What is Raclette Cheese?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Raclette cheese is a Swiss semi-firm cows-milk cheese which is most famously used to make a Franco-Swiss dish which also goes by the name “raclette.” Although this cheese originated in Switzerland, it is also made in France, and some American dairies produce their own version of raclette cheese as well. Good raclette cheese is mild, creamy, and slightly nutty, and it is ideally suited for melting; if you have trouble tracking down raclette, you can try using Emmentaler or Jarlsberg cheeses, both of which are usually easy to obtain.

Raclette pairs well with prosciutto.
Raclette pairs well with prosciutto.

This cheese was developed in the Alps, the home of a number of rich, creamy cheeses created from the summer and early fall milk of cows with naturally high butterfat. Like most cheeses, raclette cheese is made by curdling milk, straining the curds, packing them into rounds, and then aging the cheese in controlled conditions; raclette can be sold as young as three months old, although many people prefer cheese which is a bit older.

New potatoes, which are sometimes served with raclette cheese.
New potatoes, which are sometimes served with raclette cheese.

When raclette cheese has been handled well at the creamery, it will have a dark beige rind, and the interior of the cheese should be creamy, without a granular texture. This cheese is typically sold in large rounds, and your cheese shop should be happy to cut a sample for you to taste before purchasing a wedge. The flavor is very heavy on cream, and the cheese may also be seasoned with herbs, white wine, or pepper, and sometimes smoked.

While one could use raclette cheese in an assortment of ways, the classic use of this cheese involves melting it and serving it with boiled new potatoes, pickled onions, an assortment of sliced meats, and vegetables. While fondue is probably the more famous Swiss dish, raclette is actually more popular than fondue in many parts of Switzerland, and in fact this dish inspired the name of the cheese: “raclette” comes from the French racler, “to scrape,” a reference to the fact that the melted cheese must be scraped from a grill or hearthstone onto the plate of the diner.

Raclette can also be melted in an assortment of dishes, including fondue, and it may be eaten plain. The creamy, mild taste pairs well with an assortment of things, making this cheese good for quick snacks or an after-dinner cheese platter. Many people also enjoy making grilled cheese sandwiches with raclette; paired with a salty preserved meat like prosciutto or salami, a grilled cheese sandwich with raclette can be quite filling.

Raclette cheese originated in Switzerland.
Raclette cheese originated in Switzerland.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

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

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Discussion Comments


I am not sure if this qualifies as a grilled cheese sandwich, but I like to make broiled Italian sandwiches filled with shaved salami, capicolla ham, mortadella, and hot peppers. I buy good provolone cheese to put on top of my sandwich.

I make my sandwich by buttering two pieces of Italian bread and sprinkling herbs on the butter. I preheat the oven on high-broil with a cookie pan inside. I place the bread butter side down on the hot pan. Next, I place the cheese on both sides of the bread, and stack the bread with the shaved meats and hot peppers. When the sandwich is done, I put the two halves together and eat it with a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil.


@Georgesplane- I personally like to make grilled cheese sandwiches on a couple of thick slices of multigrain bread, and stuff the sandwich with shredded Manchego, drunken goat cheese and mozzarella.

This may be tasty on its own, but there is one more important step to making the ultimate grilled cheese, in my opinion. Once I am ready to start cooking my sandwich, I preheat a pan to medium high heat. While the pan is heating, I spread softened butter on the multi-grain bread. On top of the butter, i spread a thin layer of olive and garlic tapenade. I place the first slice of bread, tapenade side down in the pan, sprinkle with cheese, then place the final slice of bread on top of the sandwich.

The tapenade makes a crispy, salty crust on the sandwich that works well with the flavor of the cheeses. If you are feeling ambitious, you can add things like shaved ham, roasted red peppers, or arugula to the sandwich.


What are people's opinions on the best grilled cheese sandwich? I was having a discussion with a friend about the best grilled cheese sandwich, and my friend said it was a combination of Gorgonzola, mild cheddar, and Swiss Raclette cheeses.

Now I have never had this type of grilled cheese sandwich, but I would have to say that Muenster and mozzarella make the best grilled cheese sandwich. I will have to buy some Raclette to try out her recipe, but I am still convinced my recipe will be better. After the discussion though, I became interested in knowing how other people put their spin on my favorite food...the grilled cheese sandwich.

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