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18 foods you must try in the Alps

Food and dishes to try in the Alps

The Alps, the majestic mountain chain that spans across France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Germany, are a paradise to visit and to live. It is one of the few places left to experience nature in its raw form, and places with zero noise from civilization.

The French Alps during the summer

The Alps are a great place to hike, to bike, to ski, and to spend time with friends and family. After all the fun outdoor activities you will probably be very hungry and looking forward to some delicious Alpine comfort food. So, we put together a list of foods you should try while visiting the Alps.


Skiing in the Alps


It will be pretty obvious just by looking at the first dishes listed below that the food in the Alps seems to follow a simple formula that mix and matches a few simple ingredients: cheese + potatoes + meat (charcuterie, ham, lardons, etc). At first sight they might look the same, but the differences in the cheeses that are used and the preparations make it dish distinct. And yes, we have included some ideas for foods to try that do not include cheese.

What to eat in the French Alps

1. Fondue

One way to enjoy cheeses from the mountain cows is to make the traditional fondue. Fondue means “melted” in French, and is made with 2 to 3 different cheeses depending on the recipe. You sit with your friends or family around a hot pot of melted cheese and dip pieces of bread. The challenge is not to drop your bread in the common cheese pot. Because it’s a rich warm dish it is typically enjoyed in cooler weather, anytime in the winter and during cool summer nights after a hike.

The best fondue in the French Alps
One of the customs in the Alps is to finish the fondue with an egg. The egg is dropped in the remaining cheese, mixed until cooked, and then you mix in the remaining chunks of bread. The fondue meal is usually served with sides of salad and charcuterie.

Fondue finished with an egg mixed with the remaining bread

2. Raclette

The raclette is another popular way of enjoying melted cheese in the mountains, this time with more flexibility. In the fondue, the cheeses are picked in advance and everyone eats from the same pot. In the raclette, you also share a central heated device. In past times, people in the mountains used wood fires or coals, or gas, for the raclette, while nowadays the devices are mostly electric. The most common raclette device is the one with 6-8 small individual cheese melting containers. However in some restaurants, especially the ones that like to keep it old style, you will find the classic raclette device that hold an entire half wheel of cheese.

A family raclette meal in the Alps

There are specific raclette cheeses, in the mountains you can find a large variety – some are aged longer, some are from different regions, etc. Personally we like to add some non-raclette denominated cheese, as long as they melt nicely and taste great. Each person selects their choice of cheese slices and melts their own slice in their own container/holder. Once the cheese is melted, you pour it on top of potatoes. In addition to the potatoes, the raclette meal will usually include a refreshing lettuce salad, a selection of charcuterie, cornichons/olives, and bread.

Raclette and sides

3. Tartiflette

More melted cheese dishes? Welcome to the French Alps. The tartiflette is very similar to the raclette and fondue, but the mixing work is already done for you. Potatoes, lardons (French style bacon}, crème fraiche, and Reblochon cheese are baked in the oven in a gratin casserole style dish.


Tartiflette goes well with a refreshing lettuce salad, and the unique taste of the Reblochon makes it a dish whose flavor is hard to replicate without this ingredient. So especially if you are in the French Alps, where Reblochon can be found, give it a try. Tartiflette inspired dishes are very popular in the mountains; you can even find tartiflette pizza.

Tartiflette pizza

4. Reblochonade

It is tempting to think about the Reblochonade as the same dish as the tartiflette or very similar to a raclette meal, and that’s okay, because the differences are minimal. Both dishes use the key ingredient, the Reblochon cheese, and almost the same ingredients.

Reblochonade dish from the Alps

The reblochonade usually involves melting the Reblochon cheese in its own container and then pouring it over potatoes.  Sometimes the potatoes are simply boiled and sliced. In some restaurants they have a device, which is more of contraption where you have one level to melt the cheese and another level where you can roast the potatoes. There are no lardons with the reblochonade (unlike the tartiflette), but you will likely have a side of charcuterie to satisfy that cheese + meat + potato combination.

Reblochonade side dishes

5. Boite Chaude

There is a lot of redundancy in some of these cheese based dishes. The boite chaude (translates as hot box) is a dish where the cheese is melted in its own container or in a small wooden container). This sounds very similar to the Reblochonade. The difference is that the cheese used is not Reblochon. The original dish was created using Mont D’or cheese in the Swiss Alps, but some towns in the Alps will make it using one of their own local cheeses. It is served with (you guessed it) boiled potatoes, charcuterie, and a side salad.


Boite Chaude melted cheese in the Alps

6. Diots

The diots are pronounced “dyo”, and in English the word can sound like a close word to something else 🙂 The word diot means sausage, and its etymology comes from the old dialect in the Savoie region. There are different kinds of diots, some are smoked, some are cured and some are uncured, some are mixed with additional ingredients (mushrooms, herbs, cabbage, etc). The most popular way of preparing diots is with a wine sauce and they are usually served with potatoes or a gratin, like the gratin dauphinois, or with a special type of pasta also: the crozets. We’ve also tried the diots in their own gratin style dish.

Diots or sausages in the Alps

7. Crozets

Crozets are square-shaped little pastas made with buckwheat flour. They can cooked and served as you would regular pastas, or they can also be used in a dish called croziflette, which is like a tartiflette but made with the crozet pasta instead of potatoes.

Crozets from the Alps

8. Gratin dishes

The gratin is a dish made in the oven, typically with potatoes or other vegetables. In French, gratin comes from the verb gratiner, which means to broil. The potato gratin dauphinois is a dish originating from the region of Dauphiné, that comprises the surroundings of Grenoble. Some recipes don’t include any cheese in the gratin, while others do. Some recipes are made with a mix of milk, eggs, garlic, and other use cream instead of milk/eggs. Whichever version you get to taste, the gratin dauphinois is one of the most traditional dishes of the Alps.

Classic potato gratin

Other variations of the gratin that we’ve tried include the previously mentioned gratin made with the diot sausages, and one of Layla’s favorites, a gratin made with cardoons. A cardoon is a vegetable that is related to the artichoke. It has exactly the same flavor as the artichoke heart, the difference is that it grows in a stalk form (like celery) and the stalks are used to cook.

Cardoon gratin in the Alps

9. Salads

Salads are usually included as side dishes with many of the main meals in the Alps. As a side salad they’re usually very simple, but refreshing and with a tasty dressing. You can also order entrée salads that are larger and more filling. Most restaurants will have their own salad creations, one of the most popular is the Salade Savoyarde – which usually includes lardons (uncured bacon pieces) , Beaufort cheese, and boiled egg. Some will also include tomatoes, olives, goat cheese toasts, etc. Given the local ingredients, you really won’t get a bad salad in the Alps.

Salad in the Alps


10. Charcuterie: Ham {Jambon), saucisson, and cured meats

Cured meats, including jambon de Savoie and saucisson, are must have sides for many Alpine dishes. They are also great to serve with an aperitif or as pre-dinner appetizer. They’re also perfect for sandwiches, especially for a long hike, bike ride, or ski day. There are two main types of ham or jambon: cru and cuit. Jambon cru is cured and served cold. Jambon cuit is more similar to what we have in the US and can be used (when sliced very thinly) for sandwiches, but is also sliced thicker and cooked in pan to be served as part of a warm meal.

Jambon cuit meal in the Alps
Saucisson is a dry cured sausage. There are many variations, from the classic simple version to those that are mixed with herbs, spices, and more. Saucisson is delicious on its own, just remember to peel it before eating, but also works great on top of baguette slices, with a little bit of Alpine butter.

Saucisson and charcuterie plate in the Alps

11. Cheese

When not eating one of the above delicacies, it is an experience in and of itself to taste cheeses on their own, for their unique flavor. It is remarkable that with only cow milk to start from, so many different varieties of cheeses can be produced. Some of our favorite cheeses from the French Alps include: Beaufort, Tomme de Savoie, Reblochon, goat cheeses (both fresh and aged), raclette cheese (try the classic and the goat cheese), and also tasty sheep cheeses. For a creamy blue cheese try the Blue de Bonneval from Savoie.

Cheeses in the French Alps

12. Mountain butter

Just like cheeses taste different from any other place in the world, the same goes for butter. Locally made mountain butter tastes like no other: quality milk makes quality butter. You can put it on tartines for breakfast, with bread and jam, you can cook with it. From nutritional quality to taste, not all butters are made the same. One of our favorite sandwich fillings includes Tomme de Savoie cheese, some local butter, a bit of mustard and charcuterie, that’s all you need to make a true mountain sandwich.

Mountain butter in the Alps

13. Eggs and omelets

If you are lucky to find farmers’ markets and local producers during your trip to the mountains, you’ll want to taste some of the most amazing — and nutritious — eggs you will get a chance to eat. When we go to the Alps it’s not uncommon to meet wild chickens on the village’s main plaza, around a corner, between wild fields of grass and flowers. The term “free range chicken” takes a whole new dimension compared to what animals do for the eggs you buy in your regular store. They live in nature, truly 100% free, feed naturally, reproduce naturally, and the result is mouthwatering eggs.

The egg yolk’s color is bright orange in the summer, simply from the food, the water, the sun, fresh air, and the freedom they enjoy. Whether you make a simple fried egg or order an omelet at a local restaurant, this is another reminder of how good an egg can taste.

Farm eggs in the French Alps

14. Local vegetables and fruits

One of the things you’ll notice when you visit villages in the mountains is that many people have a vegetable garden in their backyard. Usually they also have trees on their properties these trees typically are fruit producing. Once again, you’ll need to go to the farmer’s market to find local products, and particularly in the summer you can find amazing fruits and vegetables.

Red currants in the Alps

There’s a reason that potatoes are so popular in Alpine dishes, and the local ones are delicious. Another popular local crop includes lettuce and salad greens – with such freshness all you need is a good dressing. Other vegetables and fruits we see grown by the locals include leeks, peas, carrots, green beans, cabbage, chard, fresh herbs, raspberries, currants, plums, and more. Eating and cooking with these fresh ingredients will help balance out all cheese/meat dishes.

Vegetable garden in the Alps

15. Wild berries

When walking through mountains you may come across a variety of wild berries, our favorites are the wild strawberries and cherries. Especially alpine strawberries have an amazing taste, they grow typically on steep sides of trails, and their size is tiny, much smaller than the typical strawberry you find in store. Have an eye for spotting them. In the summer their red color stands out, and if you also know the shape of the strawberry leaves, once you see a cluster of leaves you have the hint that berries could be near that spot. It’s a fun experience to look for them, pick them and eat them on the spot if you have kids. As a kid I loved it, and now we do this with our kids too.

Picking wild alpine strawberries

Finding wild cherries on a hike is one of those unexpected surprises. We found a wild cherry tree with the most beautiful small red cherries. We ate some on the spot, and luckily had an extra bag that we used as a container to bring some back to our apartment. Our intention was to make a tart, but they were gone too quickly.

Wild cherries in the Alps

16. Local honey

There is something special about cows enjoying nature and natural grass. The same applies to honey. The Alps feature some of the most scenic views, with endless fields of wildflowers growing in a perfect climate, sun exposure, and hydration. It’s a bee’s paradise, and one of the places where pesticides haven’t made their way. I was in Savoie last month and discussed with one of the locals, who has hives and makes his own honey. He likes doing this to connect with the bees, to observe them live, and stay in touch with nature. We usually find the local honey at the local farmers’ market and since our son is a huge honey fanatic we almost always bring some back with us.

Honey in the French Alps

17. Tourtons des Alpes/Bugnes

This list would not be complete without dessert. When I was a kid we lived with my grandmother for a few years in the town of Saint Jean de Maurienne. She used to make bugnes almost all the time. It was a quick and easy to do dessert that could be enjoyed with or without added sugar. The bugnes originate from Savoie, although some say it comes from Lyon. Regardless, Lyon is part of the Alps also, so in the grand scheme of things bugnes are from the Alps.

Tourtons des Alpes - Bugnes
You will find them on menus in some restaurants, or you can make them at home. One of the local restaurants in the village we visit makes a variation of bugnes that are called tourtons. They’re a stuffed pastry and usually have a filling of apples, they’re served sprinkled with sugar and with a side of blueberry jam.

18. Berry tarts

Another one of our favorite desserts in the Alps are berry tarts. Blueberry tart {tarte myrtilles} is usually found on most restaurant menus – bonus if it’s served with genepi (an herbal liqueur) ice cream.

Blueberry tart with genepi ice cream

Local bakeries always have a selection of berry tarts, made with local berries – especially in the summer, but go early because they sell out quickly.

Berry tarts in the French Alps

Foods to try in the Alps:

Foods to try in the Alps


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One Comment

  1. Wow, wow, wow. Thank you so, so much. I would love to visit and stay a while. Beautiful scenery. Very nicely done. God bless you. Love the Swiss Alps .

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