Cheese comparison

Swiss Cheese vs Provolone – What’s The Difference?

Struggling to tell Swiss and Provolone cheese apart? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! This article will help you understand the differences between these two types of yummy cheese.

First of all, both are semi-hard cheeses with a mild flavor, neither cheese is overly strong in flavor, and they are safe kinds of cheese to suit most people, neither is too strong in flavor.

Both kinds of cheese appear in a lot of dishes, from starters to main courses and although these cheeses have many things in common, they have distinctive differences in origin, taste, and in moderation can be part of a healthy diet.

To understand the contrast between provolone and Swiss, it is essential to know the features that describe each type.

Let’s dive in.

Swiss cheese vs Provolone.
Swiss Cheese.

Swiss & Provolone Varieties of Cheese

Let’s go head to head with Swiss and Provolone. Both make great melters for sandwiches or sliced on charcuterie boards, with some fresh mozzarella cheese of course.

So, are provolone and Swiss the same? Here’s an understanding of each:

  • Swiss Cheese: Has a mild nutty taste, pale yellow color, and has big holes or ‘eyes’. Although originally a flavorful cheese from Switzerland, It’s produced in countries like France, Germany, and Ireland too. Its unique flavor is due to acid-producing bacteria, which form air bubbles as it ages over weeks or months.
  • Provolone: An Italian pasta filata cheese, named after the Italian word ‘provola’ meaning “large ball” or “bunch”. Its flavor depends on how long it was aged. Milder versions have buttery notes, while intense ones have smoky tastes and aromas. Its color can range from white to yellow, with darker colors in longer-aged varieties.

    So, let’s dive a little deeper…
Provolone cheese sliced.
Provolone cheese sliced.

The Main Differences Between Swiss & Provolone Cheese

Whether you are after Swiss Cheese or Italian cheese, both are good choices for semi-hard cheeses for a sandwich, a cheese board, or just t snack on ( speaking from experience here), but let’s take a closer look.

Milk & Color

Both kinds of cheese are made from cow’s milk and are classed as semi-hard varieties. But, provolone is usually pale yellow, while Swiss cheese can be light yellow-white to darker yellow-brown and vary more.

Flavor & Texture

Provolone has a mild, slightly sharp taste when cold or melted. Swiss cheese has a nutty flavor with a hint of sweetness when melted. This makes it a popular cheese for melting over dishes like French onion soup or Reuben sandwiches (massive fan of a good Reuben).

In regards to texture, provolone can go from soft and elastic when young to hard and crumbly with age. Swiss cheese is usually firm and smooth, with slight crunchiness due to air pockets that form during aging. (yummm)

So, did Swiss Cheese actually come from Switzerland?

It sure did. Like Gruyere Cheese, Swiss Cheese started in Switzerland, the land of chocolate, skiing, and good melting cheese 🙂

Swiss cheese going through the aging process.
Swiss cheese aging in Switzerland.

Origin of Swiss Cheese

Swiss cheese is a special name for a few kinds of cheese made in Emmental and other cantons of Switzerland. It looks like a large, round wheel with a pale yellow color and small holes scattered throughout. There are two main types – Emmenthaler (also known as Classic Swiss Cheese) and the more flavorful Gruyere.

This cheese has been made since the Middle Ages and is exported worldwide! To be called Swiss cheese, it must be made in Switzerland and stored under certain conditions. In 1996, the European Union gave it protected geographical indication status.

But, still, you will see Swiss cheese made in the USA.

Origin of Provolone Cheese

Provolone cheese is made from cow’s milk and hails from Southern Italy. It has a mild, smoky taste plus a slight sharpness. It’s from Lombardy and Veneto regions and comes in two versions: mild and aged. The name “provolone” likely comes from the phrase “large provole” due to the long strings it was once made into. Over time, the strings became round and later, wheel shapes.

This cheese is popular for its versatility. It is used for slicing, grilling, melting, and other dishes, both savory and sweet. It’s also used for Italian-American meals such as veal Parmigiana (my fave) and Italian sandwiches.

Furthermore, Provolone dates back to the 15th century when monks used it and is known as a popular Italian-style cheese.

So, let’s get tasting people.

Taste, Texture, and Appearance

Swiss cheese and provolone cheese differ in taste, texture, and look. Swiss cheese has a mild nutty flavor and a firm, smooth texture. It also has large air pockets that create holes. Provolone cheese is sharper, and its flavor and texture depend on aging time and origin. It has small, even-shaped holes.

Colorwise, both cheeses can be light and get a little darker in color depending on how long they have been aged for.

Swiss cheese on a platter.

Nutritional Value

Swiss and Provolone cheese both have health benefits. Swiss cheese is better for you, with less fat and more protein. An ounce of Swiss has 72 calories, 5g fat, 7g protein, and 152mg sodium. Provolone has 103 calories, 7g fat, 8g protein, and 289mg sodium. Swiss has Vitamin A and B-12. Provolone has more calcium, with 322mg compared to 270mg in Swiss.

Taste-wise, both have their advantages. Provolone is sharper, while Swiss has a subtle nutty flavor. Swiss melting cheese works well for sandwiches and other dishes too.

Lactose & Health

Are you lactose intolerant? Well, both of these cheeses could be a great option. Semi-hard cheeses like Swiss Cheese are known as a decent alternative for those people that have lactose intolerance.

Provolone, provolone piccante, and provolone dolce are an even better choices for those in the United States with lactose intolerance, and they generally have less sodium, are higher calcium, and are good for bone health too.

In regards to health, don’t feel guilty using cheese on your next sandwich, as both kinds of cheese are high in Vitamin B and a good substitute for your typical American Cheese.

Furthermore, both cheeses are typically low-fat cheeses and have a lower fat content than many mainstream kinds of cheese you’ll find at the supermarket.

So, what’s the best way to use each cheese, let me show you a good option or two.

Swiss cheese cut.
Swiss cheese cut from the wheel.

Popular Uses

As we’ve mentioned, Swiss cheese has a slightly more intense flavor, a nutty flavor that complements mushrooms, ham, peppers, pickles, and onions. It’s great for topping burgers, cheese sandwiches, and salads.

It is a good choice, for melting on potatoes and broccoli or any veg in fact. Actually, it is your best bet for melting!

Provolone cheese has a sharp taste, perfect for pizza and focaccia bread. It also works in deli sandwiches or hot dishes like pasta and frittatas.

Lasagna is especially delicious with provolone ( it is my go-to); its flavor stands out among tomatoes, sauce, and mozzarella.

The Final Cheesy Word

Swiss and provolone cheese have distinct differences. Swiss has a mild taste and creamy texture, while provolone is bolder and sharper with a hard, drier texture. Swiss has big holes that remain even when melted. Whereas provolone melts smoothly with no gaps. When melted, provolone turns golden-brown and Swiss turns golden-yellow.

Lastly, both are great for sandwiches, but it comes down to personal preference, and if you have high blood pressure, either cheese is a great choice due to them being lower in salt than many other kinds of cheese.

Happy Cheese Eating!

P.S. Check out some pics from a Cheese making factory in Gruyere, Switzerland. Although the process has modernized, it is still very labor intensive.

P.P.S If you are planning on heading to Switzerland, make sure you check out this article for awesome ideas.

Cheese making factory in Gruyères, Switzerland.
Cheese-making factory in Gruyères, Switzerland.
Manual cheese making in Switzerland.
Making cheese takes a lot of time and effort, even with modern equipment.
Manual cheese making in Switzerland.
Hard manual work making Cheese in Switzerland.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What type of cheese is Swiss cheese?

A: Swiss cheese is a type of cheese that is characterized by its pale yellow color and its holes. It is traditionally made from cow’s milk.

Q: What type of cheese is Provolone cheese?

A: Provolone cheese is a type of cheese that is characterized by its pale yellow color and creamy texture. It is traditionally made from cow’s milk.

Q: How are Swiss cheese and Provolone cheese different?

A: Swiss cheese has a distinctive flavor and is known for its holes, while Provolone cheese has a milder flavor and a creamy texture. Swiss cheese is also typically aged longer than Provolone cheese.

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