What are your favorite Swiss foods? I often ask people this question. Typically, I hear “fondue” or “raclette” as the response. At the same time, I sometimes discover a dish that I’ve never heard of before. Switzerland has centuries of food traditions and what seems like endless regional specialties, so I have a hard time naming my favorites because there are just too many. Plus, my top picks are always changing.
You may have seen how others rank their favorite Swiss foods, such as BBC Good Food’s “Top 10 foods to try in Switzerland.” Another great list comes from Newly Swissed, “21 Swiss foods you need to try in your lifetime.” Everyone has their personal favorites.
Now, it’s my turn to weigh in… Of course, I could add many other Swiss foods to the list below, but instead, consider this my first attempt to combine some of my favorites all in one place. So, in no particular order, here they are — 10 foods I think you should try from Switzerland:
1. Basler Läckerli
OK – let me start by saying that there are several regional versions of leckerli in Switzerland. The BBC Good Food list includes “Bern-style lekerlis biscuits with hazelnuts,” also known as Berner Haselnusslebkuchen (or Leckerli de Berne). While I enjoy Bern’s version of leckerli — soft, sweet biscuits with hazelnuts, candied citrus and honey — I actually prefer Basel’s version. The Basler Leckerli generally includes these same ingredients, but also has flour, spices and kirsch. I find the texture to be different as well, particularly the Basler Läckerli — a manufactured biscuit that is dry, chewy, flavorful and absolutely delicious. I can eat them by the handful.
2. Bündner Birnbrot
Another Swiss baked good with regional variations, Birnbrot or Birnenbrot (German) translates to “Pear bread.” The Swiss canton of Graubünden is often associated with this bread, but you can find similar bread in other parts of the country. I like the version with a bread dough surrounding the dried fruit filling, which also includes figs and sort of reminds me of a gigantic Fig Newton. I tried it for the first time at Bäckerei Fuchs in Zermatt, where it’s known as Zermatter Birnenbrot. This rich, substantial bread has a long shelf life — originally designed to last during the cold winter months in Switzerland’s alpine regions.
These little pastries caught my attention right away when we arrived in Switzerland five years ago. Topped with a vivid green icing and a dark chocolate spot in the middle, the Carac is one of my absolute favorite Swiss desserts. With a super-sweet taste and a dark chocolate filling, I recommend eating them with a strong cup of coffee or tea. According to Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse, the Carac has been around since the 1920s, and you’ll find them throughout Switzerland.
4. Soupe de Chalet
I first had Soupe de Chalet (Chalet Soup) at the Maison du Gruyère Restaurant in Pringy-Gruyères. There are different ways to make it, but this comforting soup usually has Gruyère cheese and macaroni, along with some vegetables — like carrots, potatoes and spinach. It’s another hearty Swiss dish, appropriate for the winter months.
As I have mentioned before, the Swiss canton of Ticino is known for chestnuts, and you can try them in many different ways. For example, you can buy roasted chestnuts from outdoor stands during the wintertime in most city centers. Throughout the year, but especially during the autumn season, you can also find vermicelles — delicately sweet chestnut noodles piled high and typically paired with some whipped cream. Chestnut cakes and breads are also common. And, in the Swiss cantons of Vaud and Valais, you can eat chestnuts as part of brisolée, where they are served with a platter of local cheeses, generally during the month of October.
6. Gâteau du Vully
During my first year in Switzerland, a friend recommended that I visit the town of Sugiez, at the base of Mont-Vully in the canton of Fribourg. In this town, the award-winning Boulangerie-Pâtisserie Guillaume is known for its Gâteau du Vully — a delicious yeasted cake featuring puits d’amour or “wells of love.” Before adding the toppings to this cake, you press your fingers into the dough to make evenly dispersed indentations. They help to hold all the cream that’s poured over the cake. The sweet version is simply sweetened with sugar, and the savory version has smoked lardons and cumin seeds. I like them both!
7. Jambon cru du Valais
Switzerland has many different types of dried meats, and one of my favorites, which I find particularly versatile, is Jambon cru du Valais — an air-dried ham. Typically aged between 6 and 10 weeks, you can eat it plain, throw it on a sandwich, serve it with white asparagus (a classic pairing) or fry it crisp like bacon for a million other uses.
8. Meringues with double cream
When people think of meringues in Switzerland, they generally think of Meringue de la Gruyère served with double cream. Although, they may also think of Meiringen, the supposed birthplace of meringues — depending on who you ask! Either way — if you buy the pre-made ones, it is so easy to serve them up with double cream and fresh fruit… And, a scoop of ice cream. This is not a low-fat dessert!
9. Pretzels from Brezelkönig
In many of Switzerland’s larger train stations — particularly on the German side — you will find Brezelkönig. These little shops serve up freshly baked pretzels. You can get them covered in salt, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and more. They also make them into sandwiches with viande séchée (air-dried beef), lots of butter or other fillings. My personal favorite these days is the raclette pretzel, covered in baked cheese. In my family, it’s hard to walk by a Brezelkönig without buying one of these delicious, soft and chewy pretzels. There are currently over 50 of these shops in Switzerland.
10. Saucisson Neuchâtelois
A perennial favorite in my household, we like Saucisson Neuchâtelois in all its many forms: sliced and served in crêpes, boiled over a bed of potatoes and leeks, or cooked in the ashes of a fire. The locals refer to this as Torrée Neuchâteloise, and it’s popular in the fall. You can also wrap this pork sausage, when its pre-cooked, in a brioche dough and bake it.
What Swiss foods would you add to my list? I’m always looking to discover new regional Swiss specialties. Please share a comment below or send me an email. Many thanks!
Updated: May 9, 2022
Categories: biscuits, bread, Cheese, chocolate, cookies, Culinary travel, Dessert, Lunch/dinner, Meat, Swiss, Swiss food, Switzerland
Oh, I miss me some Basler Leckerli! All of these Swiss specialties look good, but from this distance, those are my favorites. Congratulations on 100!
Thanks so much, Anita! Yes, aren’t they good? I have Basler Leckerli in my cookie jar right now and can’t stop eating them! 🙂
Thank you for posting this. We just purchased an 80+ year old bakery in Northern Michigan that has a very strong Swiss selection (a previous owner of 36 years was a Swiss chef). We make Basler Leckerli and Bündner Birnbrot (we call it plum bread) that looks exactly like your pictures. We are planning a trip to Switzerland sometime in the future to get some new ideas. The carac has certainly caught my eye. We also have something that we call Dry Bone cookies, but the traditional name is Bones of the Dead. The documentation that came with the business says it is a Swiss treat, but my research shows it is of Italian origin. Do you have any knowledge of these?
Hello Mr. Kennedy, Congrats on the new bakery! You might want to check out my article (link below)This should have the info you need regarding those cookies. They are known are known as “dead man’s legs.” Best of luck to you, and thanks for contacting me. -Heddi https://cuisinehelvetica.com/2016/10/28/nuss-stengeli/
Thanks Heddi. The Nuss-Stengeli looks very interesting as well. But now I am little more unsure the origin of these cookies. I thought they were Ossi Di Morto (Bones of the Dead), but perhaps not. The cookies we have here include almonds, candied citrus peel and cinnamon. They are a hard dipping cookie with a flavor very similar to the old Windmill Cookies, but a shape similar to the Nuss-Stengeli you sent. The description we inherited from the previous owner, who tells me she received it from the owner before her, says it is a treat found at every bakery in Switzerland. Maybe it is the Dead Man’s Leg cookies altered a bit?
Thanks again, your site is outstanding. We are going to experiment with the carac.
Here’s another link that might be helpful? https://www.patrimoineculinaire.ch/Produit/Ossi-da-mordere-ossi-di-morto/56
And, good luck with the carac!! One of my absolute favorites! 🙂
Yesterday I bought Basler Leckerli at Westside Center (Bern) and they are absolutely delicious.
I like most of them, gâteau de Vully, Meringue double cream, saucisson Neuchâtelois and bretzel, fondu & raclette with grilled bacon for example etc. Just fantastic :)) Thank you for this yummy 🇨🇭 culinary travel~
Thanks for visiting my blog! If you ever have any other suggestions for Swiss food I should try, please let me know. 🙂
It’s a pleasure to read your blog, Heddi and I ‘m happy to get connected to you 😊. Will let you know for sure.
I have two ideas, if you didn’t try yet 😊:
1. Fondue MOITIÉ-MOITIÉ ( terroir fribourg): Vacherin Fribourgeois & gruyère
2. Spécialité de Neuchâtel: (alcohol not food, but really special) Maison de L’Absinthe à Môtier
Thanks for sharing these!
1) Yes, I’ve had this before. A classic! Need to have this again soon… 🙂
2) I’ve been there a few times. Great little museum, and I think Môtiers is a very charming village. J’aime le Val-de-Travers!
Super! Happy to know 😊
My 6yo is obsessed with the Carac! 🙂
One of my absolute favorites! I’m obsessed too. 🙂
have you tried Bündner Nusstorte?
Yes! This is another one I should add to this list. Love this cake. Need to try making it at home. Here’s a blog post I wrote about it: https://cuisinehelvetica.com/2016/07/31/bundner-nusstorte-in-scoul/ Many thanks for visiting my blog! 🙂
All delicious!! Yum!!
These are some of my favorites. 🙂 So many wonderful Swiss foods still to discover though!
Hi Heddi! Your posts are as useful as usual 🙂 I just went through your last post and ended up here. The Brezelkönig shops are also in Geneva’s train station. Since I discovered their pretzels I found very difficult to stop eating them!!!! <3
Hello! Thank you so much for your thoughtful message. It really means a lot. I’m glad you are enjoying those pretzels as much as we are. 🙂 Best wishes, Heddi
White asparagus with sauce mousseline in the spring is heavenly. I could eat fondue and raclette every day although at my age , 64, wouldn’t be such a good idea! We eat each one time a year. Fondue for thé first snow although here in southeast Virginia it didn’t snow at all last year so we cheated. I found a raclette grill at a garage sale for $10. I snapped it up! We do that when the kids come home for fun and grill sauges on thé top. I lived in CH 9 years. Moved back 28 years ago…still miss it like crazy 🇨🇭
Hello Poppy! Thanks for sharing your recommendations! Yes, I’m looking forward to cooler weather for fondue and raclette (although you can enjoy them any time of year). 🙂 Nice work on finding that raclette grill! Love these Swiss cheese dishes — an easy meal to prepare for guests.