Chnöpfli – The Swiss Mac and Cheese

By 5 m read

Chnopfli - Chnöpfli, Knöpfli, Spätzli, Spaetzle? (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
Chnöpfli, Knöpfli, Spätzli, Spaetzle? (Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Chnöpfli, Knöpfli, Spätzli, Spaetzle… There are as many names and spellings for this delicious cheesy dish as there are recipe variations. There’s only one common denominator: they’re all delicious!

 

Viana told me to get better with keywords, etc, when writing articles, so there’s a better chance that Google will find us. Well, good luck with that one! How many people Googled Chnöpfli recently? So consider yourself very lucky to have found this and that you’re reading this recipe. Even luckier if you’ve actually tasted it!

 

The Chnöpfli recipe I’m writing here is the one I grew up with in Switzerland. It’s my mom’s recipe. And yes, I asked her permission to use it. As a matter of fact, I just got back from visiting her and I made these Chnöpfli over there (under her supervision) to make sure I got it right. And yes, I did. So, this recipe is “Mom Boenzli Approved!”

 

There’s only one downside to this simple recipe with simple ingredients. It needs a special Chnöpfli sieve.

 

The word Chnöpfli, by the way, means little button. In the Swiss German (spoken) language, adding -li at the end of a noun makes it the diminutive form (most of the time). Chnopf = button, Chnöpfli = little button.

Chnopfli - Just a few simple ingredients (including cow’s cheese 😃) - (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
Just a few simple ingredients (including cow’s cheese 😃) – (Photo by Erich Boenzli)

The Ingredients 

Flour, milk, eggs, cheese, butter, olive oil and salt. Deceptively simple. Any cheese that melts nicely will do, but because this is my mother’s recipe, only aged Swiss Gruyère cheese is acceptable. This imported Swiss cheese can be a little pricey in the US, but it’s worth it.

Chnopfli - Keep stirring and whisking the batter until bubbly (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
Keep stirring and whisking the batter until bubbly (Photo by Erich Boenzli)

The Batter

Start with mixing four large eggs, three cups flour, and 1 cup milk (plus olive oil and salt) in a large bowl. Once all the ingredients are stirred together, start vigorously whisking the batter with the spoon for a couple minutes until it starts to bubble…it really does.  That’s when you can stop and put the bowl aside. If it’s too runny, add flour. If its too thick, add water. It should be thick enough to run, but not runny, otherwise the batter will drop into the water too fast (see photo below, where the batter is being poured onto the sieve).

Chnopfli - Greasing the Chnöpfli sieve (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
Greasing the Chnöpfli sieve (Photo by Viana Boenzli)

The Process

Preheat your oven to 350℉. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Grease a 9×13 baking dish, grease the sieve, and get all the equipment ready. It’s a bit of a production and a bit of a cleanup but, hey, deliciousness sometimes requires some elbow grease. 

Chnopfli - Batter, water, sieve, and baking dish - in position (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
Batter, water, sieve, and baking dish – in position (Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Once the water is simmering, stir your batter a couple more times. Put the greased sieve on top of the pot of simmering water, pour some batter onto it, and use a scraper or rubber spatula to move the mixture back and forth while it’s dropping into the water. 

Chnopfli - Perfect consistency (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
Perfect consistency (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
Chnopfli - Back and forth and they will drop (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
Back and forth and they will drop (Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Remove sieve, wait a couple minutes until the Chnöpfli float to the surface, remove them with a slotted spoon, and place into a greased baking pan.

Chnopfli - Ready to go into the baking dish (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
Ready to go into the baking dish (Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Keep repeating this process until all the batter is used up and the Chnöpfli are in the baking pan. Now, sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top and bake for about 20 minutes until the cheese is all melted and mixed in with the Chnöpfli.

Chnopfli - Sprinkle, sprinkle all the cheese (is that a song?) - (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
Sprinkle, sprinkle all the cheese (is that a song?) – (Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Serve it as a main course (mom serves it with some apple compote or as a side dish with your favorite main course. 

Chnopfli - Ready, set, go, gone (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
Ready, set, go, gone (Photo by Erich Boenzli)

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Chnopfli - Chnöpfli, Knöpfli, Spätzli, Spaetzle? (Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Chnöpfli - The Swiss Mac and Cheese

Chnöpfli, Knöpfli, Spätzli, Spaetzle… There are as many names and spellings for this delicious cheesy dish as there are recipe variations. There’s only one common denominator: they’re all delicious!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Servings 4 main dishes (8 side dishes)

Ingredients
  

  • 3 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 c milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp Maldon salt (plus salt for the water)
  • 1 Tbsp butter (to grease the sieve and baking dish)
  • 8 oz Gruyère cheese, shredded

Instructions
 

  • Start with mixing four large eggs, three cups flour, and 1 cup milk (plus olive oil and salt) in a large bowl.
  • Once all the ingredients are stirred together, start vigorously whisking the batter with the spoon for a couple minutes until it starts to bubble...it really does.  That’s when you can stop and put the bowl aside. If it’s too runny, add flour. If its too thick, add water. It should be thick enough to run, but not runny, otherwise the batter will drop into the water too fast.
  • Preheat your oven to 350℉.
  • In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  • Grease a 9x13 baking dish, grease the sieve, and get all the equipment ready.
  • Once the water is simmering, stir your batter a couple more times.
  • Put the greased sieve on top of the pot of simmering water, pour some batter onto it, and use a scraper or rubber spatula to move the mixture back and forth while it’s dropping into the water.
  • Remove sieve, wait a couple minutes until the Chnöpfli float to the surface, remove them with a slotted spoon, and place into a greased baking pan.
  • Keep repeating this process until all the batter is used up and the Chnöpfli are in the baking pan.
  • Now, sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top and bake for about 20 minutes until the cheese is all melted and mixed in with the Chnöpfli.
  • Serve it as a main course or as a side dish with your favorite main course. 

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