So, as you know, I went to Switzerland to visit my family. People are still shocked I was there for 10 days and never ate dairy. Talk about an oxymoron. I was super-thankful my mom had done some research on dairy alternatives before I got there, and I wanted to share some tips if you are traveling to Switzerland or living there and need to avoid dairy or are vegan:
*Soy milk and rice milk were both really easy to find at almost all stores. That said, they did not seem to be generally offered as an option with coffee drinks at cafes, though that may depend on how large a city you are in.
*Unsweetened rice milk was a little bit harder to find as opposed to sweetened soy and rice milk, but
Coop, one of the largest grocery stores in Switzerland, carries it. It is part of their Natura brand, which is organic. Update April 2011, this item appears to have been discontinued
*There are health food stores in almost every larger town as far as I can tell (Reformhaus in German, magasin dietetique ou traiteur bio in French) that carry a wide variety of dairy-free options. One brand I discovered and really liked was Soyana, an organic company. Yes, they make soy milk, but they also make 9 different kinds of rice milk, including one enriched with seaweed and another made with basmati rice. I loved both of those, as well as the vanilla one, though I am realizing now they have even more options, like a vanilla basmati one enriched with seaweed. Those two kinds and their basic rice milk were unsweetened as well.
*If you can eat gluten, the majority of the bread in Switzerland is vegan. The kinds you would want to avoid are the Pain Tessinois and anything like a brioche or braided bread. You always want to ask, but unlike with processed breads, which often use dairy in the process, these breaks are very traditional. And delicious, based on my taste memories from several years ago, though husband confirmed the bread there was excellent for our last visit. Bonus, many bakeries make very pretty bread:
*Regarding sandwiches – butter is often used instead of mayonnaise in sandwiches in Switzerland, so be sure to ask.
*Bretzels are also usually vegan. Stands like the one below are often near the entrance of large department stores. They sell bretzels, usually with a choice of seed toppings (sunflower or sesame or a mixture), and a variety of bretzel sandwiches. There is usually a vegetarian sandwich option, but be sure to ask if butter was used as a spread in the sandwich.
*If you can find a French store called Super Casino (or its larger version, Hyper Casino) which also exists in Switzerland, you are in luck – they carry many vegan options, including several items from the Bjorg line, which includes vegan products (look in the Rayon Dietetique) as well as an unsweetened vegan soy yogurt that is apparently quite good.
*Drugstores (called pharmacies) also carry specialty products that are vegan and/or gluten-free
*Cheezly, the British cheese substitute (I reviewed it here) is available in Switzerland. Oddly, the Mozzarella flavor is called Cheezly but the White Cheddar kind is called Cheese. Go figure. I also saw the Cheezly that has fake bacon bits, but since it has gluten I skipped buying it.
*If you do eat meat, it is unlikely that most charcuterie, salamis and other dried or cured meats have dairy in them. In terms of meat dishes however, many stews have butter or cream in their preparation.
*My tips on eating out there are scant, mainly because we barely ate out, and instead I cooked with my mom a lot.
This is obviously not an exhaustive list, but I figured some of these might come in handy. Plus it gave me a chance to show off some of my pictures. One last thing, it helped that I brought my sense of humor along with the fact that I cannot eat any dairy, ever. After all, this is a country where you can buy single-serve fondue:
I found the “tiny fondue” really fascinating:
General Disclosures & Disclaimers