For something as simple as a grilled cheese sandwich, every home cook has their own version and countless combinations of bread and cheese. Some prefer American for the ultimate cheese-pull and some swear by the highest-quality Gruyere or Monterey Jack. And though grilled cheese is a pretty perfect food all on its own, adding pickled jalapenos, roasted tomatoes, pesto or mounds of caramelized onions really takes it over the top.
Once you’ve nailed the quintessential elements, be a little adventurous and try any of these mouthwatering spins on a classic grilled cheese.
A classic grilled cheese sandwich is possibly one of the easiest things to make. But a perfect grilled cheese with golden-brown crispy bread and perfectly melty cheese requires a little more know-how. It’s not difficult, but to achieve supreme satisfaction there are some rules you should be willing to follow.
If you're looking for interesting upgrades to the typical grilled cheese or just to sneak in some extra in-season vegetables, try out this easy recipe that showcases asparagus. Roasted asparagus gets placed on buttery sourdough bread and topped with creamy Swiss and Parmesan cheese. It’s warm, a little crunchy and deliciously melty.
You can make this BLT (without the lettuce) grilled cheese with crisp slices of bacon, juicy tomato rings and any cheese you like. But we suggest a sharp cheddar variety that goes great with salty bacon and sweet tomatoes.
Out of the many ways to make a grilled cheese sandwich, this version with balsamic vinegar, mushrooms, caramelized onions and brie puts an elegant spin on the regular. It’s slightly tart from the balsamic vinegar, a little sweet from the caramelized onions, and creamy and crunchy from the oozing brie cheese and crusty bread.
With just a few slices of fresh-cut avocado, you can add a creamy and refreshing twist to the traditional sandwich. Crack some fresh black pepper right on the avocado when building the sandwich for a delicious hint of spice.
If you’re a fan of jalapeno poppers, this nacho spin on grilled cheese is made for you. All you need is jarred pickled jalapenos, American cheese, white bread and butter. You don’t even need to dice up the jalapenos — just place the slices right on top of the cheese and gently press down with the other slice of bread to lock it all in.
All you need to make pesto is good-quality, fresh ingredients and a food processor or blender. This recipe has toasted pine nuts and uses green garlic, which is similar to green onion. Keep an eye out at your local farmers market for the stalky vegetable. To make the grilled cheese, use the pesto recipe below and spread pesto on one slice of white bread, then add a slice each of provolone and mozzarella (or any combination that you like). Finally, top with another slice of bread and cook in a pan of butter.
To make a Cajun-inspired grilled cheese sandwich, you just need cajun seasoning, whether you get it at the store or make your own. If you happen to have a drawer full of spices, Cajun seasoning requires cayenne pepper, garlic powder, paprika, oregano, thyme and onion powder plus salt and pepper. To build the grilled cheese, mix the prepared seasoning mix into softened butter and smear a generous amount on each side of the sandwich before pan-frying.
Caprese is a popular Italian salad made simply with fresh sliced tomato, creamy mozzarella, basil and olive oil. Put those ingredients between two pieces of white bread and you’ll have yourself a caprese grilled cheese.
When tomatoes are roasted with olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper, they burst with an extra kick of flavor. Cherry tomatoes are ideal for this as they shrink down even more in the oven and can be gently smashed as a sandwich spread. A soft sourdough bread with cheddar cheese is the perfect complement to almost-charred roasted tomatoes.
Yes, there is certainly room for a sweet spin. You can use white bread for this, but if you have brioche, that would be even better. This “grilled cheese” is made with a smear of nutella, a bit of mascarpone cheese, strawberries and bananas all packed inside two fluffy slices of bread and toasted in a pan with butter. It’s a truly decadent dish.
You can turn many meals into breakfast by adding an egg on top — or, in this case, in the middle. American cheese, a slightly runny yolk plus toasty bread equals the most delicious breakfast grilled cheese. To make, fry an egg on medium-low heat until the yolks are just set, but still a little jiggly. Place a slice of American cheese on one piece of bread, pop the cooked egg in the middle and top with the other slice of bread.
If you can take the heat, this version with dried chili flakes and freshly cracked black pepper definitely has it. An extra-sharp cheddar works best for this, as the hints of spice need something to play off of. When you’re building your sandwich, simply sprinkle both the chili flakes and black pepper right on top of the cheese, and then cover it up with another slice of cheddar before sandwiching it with white bread and toasting in a generous pat of butter.
Horseradish is hot and peppery, but it’s not necessarily spicy on the tongue. The almost wasabi-like flavor profile has a mouth-tingling intensity that pairs well with creamy sharp cheddar. To make this grilled cheese, find a store brand that makes horseradish cheddar, and layer thinly sliced sweet fuji apples on top of the cheese and sandwich between two slices of white bread.
To give grilled cheese a Mediterranean upgrade, spread hummus on two slices of bread (either white or whole-grain). Sandwich them around a slice of pepper jack cheese, a few diced olives, a sprinkle of crumbled feta and another slice of cheese. And instead of frying it in butter, opt for olive oil.
Though this variation sounds peculiar, the combination of vinegary pickles, salty cheddar and a tart fruit chutney or jam works surprisingly well. Keep this one in mind when you’re organizing your kitchen and find a jar of French cornichons and some jam in your pantry.
Panera Bread used to serve a popular grilled cheese sandwich that used four cheeses, including a creamy, sharp fontina. The chain discontinued the menu item, but you can make one using similar ingredients at home for a copycat version. And for something like this, you’ll want to splurge on a good-quality fontina at your local supermarket.
If you’re looking for something meaty, chorizo will add a spicy twist to the cheesy concoction. To add to a grilled cheese, simply dice up some chorizo and pack into your sandwich before cooking on a skillet. The Spanish flavor is also a deliciously unexpected ingredient that goes great with mac and cheese.
With teriyaki sauce, pineapple, ham and provolone cheese all baked inside slightly sweetened fluffy Hawaiian rolls, this fun take on classic sliders works just as well as a twist on grilled cheese. The refreshing flavors will also be a welcome addition to any spring brunch.
This one is a twist on both French onion soup and grilled cheese. With caramelized onions and Gruyere cheese melted inside two slices of thick bread like Texas toast, it’s a mashup of two comforting dishes.
You just can't rush a proper grilled cheese — though it is tempting to crank the heat up so you can eat sooner. A sandwich cooked on low heat allows the bread to toast slowly (so as to not burn it) while the cheese melts gently. For that drool-worthy cheese-pull, you’re going to have to wait four to six minutes per side for the cheese to melt and the bread to develop the optimal crunch and color.
The most important component of a grilled cheese is the cheese, of course. And you want to set yourself up for success by using melting cheeses instead of hard cheeses that won’t get as gooey. Some soft, melting cheeses include American, mozzarella, cheddar, Gruyere, fontina, provolone, taleggio and Swiss. Play around and try different combos if you wish, but stay in the melting-cheese lane.
Because the ingredients are minimal, you want each one to be the best possible option. Use a type of bread that doesn’t overpower the cheese (in flavor or size) and one that doesn’t have any airy holes inside. You can use wheat or whole-grain for a healthier choice, but white bread is the way to go when it comes to grilled cheese.
There’s a tried-and-true method that works exceptionally well to achieve maximum golden crispiness on the exterior, and it isn't just adding lots and lots of butter to a sizzling skillet. It involves an everyday, humble condiment you might not have thought much of: mayonnaise. For the best golden, buttery crust on a grilled cheese, a combination of butter and mayonnaise is as good as it gets. Combine softened butter with mayonnaise and spread the mixture on both sides of the grilled cheese before adding it to a pan over medium-low heat and letting it cook until crisp and golden. The best part is you might have a jar of mayo in your pantry waiting to be used.
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