Raclette: a Cheesy French Culinary Experience

Raclette is a cheesy French culinary experience that once you’ve tried it, you just can’t stop! Liking French cheese would seem like somewhat of a pre-requisite, but even our 11-year old daughter Elena, who holds her nose every time the cheese platter comes to the dinner table, is an avid fan of Raclette.

Raclette is both a type of cheese (strong smelling, semi-firm, made from cow’s milk and typically used for melting) and a dish based on melting the cheese and scraping off (racler) the melted part. And that is the ooey-gooey deliciousness of raclette that makes it palatable even for my daughter who normally has an aversion to cheese! And yes, it is a Swiss dish although it is very much a part of French cuisine, especially eaten during the cold wintery months, in the mountains and at numerous ski resorts and restaurants.

What is it about this French culinary experience that makes it so unique? It is one of many meals whose design is to create an atmosphere of conviviality amongst guests. Fondue Savoyarde and Bourgignonne and Pierrade are other community meals that fall into a similar category where guests gather around a table to share food from the same pot or cooking stone.

Raclette is traditionally fashioned into a wheel of about 6kg (13 lbs.) and, as explained earlier, is heated and the melted part of the cheese wheel is scraped off and served. For modern convenience, raclette machines have been invented.  These are typically an electrical appliance (like the one pictured below) that heats quickly and has individual trays (coupelles) for each dinner guest. Dinner guests can then individually melt their own portions of cheese and scrape the cheese onto their own plates.

Raclette - a cheesy French culinary experience

Pre-sliced portions of raclette cheese can be easily found in most supermarkets in France. You can even find flavored raclette cheese: black pepper, cumin, or white wine, for example.

Raclette - a cheesy French culinary experience

What is eaten with the raclette cheese? The cheese is served over steamed potatoes and the typical accompaniments can include a variety of charcuterie (dried meat such as ham or slices of hard sausage) and small French pickles and mini pickled onions.

Raclette - a cheesy French culinary experience

It is a convivial meal because we are all sharing the same raclette machine and there is busy chatter as we ask for the platters of cheese and charcuterie to get passed around. The raclette machine also warms the temperature of the room and makes for rosy cheeks and a cozy atmosphere! It is one of our absolute favorite family meals! We look forward to cold weather each year because we know it means we’ll get to eat more raclette!

Raclette - a cheesy French culinary experience

And just as a bit of history since I did mention that it was also Swiss in its culinary heritage. Wikipedia tells us:

Raclette was mentioned in medieval writings, in texts from Swiss-German convents dating from as far as 1291, as a particularly nutritious meal consumed by peasants in mountainous Switzerland and France (Savoy region). It was then known in the German-speaking part of Switzerland as Bratchäs, or “roasted cheese.” Traditionally, the Swiss cow herders used to take the cheese with them when they were moving cows to or from the pastures up in the mountains. In the evenings around the campfire, they would place the cheese next to the fire and, when it had reached the perfect softness, scrape it on top of bread.

Source: Wikipedia, Raclette

You can also read about our family’s raclette experiences: my tutorial on making raclette, enjoying raclette in the French Alps, and why we love raclette for birthday dinners and winter celebrations!


Maria, born and raised in the United States to a Peruvian father and a Mexican mother, is today the proud mama of four trilingual kiddos. She loves their multilingual, multicultural lifestyle, living in a suburb of Paris, France, taking family vacations to the United States and eating Mexican tacos. She graduated from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah in 2000 with a Bachelor’s degree in French, completed undergraduate coursework in early childhood second language acquisition as well as graduate coursework in French literature. She taught beginning French at BYU before beginning her own in-home multilingual experiment. She blogs at Trilingual Mama in a quest to explore and exploit the secrets that lead to a family’s multilingual successes, including research, practical tips, resources and real life.

Now tell me because I would love to know! Do you know of any culinary experience from any other place in the world that resembles raclette?

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Bonjour! I'm Maria! I was born in Southern California to a Peruvian father and a Mexican mother. I grew up speaking Spanish and English and fell in love with French when I was just a girl. I studied French and second language acquisition at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah where I met my French husband Samuel. I taught French at BYU for a few years before venturing onto our own homemade multilingual experiment... My husband and I now live in Normandy, France with our four gorgeous trilingual children. I'm a substitute secondary school English teacher and am currently preparing my certification to become a tenured teacher in French private schools. I am passionate about second language acquisition and my blog is the story of our multilingual, multicultural life. You'll also find different resources and advice for raising your own multilingual family on Trilingual Mama. Come have a peek, I'd love to have you visit!

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3 thoughts on “Raclette: a Cheesy French Culinary Experience”

  1. Ahah! I decided to make raclette tonight before I stumbled on your post. Guess today had to be raclette time! I love your pictures by the way.
    Raclette is one of our favourite “repas convivial”, like fondue savoyarde, or crêpes. When you come back in the area, guess we will have to share one all together! 😉

  2. Living in France now for over a year and a half I’ve heard a lot about raclette but have yet to try it. Making my first cheese fondu didn’t work too well and this looks much easier! Will have to give it a go in the new year!

  3. Pingback: Our multicultural Christmas | expatsincebirth

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