10 Ways to Win at Fondue This Winter
As a child of the 1970s, I knew my fondue. The Swiss tradition of dipping bread and more into cheese, hot oil, and chocolate was all the rage in the '70s, from fondue restaurants to fondue parties at home. I eventually inherited all the fondue equipment from both my grandmother and my parents, and in my 20s occasionally pulled it out for fun retro evenings with friends.
But the thing about fondue—no matter how kitschy it might appear—is that it's in fact a wonderful way to entertain (what's not to love about cooking together and grazing for dinner?), and it's perfect for cozy nights, from Thanksgiving to Easter.
But does a fondue night in 2022 have to be a recreation of one in 1972? Of course not! Here are 10 tips and tricks to bring your fondue night up to date, from dippers to sauce… and no special equipment necessary. Get ready to enjoy easy at-home fondue right now.
Don't do all three fondue styles in one night
A traditional fondue meal consists of a cheese fondue appetizer, an oil fondue main course with proteins and vegetables cooked in hot oil with various dipping sauces, and a chocolate fondue dessert. Add a salad and you have a totally authentic fondue experience. But that's a LOT of melting and dipping (and calories). Pick one style—cheese, oil, or chocolate—and make that the focus of your night.
Swap out the fondue pot for a slow cooker
Fondue pots are beautiful, but they can be fussy and unpredictable. For easy fondue that you don't have to worry about, use some modern gear! Slow cookers can be a great way to fondue: There's no live flame to tend (and sterno to buy) and that appliance will allow your fondue to stay warm for hours if you want it to. Further, a slow cooker is affordable, comes in a range of sizes, and is super useful for other things (not true for a traditional fondue pot).
If you're doing cheese or chocolate fondue, use a 1-2-quart slow cooker. Keep cheese on low to prevent burning; chocolate will stay perfect on warm. A tabletop induction burner is also a great way to fondue, especially for main courses. They come in singles or doubles for flexibility and can be a fun addition to your kitchen when you need an extra burner or something portable.
Reach for bamboo skewers or just plain forks
Those long fondue forks are certainly nostalgic and a fun way to help oneself, but an equally inexpensive (and more useful) buy is a set of bamboo skewers. You can also use regular stainless-steel forks with no shame in your fondue game.
Expand your cheese fondue flavor beyond the traditional
While classic fondue cheeses like Gruyére and Emmentaler are straight up delicious, there's a much wider world you can dip into on a cheese fondue night. Go for more of a queso style with some roasted chilis or add some flair with a spice like harissa or za'atar.
Expand your cheese fondue dippers beyond bread and apples
While classic "appetizer" cheese fondue is served with a combination of bread and apple chunks, you can easily turn it into a main course by adding dippers like baby roasted potatoes; chunks of cooked sausage or meatballs; cooked Brussels sprouts, baby carrots, and broccoli and cauliflower florets.
Guarantee a smooth texture with a secret ingredient
Finally, if you hate how some cheese fondues can break and get greasy, or just want pure cheese flavor with no added booze or spice, use sodium citrate to make any cheese you want into smooth, creamy cheese sauce with intense flavor and no breaking or greasiness.
Swap out hot oil for broth
Oil fondue, while traditional, can often be overly greasy or rich, and many people are nervous about pots of boiling oil on the table as both a fire and health risk. So, lean into more of a hot pot feel and cook your meats and proteins in a rich hot broth instead. Whether you use homemade chicken stock or store bought or find a great recipe for a pho or ramen-style broth, cooking your main course in broth instead of oil is lighter, and the bonus is that it creates a wonderful, enriched stock that gets better tasting as the meal goes on. (Pro tip: Add any meat and vegetable leftovers to the broth the next day to make a post-fondue soup that will ensure nothing is wasted.)
Add spice to your chocolate fondue
A classic chocolate fondue is a pretty perfect dessert: Melted chocolate with fabulous dippers like chunks of pound cake, banana slices, whole strawberries, and marshmallows is never going to be unwelcome come dessert time. But just because a dish is fabulous doesn't mean it isn't prime for a modern twist. Add some spice to break up the richness:
- Warming spices like cinnamon or cardamom
- A hint of heat from dried ground chili peppers (cayenne for a clean heat, Aleppo or espelette for a fruity heat, and chipotle for a smoky heat)
- Spice blends like Chinese five spice and Indian garam masala for rich, complex flavors
Upgrade your chocolate
Instead of the expected dark or milk chocolate, think about chocolates like caramelized white chocolate, or use Valrhona Inspirations Chocolate Disks (Feves), which come in strawberry, raspberry, yuzu, passionfruit, and almond versions.
Swap out your chocolate altogether!
You can also ditch the chocolate altogether and do a warm caramel fondue instead. Pick up tubs of caramel dip you find in the produce section of your supermarket and just warm it up!