If you’re ready to step up your grilled cheese game, let’s do it. Grilled cheese goes one of two ways for me:
- Nostalgic: Kraft singles yellow cheese squares & crispy buttered bread goodness.
- Grown-up: A minimum of two different cheeses, protein, vegetable (preferably caramelized), and a mayo-slathered exterior for a perfectly browned crunchy bread.
Consider this a guide to the latter for you. Honestly, the world of grilled cheese combinations is infinite, so I’m not here to tell you there’s a best version. I’m simply here to give you the tools to make your best version.
Cheese Options for a Grilled Cheese:
- Cheddar: use yellow or white, but preferably not aged, it doesn’t melt as well
- Jack: use Pepper Jack for some kick, Monterey Jack, Colby Jack, or Habanero Jack (all reliably melty)
- Gouda: use young gouda, and smoked gouda is great for some extra flavor (young melts very well, aged does not)
- Havarti: melty, one of my favorites for grilled cheese (also reliably melty)
- Mozzarella: use fresh, low-moisture (both great options and very melty)
- American: use yellow or white
- Muenster: melty, has a butttery flavor
- Fontina: melty, also has a buttery flavor
- Provolone: use young or aged provolone
If blue cheese is your thing, go that route. I didn’t include it on the list because although I love blue cheese, it does not belong here. Not even with bacon.
We could stop here, because a true grilled cheese sandwich just needs cheese, bread, and fat to slather on the bread before cooking. If you prefer to keep your grilled cheese classically packed with only cheese, I fully support it.
Pick 1-3 of your favorite cheeses from the above list, and follow the recipe while ignoring the additional ingredients. That’s it!
If you want to keep going and add even more flavor and texture to your grilled cheese sandwich, let’s go.
Protein Options for a Grilled Cheese:
- Deli Meat: Ham, Turkey, Roast Beef, Pastrami
- Grilled Chicken: Shredded, or cut into strips or chunks
- Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey
- Leftover Holiday Ham
- Egg: Fried or Scrambled
Vegetable Options for a Grilled Cheese:
- Caramelized Onions or raw onions
- Fajita Vegetables: (sauted bell pepper & onion)
- Jalepenos: fresh or pickled
- Tomatoes raw, roasted, or sun-dried
- Mushrooms preferably cooked
- Zucchini preferably cooked
- Apples thinly sliced
- Peaches thinly sliced
- Pears thinly sliced
You can mix and match a number of these ingredients, but I don’t recommend getting too wild with it. If you overload your sandwich, it will be hard to keep everything together (and get it all in one bite).
If you’re using more than just cheese in your grilled cheese sandwich, try to limit your options to a maximum of two from each category: 1-2 cheeses, 1-2 proteins, 1-2 vegetables. Ideally, 4-5 total ingredients.
How to Make a Great Grilled Cheese:
- Heat a large skillet to just a touch over medium heat. Drizzle in some olive oil, and lay two slices of bread into the oil. Swirl the bread around so both slices absorb all of the oil, then cook the bread until browned and crispy (about 2-3 minutes). Turn the underneath the pan down to medium.
- Move the browned bread to a cutting board, browned side down. Slather the un-cooked sides of the bread each with about 1 tbsp. of mayonnaise.
- Lay one slice of bread, mayonnaise side down, back into the pan. Layer with a slice of cheese, protein, another slice of cheese, vegetable, and a final slice of cheese. Lay the other slice of bread, cooked side against the final slice of cheese, on top.
- Cook until the bottom of the first slice of bread is browned, about 2-3 minutes. Carefully smash the sandwich down a bit, then use a spatula to flip it over.
- Gently smash the sandwich down again with the spatula, then cover the pan with a lid to help the cheese melt. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until the bread is browned and crispy.
- Transfer the grilled cheese to the cutting board to cut, or immediately to a plate if you aren’t cutting it in half.
(you can print this recipe at the bottom of the post)
Really Delicious Grilled Cheese Combinations:
- Cheddar, Bacon & Apples
- Sharp White Cheddar, Pears, & Arugula
- Pepper Jack & Deli Ham
- Provolone, Steak, & Fajita Veggies
- Mozzarella, Tomatoes, & Balsamic Glaze
- Fontina & Spinach
- Havarti & Caramelized Onions
Do you have a favorite grilled cheese combination? Feel free to comment below so we can create the most comprehensive guide to grilled cheeses EVER. Also, feel free to follow me on Instagram or sign up for my weekly newsletter for more rad content.