Originating from the countryside of Switzerland, Gruyere cheese is well-known for its nutty flavour and wonderful melting capabilities. Though it's found in many cheese speciality shops and supermarkets, many home chefs do not keep Gruyere cheese on hand. Fortunately, several alternative cheeses can replicate its taste.
In order to find a proper alternative to this cheese, it is important to understand its flavour composition. Similar to Emmental cheese, Gruyere is made from raw cow's milk. In the past there were small holes in Gruyere, but today, the process of making this cheese is so controlled that there is not enough raw milk bacteria to make these holes. The majority of Gruyere cheese has been aged for 8 to 10 months. These long ageing time benefits the melting capabilities of Gruyere. The cheese's high cream content and dense texture makes it the perfect cheese to use for onion soup and gratins. Traditionally speaking, real fondue is made with Gruyere cheese. It has a nutty, salty taste with undertones of fruits like apples and pears. The high butterfat-to-moisture ratio makes this one of the most popular cheeses for cooking.
When Gruyere is not available, use an alternative like its closest cousin, Swiss Emmental. These cheeses are made similarly from nearby regions. It is often used in Reuben and croque-monsieur sandwiches. The one drawback is that it has a lower butterfat that Gruyere and will not melt cohesively. Likewise, Jarlsberg Swiss is a good Norwegian cheese to use as a substitute. For those who may be put off by the pungent flavour of Gruyere, Jarlsberg is a good alternative for melting. Some people swear they can replicate the flavour of Gruyere by melting fontina and Parmesan together. Fontina is a mild Italian cheese that has good melting capabilities. To get that nutty flavour of Gruyere, it's best to use some Parmesan for that nutty flavour. Avoid purchasing cheese that is labelled "Italian hard cheese"; this is not the Parmesan that is made in Italy.
It can be frustrating to find a great recipe that includes cheese if you are a vegan, are lactose or gluten intolerant, or watching your weight. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of cheeses you can use. Galaxy Foods offers a cheese made out of rice milk. Their cheeses contain no casein, lactose, soy or gluten. This company also has a soy cheese that comes in mozzarella and Parmesan. Another popular brand is Follow Your Heart. This company is located in Los Angeles, but their cheese can be found in speciality food stores around the country. Their mozzarella is completely vegan and contains no casein. Always look at the label when buying soy cheese. A lot of products contain the milk derivative, casein. Certain brands of cheeses are more difficult to melt than others, so always experiment to find a brand you like.