop believing
This 'Swiss' cheese is Emmentaler. Photo by Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

While there’s nothing really ‘mythical’ about Swiss food, some myths need to be dispelled anyway.

Let’s face it — unlike France and Italy, Switzerland is not known for its gastronomy.

But if you live here, you need to get some facts straight about the food you eat (or even the food you wouldn’t touch).

Myth 1: The Swiss don’t call ‘Swiss cheese’ Swiss cheese

Just as there isn’t such a thing as Swiss language, there also isn’t a singular ‘Swiss’ cheese.

In many countries, any cheese with holes is called ‘Swiss’, but in Switzerland that ‘holey’ cheese is Emmentaler.

If you visit Switzerland and ask for Swiss cheese, all you’ll get is a blank stare. 

Myth 2: Swiss food is bland

If you believe Swiss food has no ‘kick’ to it, just try Cenovis.

This brown sandwich paste made of yeast, invented in 1931 in the canton of Aargau, is so salty, it can only be eaten when a thick layer of butter is spread on a slice of bread.

For those who have never tried it, according to the bastion of knowledge that is Wikipedia, Cenovis “is similar to English Marmite, Brazilian Cenovit, and Australian Vegemite”. 

According to the company itself, Cenovis’ history is closely tied to that of the amber ale. 

“In 1931, a brewer recycled the yeast used for the fermentation of beer: vegetal substances very rich in vitamin B1. After several tests, the product was perfected and a group of Swiss brewers launched Cenovis; the product was an immediate success and the famous spread was so good that from 1955 it was included in the rations for Swiss soldiers… Healthy and strong soldiers!”[1]

Still, Cenovis sandwiches are quite popular in Switzerland.

Myth 3: Swiss-produced food is better than foreign food

While many people will gladly commute across the border to France, Italy, and German to buy cheaper food, others would much rather pay higher prices for the “Made in Switzerland” label.

They claim local foods are of higher quality and taste better than imported ones.

It is not quite clear whether this is a myth, but there’s no scientific proof that either side is right or wrong.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you and your tastebuds. 

Myth 4: ‘Swiss Miss’ is not Swiss at all

American tourists plonking down at a Swiss cafe and asking for a glass of Swiss Miss are likely to be in for a rude shock when they realise the American hot chocolate drink is not Swiss at all. 

In fact, Swiss Miss is not well known outside of the US – and particularly not in Switzerland. 

Swiss Miss was invented in the 1950s by a Sicilian immigrant to the United States. Originally it was served only on airplanes, but eventually became so popular that you’ll find it in pantries all across the United States.

As for why it got that name, your guess is as good as ours. 

Myth 5: The Swiss haven’t invented any foods or drinks

OK, so Swiss Miss isn’t a Swiss invention, but actually, the Swiss have had an important role in culinary innovation. 

Perhaps the most famous Swiss food is muesli – otherwise known as birchermüsliwhich was invented by Swiss doctor Maximilian Bircher-Benner in 1900.

The cereal made of oats, grains, nuts, seeds and fresh or dried fruits grew in popularity and now can be found the world over. 

Photo by Annie Spratt , Unsplash

Another (in)famous Swiss invention is instant coffee, which is now found in the back of cupboards the world over. 

READ MORE: How Switzerland won the race to invent instant coffee

Besides Cenovis mentioned above, there is the Aromat powdered seasoning. There is hardly a household in Switzerland that doesn’t have this condiment in the kitchen.

It is most commonly used on boiled or hard-cooked eggs.


And let’s not forget Rivella, the quintessential Swiss soda drink made from milk whey.

It is said that only those who were born and bred in Switzerland actually enjoy the unusual taste of this drink.  But that, too, may be a myth.

Myth 6: If it sounds appetising, then it must be

Actually, the opposite is true as well.

Take, for example, cholera.

Yes, cholera. While you may naturally be put off by this name, it is actually a delicious savoury pie, which just happened to be invented during the cholera epidemic in the 19th century.

It combines cheese with various vegetables, and is a hearty meal by itself.

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The 16 regional food delicacies from around Switzerland you need to try

Switzerland is best known for cheese and chocolate, but there is much more to discover in culinary terms across its four language areas.

The 16 regional food delicacies from around Switzerland you need to try


If like many foreigners you have landed in Zurich on an empty stomach and crave a hearty meal, head to the Restaurant Kronenhalle for a Züri Gschnätzlets. Zurich’s very own cult dish is made of finely sliced veal fillet dipped in a creamy mushroom sauce and served with Rösti – another Swiss classic.

The Bern version of this popular potato dish – simply called Berner Rösti – adds diced bacon to the potatoes, which themselves can be sautéed or shallow-fried in a pan. Once cooked, Rösti is always served with the crust side up.

If you’re in the mood for something lighter, Basel’s Mehlsuppe – a staple Fasnacht dish – makes a perfect meal for a cold day. Legend has it that a clumsy cook once burned the flour meant for the soup and instead of tossing it, added it to the broth only for it to prove a success with diners. The soup is traditionally made with (burned or unburned) flour, bouillon, red wine, and butter, and eaten with bread.

When asking the German-Swiss for pasta suggestions you are likely to be recommended a portion of Älplermagronen, the Swiss take on your classic Mac and Cheese. The name itself translates to alpine macaroni pasta and the recipe can differ from region to region, with some opting for bacon or caramelised onions, while others alternate between various types of cheese. In any case, it’s a worthy guilty pleasure food.


The French-speaking part of Switzerland is arguably home to two of the country’s most well-known cheese dishes both domestically and abroad: Fondue and Raclette.

In Switzerland, both dishes are a must in the winter, but even the Swiss are divided on which melted cheese concoction takes the crown. However, one thing is commonly agreed upon: Whether you prefer your cheese melted in white wine to make a thick soup or heated in a pan to make Gschwellti – there is no wrong answer.

Speaking of Gschwellti, the Swiss potato dish (often paired with Raclette) may be the underdog among foreigners, yet it’s super easy to make. To fix up these cheesy potatoes, you can use a variety of potatoes, steam or boil them until tender, and remember to leave the skin on. Then simply top the potatoes with your melted Raclette cheese and a Swiss favourite is born.

You can travel far and wide and not hear a single soul express an urge for a slice of cholera – until you cross the border into Valais that is. In the canton, Cholera – a leek and potato cake – is considered a regional delicacy. Though never confirmed, it is argued that the flaky pastry gets its name from the word Chola or Cholu, meaning coal in the Valais dialect, and not in fact, the cholera outbreak. Go figure.

Neighbouring Vaud is home to the Papet Vaudois, a one-pot dish so yummy it is commonly called one of the finest dishes Switzerland has to offer. The Papet Vaudois is traditionally prepared using sausages from the canton of Vaud, such as the saucisson vaudois (pork) or the saucisse aux choux Vaudois (pork mixed with cabbage). The sausage of your choice is then placed over the creamy potato and leek mix.


Ticino is home to countless culinary highlights, the majority of which draw on recipes from its southern neighbour, Italy. One great example for this is Polenta, a cornmeal mush prepared with only water and cornflour that is said to go back to Roman times. Though you get the best results by continuously hand-stirring the mixture over a chimney fire, today you can luckily buy pre-cooked polenta to getting stuck with repetitive strain injury.

Ticino is also known, among other things, for its chestnut forests and many locals and tourists alike enjoy visiting the region in the autumn for a round of chestnut-picking. Today, many recipes are made using chestnuts – once Ticino’s staple food – such as the Kastanieneintopf, an oven-baked chestnut stew featuring potatoes and bacon, and the Tessiner Kastaniensuppe, a delicious, creamy soup refined with cinnamon, pink peppercorn, and rosemary.

For dessert, we recommend trying the canton’s torta di pane (bread cake), which can be made using stale white bread paired with dried fruit nut (raisins). The tasty cake was invented by the region’s lesser financially fortunate and helps reduce food waste while being deliciously sweet.


Though less popular internationally than its German, French and even Italian-speaking counterparts, the canton of the Grisons sure has its fair share of regional delicacies to lure visitors to its borders.

The people of Surselva swear by Capuns, a spinach beef wrap slash dumpling simmered in milk or cream. However, if you attempt to make Capuns yourself, you best be warned. It is said that each family has its very own recipe for this famous concoction, ranging from adding varied ingredients (dried meat, bread, mint, chives, onions) to using entirely different cooking methods (boil, simmer, fry, bake). But don’t let the gazillion recipes throw you off, Capuns is worth a try whichever cooking combination you attempt.

Another Grisons must-try recipe is Maluns, which is made of – you guessed it – potatoes. Grab a bag of potatoes, flour, salt, butter, and a big portion of patience, for this dish needs to be fried (very) slowly until light brown for the perfect taste. Add apple sauce and some cheese to round it off.

While in Grisons, you should also order some local Bündner Gerstensuppe. The barley soup is also well-known outside of Grisons and particularly favoured after a day spent on the slopes. Recipes differ from town to town, but usually include barley, Grisons meat, garlic, onion, and leek.