If one wishes to whip up a wonderful caquelon of savory Swiss fondue, there are only two fundamental ingredients required: wine and cheese. Luckily, Spoon’s recent one-day-excursion to Napa Valley—the local capital of all things wine and cheese—left us with an alarming surplus of both, creating the perfect opportunity for a fondue feast.

Traditionally, fondue is made using firm Swiss or Alpine cheeses like Gruyère or Emmentaler, but for this super-adaptable version of the dish, you can use any cheese your heart desires! Whether it's the fanciest or funkiest of dairy-delicacies or just what you happen to have on hand, most cheeses will actually work perfectly fine. . . as long as you make the right adjustments!

Cheese Adjustment Guide

Flora Huynh

The key to adjusting this recipe for different cheeses lies in the other critical fondue additive: cornstarch. Used to impart texture, cornstarch is responsible for maintaining the delicate, silky consistency of your melted cheese.

Traditional recipes call for about 1 tablespoon of cornstarch for each pound of cheese total. This ratio is a good starting point, but remember that the classical version of fondue is based in hard or medium-hard cow’s-milk cheeses, so take the following precautions when scaling your cornstarch:

 - For other hard/semi-hard cow cheeses like cheddar, parmesan, or gouda, the original ratio should work: 1 tbsp cornstarch to 1 pound of cheese.

- For soft cheeses like camembert or brie, I suggest increasing this ratio to 3 to 6 tbsp cornstarch per pound to make up for the relative lack of structure provided by the cheeses.

- For sheep's milk cheeses, which have a significantly higher fat content compared to cow’s milk cheeses, double the ratio to 2 tbsp cornstarch per pound to balance the excess fat

- Goat cheeses, on the other hand, have very similar milk-fat content to cow's milk cheeses, so I’d suggest maintaining the original 1:1 ratio. Using goat cheese can add a nice pungency to the dish, but it tends to be quite acidic, so I would suggest using a sweeter wine, such as a Riesling or cooking sherry, instead of dry white wine to compensate.

#SpoonTip: Remember, you can make adjustments as you go, so keep an eye on the consistency as your fondue cooks. If it looks too thin, add a little more cornstarch; if it looks too thick, add some more wine. This in mind, I highly recommend playing around with combining/experimenting with multiple cheese choices, using the above information as guidelines.

Cheeses to Avoid

- Ricotta and other whey cheeses: because these cheeses are made from the bi-product of traditional cheese-making (i.e., whey), they don’t have the same structural elements as traditional cheese and will prove too watery to effectively emulsify into the fondue.

- Processed cheeses like American cheese, cream cheese, and vegan cheese-alternatives: these “cheeses” tend to contain emulsifiers and/or oils that can break the delicate emulsion of the fondue. At the end of the day, they just don’t melt the same way traditional cheeses do, which results in a bizarre half-watery, half-chunky fondue consistency.

Feel free to experiment with these if you want, but be warned they probably won't work as well as most other cheeses! 

Improvised Fondue

  • Prep Time:15 mins
  • Cook Time:10 mins
  • Total Time:25 mins
  • Servings:4
  • Medium


  • 1 lb cheese choice {see adjustment guide above}
  • 1-6 tbsp cornstarch {varies depending on cheese variety—see adjustment guide above}
  • 1 clove fresh garlic
  • 8 oz white cooking wine {dry}
  • Assorted crusty breads charcuteries crudités and fruits for dipping
Flora Huynh
  • Step 1

    Grate or chop cheeses depending on texture (smooth/soft cheeses might necessitate chopping while firm cheeses can usually be grated) into reasonably small pieces.

    Flora Huynh
  • Step 2

    In a large mixing bowl, toss grated/chopped cheeses with cornstarch.

    Flora Huynh
  • Step 3

    Lightly crush the garlic clove using the flat side of a large knife. Use the crushed garlic to rub down the inside of a small saucepan (or fondue pot if you have one).

    Flora Huynh
  • Step 4

    Place a small saucepan on the stove, add wine, and bring to a gentle simmer.

    Flora Huynh
  • Step 5

    Once simmering, add the cornstarch mixture one small handful at a time, whisking constantly. When the cheese is fully incorporated, the mixture should be smooth and velvety.

    Flora Huynh
  • Step 6

    Adjust consistency as needed:
    - If the fondue is too thick, whisk in additional wine 1 tbsp at a time until desired consistency is reached.
    - If the fondue is too thin, mix 1 tbsp cornstarch with 2 tbsp wine, then whisk in gradually as needed (keep in mind that it will thicken gradually as it cools).

    Flora Huynh
  • Step 7

    Remove the pan from heat and serve immediately with dippers of choice (see note after recipe). Reheat intermittently on medium-low as needed to re-melt the cheese.

    Flora Huynh

Voila! A gourmet dining experience you can whip up right in the comfort of your own kitchen.

Flora Huynh

Be Adventurous! Make it Your Own!

Explore! Experiment! Combine new and different cheeses and see what happens. This endlessly customizable recipe is my favorite way to approach this delicious dish, so use this recipe and adjustment guide as an outline, get into your kitchen, and start exploring!

Flora Huynh

Just like with your choice of cheese, be sure to get creative with what you serve as dipping options as well. Classics include crostini, apples, pears, mushrooms, salami, and many more, but don't limit yourself to convention. The only way to find out what else might be good is to try it out, so go bananas (literally, try dipping bananas; you'll never know how good it is until you do)!

Flora Huynh

#SpoonTip: If you need a thematically fitting follow-up course, consider making chocolate fondue for your dessert (and if you need help deciding what exactly to dip with, check out Spoon's own unofficial fondue dipper ranking, which specializes in dessert dippers).