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What is Fontina Cheese?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Fontina cheese is a classic Italian cheese, although variations are made in several other countries as well. Depending on where the cheese comes from and how long it has been aged, fontina can be semi-soft to firm in texture, with a range of flavors from mild and creamy to more intense and pungent. The cheese is quite popular in Italian cuisine, especially in the region around the Alps where it originates. Variations have become popular around the world for a variety of cooked dishes and sandwiches, and it also makes a great table cheese.

All fontinas must be made from cow's milk. As a general rule, the milk is usually raw, and the best cheese is made from milk that is as fresh as possible. The interior of the cheese tends to be a rich straw yellow to pale cream in color, and it is classically riddled with very small holes. The milkfat content is usually around 45%, so the cheese tends to be very rich and creamy, with a nutty flavor that gets stronger with aging. The cheese also melts very well, and it is sometimes included in fondue and similar dishes.

In Italy, fontina cheese has been made in the Val d'Aosta since the 12th century. In 1957, a consortium of dairy producers and cheesemakers joined together to protect the cheese, and they stamp it with their mark if it meets their standards. Traditionally, Italian versions have a slightly flowery, summery flavor, thanks to the diet of the cows that are used to produce it. The cheese is also aged longer than other varieties, and it can get quite hard. Italian fontina also has a dark brown rind, which gets darker the longer that the cheese is aged.

A popular variation is Danish fontina. This cheese is certainly inspired by the Italian version, but it has a much more mild, creamy flavor, and it is not aged as long. As a result, it is a semi-soft cheese, rather than a firm one. The Danish cheese also has a red waxed rind. The more mild flavor and soft texture makes it a popular sandwich cheese.

When selecting fontina cheese in the store, shoppers should look for an evenly textured specimen without discoloration. Older Italian cheese may have a strong aroma, but young cheese should have a relatively neutral flavor, especially in wrappings. An Italian fontina stamped with the mark of the consortium will be high quality, although it may cost more than cheeses made in other parts of Italy and the rest of the world.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon357678 — On Dec 05, 2013

I was first introduced to Fontina cheese about a year ago. I don't know the brand but it was Danish fontina, which I found at Walmart. It's the only Fontina they carry. I was in love with this cheese!

I can say that it's a good cross between Swiss and Jarlsberg or something similar but wit a much bolder, creamier taste. Unfortunately, all Walmarts near me stopped carrying it and I can't find it anywhere. If anyone thinks of it or where I can get that brand, please post.

By bluedolphin — On Jan 27, 2013

@anon8075-- Have you tried Italian delis? They carry Italian cheeses imported straight from Italy.

By burcinc — On Jan 26, 2013

@gravois-- Aging it just makes the cheese firmer and the flavor stronger. This is the case with all cheeses. I personally like my fontina very fresh. I eat it almost like gouda, with some bread or crackers. Rarely I have it as fontina cheese fondue. I like it in the most simple way possible. Keeping it simple allows me to discover all of the flavors.

The most important part about fontina is the quality of milk and the article touched on this as well. Several other countries produce their own versions of fontina but it's not the same as Italian fontina.

The cows in Italy are free range and feed on fresh grass. Their milk also tends to be less fatty. So the fontina made from this milk is creamy but not heavy. It's flavorful but not overwhelming. Once I tried a Polish fontina and returned to my Italian fontina immediately.

By stoneMason — On Jan 25, 2013

@anon4077-- I see that quite a few people are asking about substitutes for fontina cheese. I personally don't think that there is a substitute. All of the cheeses mentioned here have unique textures and flavors. If a recipe calls for fontina, try and get fontina. Otherwise, hold off on that recipe for now. Otherwise you won't be doing justice to that recipe. It can come out very different with a different cheese.

By anon312491 — On Jan 07, 2013

I agree that buying fontina cheese online is a great way to go.

By gravois — On Oct 15, 2012
What is the logic behind aged fontina cheese? I like it just fine, but does it really add that much flavor?
By whiteplane — On Oct 14, 2012

Does anyone know where I can buy authentic fontina cheese from Italy? I am not so much worried about price but I do want quality and authenticity.

I have been to Europe several times and I know first hand how much an imitation of their specialty cheeses can pale in comparison to the real thing. Most of the fontina you can buy around here is good, but not great and definitely not divine.

By nextcorrea — On Oct 14, 2012

I used to work at a pizza place that used fontina on some of the pizzas. It was a nice touch and I am surprised that more pizza places don't try it. It gives the pizza a creamy flavor and texture that mozzarella just can't come close to.

By anon183004 — On Jun 03, 2011

You can buy fontina in the UK at Borough Market in London (close to London Bridge Station) open on Thurs, Fri and Sat. There are several stands/shops there which sell it.

By anon78345 — On Apr 18, 2010

I have found Fontina Cheese at WalMart in Alabama. It seams a bit pricey. I was glad to find some comments about substitutions.

By anon63929 — On Feb 04, 2010

I'm in montreal. where can i find this cheese?

By anon57749 — On Dec 27, 2009

Aldi sells the small red wax Danish variety.

By anon35925 — On Jul 08, 2009

I live in Glenco, Ill. I found swedish fontina,imported italian fontina and danish fontina at different times at a store in town that's called the Grand Food Center. Its a small town grocer with a real warm feel to it. If you ask them for something and they don't have it they will order it for you,that's great....:)

By anon33888 — On Jun 13, 2009

Fontina cheese is absolutely marvelous with an excellent steak. I am anxious to find some and try it with some good crackers or bruscetta.

By triciab68 — On Apr 10, 2009

Where can I find it here in Central Illinois?

By anon18012 — On Sep 12, 2008

Fontina and other cheeses from around the world are available in the southern us at Your Dekalb Farmer's Market in Decatur, GA. I bought a pound today for an alfredo sauce recipe...I was checking here on its "meltablity"

By anon17733 — On Sep 05, 2008

fontina cheese can be purchased on the internet. you can get fresh or as aged as you like. just google "buy fontina cheese"

By anon13198 — On May 21, 2008

Where can I find fontina cheese in the southern US?

By elsewhen — On Feb 07, 2008

Unfortunately, I don't know where you can find Fontina cheese in different places around the world, but I do know some good Fontina substitutes.

Since Fontina is a nice semisoft melting cheese, it can substituted with Gruyere, Appenzell (also called Appenzeller) or Abondance. If you cannot find these types, you can try Edam, Havarti or Gouda. If you want to try something that you might have in the refrigerator, you could try Jack, Muenster or Jalsberg.

By anon8075 — On Feb 07, 2008

Where in Colorado can I purchase fontina cheese? What would be a good substitute?

By maureen — On Dec 22, 2007

where in the Brighton region can I get fontina cheese?

By anon4077 — On Oct 02, 2007

I need Fontina cheese for a recipe I am doing. Where can I buy it in the uk and what are good substitutes?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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