How to Make Chocolate Chip Cookies in Switzerland: An Expat Experiment

How is it possible that we live in the homeland of Nestlé, the largest food company in the world by revenue, and yet can’t make really good chocolate chip cookies in Switzerland?! We can’t find brown sugar or chocolate chips, two essential ingredients. Where are they hiding?

Every major supermarket in the US carries Nestle chocolate chips, from little tiny mini ones to oversized chocolate chunks. They come in semi-sweet, milk, dark – whatever your heart desires.  

But in Switzerland?

Home of Nestlé?

Zip. Zero. Niet. Nada.

Which just makes me crave a batch of warm and gooey chocolate chip cookies even more.

Dear Switzerland,

Where are you hiding your chocolate chips? And brown sugar…


An expat jonesin’ for cookies

After months of hunting in different stores around Fribourg, I have finally managed to at least partially rebuild my baking stash with the basics: flour, bread yeast, baking soda, fine white sugar, baking powder, etc.

It’s been a slow process.  

The brands are different and product names are typically in French or German, often differing from the names we use in the States. 

baking soda = bicarbonate de sodium
fine grain sugar = sucre fin cristallisé
baking powder = poudre à lever

Ingredients for making chocolate chip cookies in Switzerland
I finally have most of the baking basics again, including baking powder, fine grain sugar, and baking soda.

Even the packaging is vastly different.

Most notably, the packages are almost always much smaller. It’s clear that Super-Size Me doesn’t just refer to fast food in the US. We apparently super-size everything from cases of beer, gallons of milk, and tubs of margarine to baking staples such as flour, sugar, and oats.

Yet after months of searching, I still couldn’t find either chocolate chips or brown sugar for chocolate chip cookies.

Then, while at a friend’s house for dinner recently, I mentioned how much I wanted to make homemade cookies but couldn’t find chocolate chips anywhere.  

Lo and behold, this angel of sweet confections brought out a bag of Hershey’s chocolate chips.

HERSHEY’s, people!

Chocolate chips from Lebanon with Arabic writing on the package for chocolate chip cookies in Switzerland
I’ve never seen Hershey’s chocolate chips packaging in Arabic. Very cool!

She showed us the Arabic on the back and said she’d brought them back from Lebanon. She generously asked us if we wanted them since she didn’t think she’d use them. After dinner, she insisted I take them, along with a second bag of Reese’s peanut butter chips.

For those who don’t know, Hershey’s is the US equivalent of Nestlé. It’s our oldest and largest chocolate company. 

It’s also one of Nestlé’s biggest competitors and was nearly bought out by Nestlé in the early 2000s.

I typically prefer Hershey’s chocolate products to Nestlé, and seeing the bag of Hershey’s made me feel immediately homesick. It might not have seemed like much to her, but for me, she was offering me a small piece of home.

I hugged her and promised to make some chocolate chip cookies to share.

With chocolate chips finally in my possession and a partially restocked baking cupboard, I decided to fulfill my craving for homemade cookies.

Hershey's and Reese's chocolate chips for chocolate chip cookies in Switzerland
I’ve also never been so excited to receive American Hershey’s chocolate as a gift.

Unfortunately, my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe from my mom calls for brown sugar, which is something else I haven’t found.

We’ve bought a variety of products that say brown sugar on them.

They’re nothing like American brown sugar though. The sugar is either dry and resembles raw sugar or just tastes like white sugar but with larger crystals. We’ve yet to find the equivalent of our sticky, heavy, fine grain brown sugar that has a slight caramel flavor and contains molasses.

Nothing beats brown sugar for baking. Nothing!

But, when in Switzerland, do as the American expats living in Switzerland without brown sugar do – make chocolate chip cookies without brown sugar.

With that in mind, I did a Google search online, found a recipe for cookies without brown sugar, and decided to give it a try.

They were actually not bad, but they were much more cakey than regular cookies. They were just a bit dry, not chewy enough, and the flavor wasn’t as good. I personally like the caramel flavor that brown sugar adds to baked noms.

Bottom line, I won’t make them with that recipe again.

Maybe the next time I make chocolate chip cookies in Switzerland, I’ll try making my own brown sugar with pure cane sugar and molasses.

‘Course, I’ll have to find more chocolate chips too. Ugh, the trials and tribulations of expat life!

Are you in the same pickle? These cookie recipes have good reviews.

We know we’re not the only ones looking for a good recipe for chocolate chip cookies without brown sugar. I haven’t tried these recipes yet, but they’re next up on my list. If you do try one of the recipes, definitely let us know how the cookies turn out!

Interested in more articles about life in Switzerland?

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