Asiago vs. Swiss Cheese: What’s the Difference?

Asiago and Swiss Cheese (Emmental) are both cheeses that are made with cow milk and have been around for centuries, but they are made in different ways and have slightly different looks and tastes.

Why Does Swiss Cheese Have Holes?
Why Does Swiss Cheese Have Holes?

In fact, even though Asiago and Swiss cheese are both alpine cheese, Swiss cheese is actually the older of the two and was first produced in Switzerland. To this day it remains a much-loved cheese that you can buy in just about any supermarket.

Let’s go over some of their similarities and differences so you can decide which one is best for you!

Swiss Cheese Variety and Swiss-Style Cheese

Swiss cheese is a wide variety of cheeses that fall under the “Swiss-style” label. This means that they are often made with raw unpasteurized cow milk in the alpine region. Some of the most popular Swiss Cheese are Emmental, Gruyere, and Appenzeller. Asiago is also one of the Swiss-style alpine cheese.

Asiago also has smaller and irregular holes. The signature holes in Swiss cheese, known as “eyes”, actually come from carbon dioxide gases formed during the cheesemaking process (1). These holes can vary in size and depth, but you may find them “blind” as well.

Swiss cheese is now made all over the world, including in America, where it’s called Baby Swiss Cheese or Lacy Swiss Cheese. Some of the brands you can find are Boar’s Head, Joedot, Tillamook, and Land O Lakes.

In the United States, Swiss cheese is frequently used to refer to Emmental cheese.

Are they the same?

Asiago and Swiss cheese are similar but not the same. Asiago cheese is made in Italy while Swiss cheese is made in Switzerland. The taste of Asiago cheese is nuttier and gets sharper as it ages. The Swiss cheese has a more mild, sweet flavor.

Different Flavor Profile and Feature

Asiago and Swiss cheese are both alpine cheeses, but they have different flavors. Asiago cheese is nuttier and sharper as it ages, while Swiss cheese is also nutty but sweeter and has a mild earthy flavor.

They are both semi-hard cheese. The texture of Swiss cheese is smooth, springy, and creamy, while Asiago cheese is a little grainier. The holes in Swiss cheese are larger and rounder while Asiago has much smaller and more irregular holes.

Swiss cheese and Asiago has similar ivory-to-orange color.

Age of the Cheese

As asiago ages, it becomes hard and sharp in flavor. The cheese is typically aged for 6-12 months but can be up to 2 years.

Swiss cheese can also be aged anywhere from a few weeks to several years. However, It’s usually sold younger than asiago, for an average of about 2-8 months. For that reason, Swiss cheese with shorter aging periods tends to be milder, while those that are aged longer can develop deeper flavors like those found in Parmesan and Pecorino.

The aging duration is largely depending on the market preference and uses of the cheese, which we will further explain below.

Production Process

The production process of Asiago (Pressato) and Swiss cheese are somewhat similar. They both begin with bacteria cultures and animal rennet being added to raw whole milk, which curdles it into curd.

For Swiss Cheese, the curd is then cut, stirred, and cooked at 127 °F (53°C) (2). It is then hydraulically pressed under whey to eliminate trapped air and liquid for a smooth texture (3) for 12 hours.

Whereas Asiago is cooked at a slightly lower temperature of 116 °F (47°C) and the whey is then drained. Curds are then dry-salted, molded, and pressed for 4 hours.

Also, the addition of water in Swiss Cheese (3) leads to a higher pH, which resulted in an elastic texture due to high calcium levels and holes formation.

For the last part, Asiago and Swiss cheese are then brined and aged.

The Serve and Use

Both Swiss cheese and Asiago are typically used in dishes where their nutty flavor can be enjoyed. They can be melted into a sauce or served as part of a dish with fruits or nuts.

Swiss cheese is often used on sandwiches, in salads, or as part of a charcuterie board. It can also be melted into dishes like macaroni and cheese or fondue.

Asiago cheese is often shredded and used in pasta dishes, risotto, pizza, and salads.

Nutrition

Asiago is healthy as we discussed here. They both provide a good source of protein and calcium.

By comparing the data from USDA FoodData Central link, Asiago shows a slightly higher fat than Swiss Cheese. As for the sodium, Swiss Cheese is almost 7x lesser than Asiago, that’s huge!

  • Asiago provides a higher volume of Vitamin A than Swiss cheese.
  • Swiss cheese provides a higher volume of Vitamin B-12 (Cobalamin) than Asiago.

Price

The Imported Asiago and Swiss cheese typically cost about the same in the United States at $17-20 per pound. There are also many cheaper alternatives made by local producers.

Reference

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swiss_cheese_(North_America)
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1a7f9wzOfWk
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emmental_cheese
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/emmental-cheese
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