20 Best Cheeses For Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Ranked

The French have Croque Monsieur. Italians have the panini. In Mexico, it is called a quesadilla. And in England, there is the cheese toastie. There is a reason why so many cultures have some iteration of a grilled cheese sandwich as part of their culinary traditions. Nothing is quite as delectable as two crispy slices of bread filled with oozy melted cheese.

But what is the key to a perfect grilled cheese sandwich? The cheese. It requires one that melts and stretches, giving your sandwich the precise balance between crunchy and creamy textures. The meltability of cheese has to do with how easily the protein structures denature, and this relies upon a handful of factors, namely the amount of moisture, fat, and acid in a cheese. For this reason, the best melting cheeses tend to be young, high fat, high moisture, and low in acid, and there are plenty that fall within these parameters.

The following are the 20 best cheeses for a grilled cheese sandwich, ranked from the worst to best. They are based on flavor, meltability, and adaptability. Where applicable, we also note any unique ingredients you can add to doctor up your grilled cheese, taking it from meh to marvelous.

20. Chèvre

Chèvre is a goat's milk cheese made from pasteurized or raw milk. It can be soft, semi-soft, or firm, depending on how long the cheese is allowed to age. Though it is lower in fat, it is a rennet-set cheese with a somewhat high moisture content, particularly in its fresh iterations. As such, it may not melt the way cow's milk cheese does, but it does become creamy and soft when heated. 

Its tart, grassy flavor tends to be offset well with sweeter ingredients, like fruit preserves and caramelized onions, or a combination of lemon zest with fresh herbs. When served alongside a tomato bisque, a grilled cheese made with chèvre is a delightful grown-up play on a childhood classic. However, because of its strong flavor and less meltable texture, we ranked it at the bottom of our list.

19. Blue Cheese

Blue cheese is an umbrella term for several types of pungent-flavored crumbly cheeses infused with an edible strain of Penicillium bacteria. As these cow's milk cheeses age, bluish-green fissures of mold permeate them, giving them a distinctive flavor. Most popular iterations include Stilton, gorgonzola, Roquefort, cabrales, Danablu, and cambozola. Though they are all made with rennet and are high in fat, some have higher moisture content than others, particularly gorgonzola dolce, Danablu, and cambozola. These cheeses won't melt like other varieties made with cow's milk but will get soft and creamy when heated. 

These cheeses tend to benefit from being tamed with sweeter flavors, like honey, dried fruit, apples, grilled pears, and tart cherry or cranberry preserves, which can elevate a grilled cheese sandwich. However, blue cheese landed toward the bottom of our list because of its intense flavor, which can be an acquired taste, and due to its inferior meltability when compared to others on this list.

18. Brie

Brie is a soft-ripened artisanal cheese made from raw or pasteurized cow's milk. After aging for a minimum of four weeks, it develops an edible rind. Its flavor ranges from mild to sharp, with a nutty aroma and a creamy texture that becomes oozy at room temperature. Because this is a rennet-set, high moisture, high-fat cheese, it melts when heated. The key is to remove the rind before using it on a grilled cheese sandwich, as it will remain somewhat chewy. 

Brie can be offset with sweet or savory flavors. Fig preserves are a perfect addition to a sweet grilled cheese, and caramelized mushrooms and ham will send your savory grilled cheese into the stratosphere. We ranked it lower on the list, though, because it has a slightly aggressive aroma and flavor that doesn't appeal to some, even though it is one of our favorite cheeses.

17. Mozzarella

Even though mozzarella is generally considered the gold standard cheese for making pizza, you may be surprised that it ranks relatively low on our list of the best cheeses for making a grilled cheese sandwich. Though it can be made of virtually any kind of milk, most mozzarella is produced from cow milk in the pasta filata cheese-making tradition. 

Fresh mozzarella is creamy, delicate, and has a mild flavor with little aroma. Though it melts well, it retains too much moisture, making bread soggy. A better option for grilled cheese would be aged mozzarella that has been shredded. This variety develops the quintessential stretchiness that makes it so fabulous for pizza. This is not bad for grilled cheese, but we feel like maybe it's too much like pizza for it to be interesting. To create a play on a pizza-flavored grilled cheese, add pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, and prosciutto to your mozzarella.

16. Taleggio

Taleggio is a semi-soft, smear-ripened Italian cheese made from raw or pasteurized cow's milk. What gives this cheese its distinctive flavor and the edible rind is that it is bathed in seawater once a week for six to 10 weeks while it ages on wooden shelves in caves. This process prevents mold from forming, giving it a slightly funky smell. If you can get past the aroma, the flavor of this cheese is delicate and plummy, making it delightful when paired with fruit, like sliced pears. The moisture and fat content of taleggio make it a fabulous melting cheese. 

For a classic combination, layer roasted red peppers and slices of ham with the taleggio for one of the best-grilled cheeses you will ever eat. The only reason we didn't rank it higher is because of its aggressive aroma. And don't forget, this is not a cheese that needs the rind removed before eating.

15. Pepper Jack

A member of the quintessential American melting cheese family of Monterey Jack cheeses, pepper jack is a cow's milk cheese loaded with sweet peppers, rosemary, habañero chilies, garlic, and spicy jalapeños. The texture of this cheese ranges from semi-soft to semi-firm. Its flavor is buttery and punctuated by varying degrees of heat. The moisture and fat content make it ideal for any application involving melting, including a grilled cheese sandwich. 

Consider doctoring up your pepper jack cheese sandwich with sweet and savory ingredients like sliced apples and bacon. Alternatively, you can go the nacho route with slices of avocado paired with an olive tapenade. We ranked this one where we did because it may be too spicy for some; but if you like your cheese with a kick, you can't go wrong with pepper jack.

14. Manchego

Manchego is a unique sheep's milk cheese produced in the La Mancha region of Spain and is one of the cheeses strictly protected under European Union DOP guidelines. It is aged in grass molds, imparting an unmistakable herringbone-patterned rind on the exterior that is inedible. The flavor of this cheese is acutely grassy and nutty, with a similar aroma. Its texture can range from semi-soft (fresco) to semi-firm (curado or viejo), depending on how long it has aged. 

This is a fabulous melting cheese for grilled cheese sandwiches, but the rind must be removed before eating. It goes without saying that the ideal fillings to compliment it in a grilled cheese sandwich include a delicate Iberian jamon and a luxurious Catalan Romesco made with peppers, tomatoes, and almonds. This cheese doesn't rank higher on the list because of its limited availability.

13. Provolone

Provolone is a Southern Italian cow's milk cheese made in the pasta filata tradition. This cheese comes in two types: Dolce and Piccante. Dolce ages two to three months, giving it a milder fruity flavor and softer texture, with a lighter tan-colored edible rind. Piccante ages four months or more, accentuating its saltiness, giving it a firmer texture, and conferring a burnt orange hue to its exterior. 

Sliced provolone is one of the best cheeses for melting in a grilled cheese sandwich. Honey and provolone love each other, making them a great match in an ooey-gooey sandwich; we recommend whipped honey that spreads. Another great complement to provolone in a grilled cheese would be an Italian cured meat, like Mortadella, Testa, or Coppa, garnished with just a hint of giardiniera. This cheese lands in the middle of our list because it is one of several we'd enjoy that has a mellow flavor.

12. Asiago

Asiago is another Italian cow's milk cheese produced in the Veneto or Trentino regions of Northern Italy that is protected by the European Union's DOP guidelines. Though it is often compared to parmesan cheese, it tends to be a somewhat more aggressive nutty flavor depending on if it is aged (asiago d'allevo) or fresh (asiago pressato). 

For a grilled cheese sandwich, you will want a fresh asiago, which ages for less than a year, giving it a softer texture that melts uniformly and has a slightly sweeter flavor. These youthful asiago varieties may have a thin edible rind. Try pairing it with sliced peaches and prosciutto for a sweet and savory twist on grilled cheese. We have ranked asiago in the middle of the list because, while it is an ideal melting cheese, real asiago pressato is hard to come by.

11. Fontina

Fontina is the workhorse of cheeses. This adaptable cow's milk cheese originated in the Aosta Valley of Northwestern Italy but is now produced stateside in Wisconsin. Its flavor and texture are evocative of other mountain cheeses from Italy and Switzerland, like Emmentaler or Swiss. Its mouthfeel can range from softer to quite firm, with a creaminess that gives it incredible meltability. And like its mountain cousins, it can have small holes. 

Because of its fulsome nut-forward taste, it can be accompanied by sweet and savory ingredients. Try layering fontina with grilled eggplant and slices of tomato for a play on a ratatouille. Alternatively, you can create a variation on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich by combining it with seedless raspberry preserves and creamy peanut butter for a grilled cheese your kids can't resist. Fontina landed at this point on our list because of its consistency, reliability, and accessibility.

10. Muenster

Muenster is the American counterpart to the French Munster, a cow's milk cheese that got its moniker from an abbey in the Vosgian Mountains. Compared with its French cousin, American muenster tends to be a delicate, mild-flavored cheese with a flavor and texture between mozzarella and Monterey jack. 

Its orange rind is produced by incorporating annatto during the cheesemaking process. This rind is perfectly edible in unaged Muenster and will melt equally with the rest of the cheese. Aged muenster tends to have a more aggressive aroma, which may be off-putting to some, and is the reason it landed where it did on our list. Though a Reuben is typically made with Swiss cheese, try topping rye bread with muenster, sauerkraut, corned beef, and thousand island dressing for the ultimate mock Reuben grilled cheese sandwich.

9. Havarti

Havarti is a cow's milk cheese that was born in Denmark and perfected in Wisconsin. It has an almost squishy quality similar to cheese curds; it also sticks to your teeth and the roof of your mouth before slowly dissolving into creamy perfection, which hints at its meltability for a grilled cheese sandwich. 

What makes havarti even more unique is the frequency with which it can be found infused with different flavors, including dill, caraway seeds, peppers, and horseradish. While these flavored varieties are delicious on their own in a grilled cheese sandwich, they can always benefit from having some sliced avocado, bacon, tomatoes, and a slice of ham added to kick things up a notch. At this stage of the game on our list, it's hard to say there's a better or worse cheese per se, but given the remaining cheeses, we placed Havarti toward the middle.

8. Gouda

Originating in Holland, Gouda is one of the oldest and most widely-consumed cheeses globally. Though generally made from cow milk, it can also be made with milk from goats or sheep. 

Its signature wax rind serves the purpose of regulating the moisture of the cheese as it ages. Once removed, the secondary hull on the interior can be eaten, although it doesn't melt well. Its flavor varies from mild and sweet to more aggressive and nutty as it ages. 

And then there are smoked goudas, which have a delicious earthy aroma and flavor that we are crazy about. Because of its moderate acidity, it is an ideal melting cheese, particularly young gouda under 18 weeks old, even when smoked. We love smoked gouda paired with bacon jam and roasted mushrooms for an umami bomb like none other. Because of its slightly strong smell, gouda may be an acquired taste.

7. American

As cheese snobs, we really waffled on whether to include American cheese on this list. Based upon its unbeatable meltability that is ideally suited to making grilled cheese sandwiches, we felt we'd be remiss in excluding it, so we are setting aside our snobbery to be thorough. 

American cheese is produced by melting two or more real cheeses and combining them with other dairy products, food colorings, flavorings, salt, and emulsifiers before extruding this mixture onto molds to create slices. Though not "real" cheese in the sense that it is a highly-processed, cheese-like product, it does accomplish what most "real" cheeses can't, namely that it always stays homogenized, even when melted. 

Though excessively high in sodium and loaded with ingredients we can't pronounce, which gives us some pause in consuming it, we can't say it doesn't make great grilled cheese. In this case, we are purists. If you are going to use it, don't adulterate it.

6. Monterey Jack

Speaking of real American cheese, Monterey Jack might be the one cheese that can claim this moniker. This cow milk cheese was being produced by Mexican Franciscan friars in Monterey, California, as early as the 1700s. When David Jack discovered it, he started selling it across the state, renaming it "Jack's Monterey" or Monterey Jack. 

This cheese is the proverbial melting cheese superhero. It has a semi-soft texture, a mild creamy flavor, and a delicate aroma that is not overwhelming. Because of its Hispanic origins, this cheese pairs well with strong-flavored ingredients like pickled jalapenos, caramelized onions, and smoked ham. It is a blank slate with which you can do almost anything creative you are cheeky enough to try. Because of the mellow flavor, Monterey Jack is a solid and safe bet for grilled cheese, landing it just short of our top five cheeses for a grilled cheese sandwich.

5. Swiss

The family of cheeses known as Swiss cheeses originated in central Switzerland. This region is known for its dairy cattle, which graze in the high-altitude pastures of the Swiss Alps, hence producing Alpine cheeses. These cheeses tend to be lower in acidity and salt than other types, making them smooth and mild in flavor. They also have distinctive holes, known as "eyes," resulting from the introduction of a bacterial culture that emits carbon dioxide during aging, creating air pockets. 

Common Swiss cheese types include Emmentaler, Gruyere, Raclette, Sbrinz, and Appenzeller. Because of their lower acidity, they melt beautifully, emitting a nutty aroma as they do so. It would be impossible to imagine a better style of cheese for a traditional Cubano loaded with pulled pork, yellow mustard, ham, and dill pickles, than Swiss cheese. The versatility and variety of Swiss cheeses land them in fifth place.

4. Comté

Comté is a French cheese produced in a distinct region of the Jura Mountains near the Swiss border. Produced from Montbeliarde or French Simmental cattle, Comté is one of the first types of cheese to be granted PDO status in 1958. With over 80 different flavors, it has its own flavor wheel. Aged as little as four months to four years, flavors associated with it include roasted nuts and browned butter. 

Comté is the gourmand's cheese, ideal for those who appreciate complexity, layered flavors, and a slightly more aggressive aroma. We recommend it for a classic Croque Monsieur or Croque Madame. Because it is a sophisticated cheese, we are putting it in fourth place, although it is a premium type for grilled cheese with a grown-up twist.

3. Cheddar

Originating in England, cheddar is the most widely-consumed type of cheese in the world. Always made using cow milk, it can range from mild to sharp, with younger cheddars being smoother and aged cheddars becoming dry and crumbly. It can also vary in color from pale yellow to bright orange, depending on if annatto has been added during the cheesemaking process. 

For best results in terms of melting, we recommend using younger, milder cheddars as opposed to aged cheddars. We also recommend shredding it to help it melt more evenly. It would be hard to mess up a cheddar grilled cheese sandwich, and, as with other recipes, cheddar and apple are a brilliant combination, making a cheddar apple grilled cheese a must-eat. Because of its availability and universal appeal, cheddar ranks third on our list of best cheese for grilled cheese sandwiches.

2. Colby

Colby is another American cheese and was developed by Joseph Steinwand in 1875 in Colby, Wisconsin. Though resembling cheddar in color, Colby has distinct characteristics. Once the curds are separated from the whey during the cheesemaking process, they get a bath in cold water, halting acid production. This cheese is also younger, aging for just a few weeks versus several months to years for a cheddar. The result is a creamy, mellow cheese that is exceptionally high in moisture, making it the perfect melting cheese. 

Though sometimes combined with Monterey Jack, we recommend using pure Colby cheese for the best flavor. Like cheddar, it pairs beautifully with fruit; but where it is revolutionary is in a fajita-inspired grilled cheese with caramelized peppers, onions, and grilled steak. Because of its superior meltability, distinctly American origins, and mild flavor, Colby ranks second on our list.

1. Butterkäse

And the winner of best cheese for a grilled cheese sandwich is Butterkäse. Frankly, its superiority is in its name. Literally translating to "butter cheese" in German, this semi-soft, high-fat cheese melts like butter. Beyond its oozy texture, this cheese has a flavor that can only be described as elegant. It isn't overly aggressive, nor is it too neutral. 

Though often used in traditional German dishes like Spätzle and salads, it is so versatile that it can be added to sweet and savory dishes. For the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich, you may want to enjoy this cheese as-is, delighting in its superior flavor and melty goodness. Or why not go full out and load up your grilled cheese with some poached lobster or shrimp for a sinful seafood grilled cheese that will earn you the moniker "monarch of grilled cheese."