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A Bunch of Creative Ways to Upgrade Your Grilled Cheese

The gooey, toasted sandwich serves as a canvas for so many flavors.

One can wax poetic about the delights of grilled cheese—the crispy bread, gooey cheese, and buttery bites—but what makes this sandwich unique is its versatility and ease. With just a few ingredients and less than 15 minutes, you can have a comforting dish right before you.

When entering the grilled cheese matrix, you’ll learn there is a simple framework to follow to reach success. You have all the fixings to build your sandwich as long as you can find some bread, cheese, a spread, and fat. For those nostalgic bites, you can lean on classic combos like white bread, American cheese, mayo, and butter. You can also test the boundaries with flavor combinations that ode to your culture, seasonal bounties, or whatever’s calling you in your kitchen. Below, you’ll find a guide to help you understand the basics of making grilled cheeses, plus some ideas on which ingredients to snag to get started. 

Seek out ingredients that’ll act as your bread. 

When creating delicious grilled cheeses, the bread plays an essential role. It acts as the base, holding all of your gooey and melty ingredients together, keeping them snugly in place. So, with that in mind, find a vessel that can withstand the heat of your grill and keep your fillings from falling out. You don’t have to rely on the glutenous varieties to make this happen either; as long as you have something that can play the role—and taste good, you have the first foundation necessary for your sandwich. 

Sour Dough

If you’re looking for a sturdy slice that won’t crumble as soon as it hits the heat, try finding some sourdough. Plus, its tangy notes can add a boost of flavor to your grilled cheese.


Denser than most breads, rye turns crispy and tender when toasted with delicious fats. Its earthy and sour notes pair exceptionally well with creamy and gooey cheeses, making it an excellent choice.


For ultra-comforting bites, consider brioche as your vessel for grilled cheeses. While this bread is on the softer end, as long as you grab thick slices, it won’t fall apart once it reaches your hot pan. 


There are alternatives to using bread in grilled cheese sandwiches. For instance, you can incorporate starchy ingredients like plantains. Fry up some green ones and use them as your base, layering cheese between them.

The meltier the cheese, the better.

For best results when melting cheese, try using one that will easily melt when exposed to heat. Quick science lesson: Cheese is an emulsion of dairy fat and water held together by proteins. The quality of melting cheese depends on how well it can maintain its emulsion when the proteins break down from the heat. So, you’ll typically want to rely on varieties that won’t struggle to melt or completely separate once they reach the flame.


Look for a soft gruyère that you can shred and pile onto your bread. Once it hits the heat, this cheese will turn gooey and give your sandwich savory flavors.


Tallegio offers creamy and savory bites for an ultra-comforting grilled cheese. You can cut it into thick slices and layer it on your bread, and once it hits the heat, it will melt effortlessly.


If you’re seeking that mesmerizing cheese pull, try putting some muenster slices into the base of your grilled cheese. Plus, it’s slightly mild and nutty, so you can allow other add-ins to shine without the sandwich being too overpowering.


Try layering in some gouda to add depths of smokey flavor to your grilled cheese. You can shred it on your bread or cut thin slices so that it quickly melts once it reaches the hot skillet.

Reach for spreads that’ll level up the overall flavor.

You can experiment with different add-ins when making grilled cheese sandwiches, just like you do when creating a charcuterie board. While cheese is the star of the show, you can still infuse other flavors that can complement or contrast with it. This way, you can customize your sandwich and enjoy unique and delicious bites.


You can smear basil, sundried tomato, or whatever pesto you have on hand to add a boost of flavor to your grilled cheese. The spread’s nuttiness will complement the cheese you add to your sandwich, too. 

Fruit Preserves

Spread on some fruit preserves to add a touch of sweetness to your grilled cheese. You can also give your sandwich a seasonal twist by adding flavors that are in their prime—like strawberry jam in the summer and cranberry for the colder months.


Olives and cheese are a powerful duo on any board. To replicate those flavors in your grilled cheese, spread on some tapenade. That way, you can enjoy those tangy bites.

Chili Crisp

To infuse a bit of spice into your grilled cheese, drizzle in some chili crisp. The crunchy garlic and chilies in the condiment will not only add some heat to your sandwich but also some texture.

Get creative with your fat.

The choice of fat you use for your grilled cheese sandwich not only adds to its taste but also plays a vital role in creating the perfect crispy texture. Plus, it helps achieve even browning, which elevates the sandwich’s visual appeal and makes it even more appetizing to enjoy.

Brown Butter

If you don’t have many ingredients in your kitchen to make your grilled cheese more interesting, try upgrading one that you already have on hand. For instance, if you have butter in the fridge, put it on the stove and brown it to add some caramelized and nutty flavors to your sandwich.

Duck Fat

To add an ultra-rich and sweet flavor to your grilled cheese, consider cooking it in duck fat. It’ll help crisp up your bread giving you that nostalgic crunch.


Mayo has a high smoke point, making it a perfect fat for grilled cheese sandwiches. Additionally, since it contains eggs and oil, those ingredients promote browning, for that flawless finish.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil can handle high heat, making it an ideal fat for toasting up your grilled cheese. Plus, it can add a beautiful tropical note to your sandwich to help brighten it up. 


Ashia Aubourg

Ashia Aubourg is culture's Assistant Digital Editor. She received her BA in Food Studies and Policy Studies from Syracuse University, where she researched components that make up equitable food systems. She previously held print and digital roles at Food & Wine, Cuisine Noir, America's Test Kitchen, and others, where her writing unearthed underrepresented narratives within food, travel, and culture. Before starting her writing career, she held food policy and social impact roles across various nonprofits and companies. Ashia currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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