Children and adults don’t always see eye to eye when mealtime rolls around. There is, of course, on outstanding exception: the grilled cheese sandwich. Universally beloved for its crisp bread and filling of melted cheese, this is one dish that brings people together regardless of age or other boundaries. While you might be quick to relegate grilled cheese to the realm of childhood nostalgia, I beg you to reconsider its place in your totally grown-up life. You’re never too old for this cheese-heavy sandwich, especially if you consider mixing it up and making it all your own each time. Here are some fun, innovative, and delicious ways to reinvent a true classic.
The ultimate grilled cheese
While a grilled cheese sandwich need not be complicated, it does require more careful attention than one would think. The elements of an awesome one involve crispy bread and the right types of melting cheeses—in the right proportions, of course. This recipe manages to be at once unfussy, irresistibly satisfying, and representative of a truly glorious grilled cheese. Three kinds of melting cheeses are sandwiched between hearty slices of sourdough bread, while a thin layer of mayo on the outside makes the crust crispy without burning it. Fix this sandwich your way by customizing the bread and the cheeses, but never compromise on technique.
Fajita grilled cheese
This quick and easy mashup from Eclectic Everyday combines the addictive flavors of a Mexican fajita with the easy form and execution of a classic American grilled cheese sandwich. Made with zesty, creamy, and delicious salsa Jack cheese — a variety that brilliantly combines salsa ingredients like tomato, onion, jalapeno, and chives — this creative sandwich adds a helping of sauteed bell pepper to the filling for extra bite and south-of-the-border flair. The crusty baguette holds up well to griddling, turning this unique grilled cheese sandwich into a dreamy meal you’ll probably want to incorporate into your weekly routine.
Crispy zucchini grilled cheese with Dijon horseradish aioli
For those of you seeking a more substantial grilled cheese sandwich to fill you up on your hungriest days, look no further than this veggie-forward recipe from How Sweet It Is. Parmesan and panko-breaded zucchini rounds are rendered crisp, then cooked with grated cheddar between whole-grain bread slices (because #health). Served with a homemade aioli made with Dijon mustard, horseradish, and lemon juice, this meal becomes something more complete—dare I say, a distinctly grown-up take on childhood grilled cheese sandwiches. Layers of textures and flavors make this one truly special.
Grilled figs and cheese
If you’re a fan of the sweet and savory combination of fruit and cheese from all the fanciest party platters you’ve ever run into, then you’ll love this recipe from 80 Breakfasts. The complex flavors are concentrated and perfectly balanced in this elegant grilled cheese sandwich. (Is that an oxymoron?) Slices of sourdough bread hold a delectable filling of dried figs, creamy ricotta cheese, chopped walnuts, soft brie, mozzarella, warm honey, and decadent truffle salt. While this is not the grilled cheese sandwich of your younger days, it should certainly be the one you enjoy on your fancy days.
White pizza grilled cheese
Another one from How Sweet It Is, this recipe for grilled cheese tastes like a ridiculously good white pizza (one made without tomato sauce), which is something I can appreciate any day. The flavors! In a single portable meal, you can smell and taste bold garlic, savory olive oil, fragrant fresh herbs (basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and parsley), and four types of cheeses (mascarpone, Parmesan, provolone, and mozzarella). All this goodness gets melted to gooey perfection between crispy, crusty, tangy sourdough bread slices. Don’t forget to scoop up any delicious burnt cheese bits that land on the pan or griddle.
Kimchi grilled cheese
Not sure about fusion food? While you’re working out your feelings on the subject, try this recipe from Food52. This Korean-inspired grilled cheese sandwich contrasts creamy, rich cheese with spicy, bold, and pungent kimchi to great effect. I like how customizable the sandwich is since you can opt for any type of bread and any variety of cheeses that melt well. The kimchi adds loads of unexpected zest and an addictive crunch you won’t be able to get enough of. While not all fusion dishes are created equal, I’d venture to say this one makes the grade.
The loaded ‘game day’ grilled cheese
Concept grilled cheese is something I can get on board with. This recipe from BS’ in the Kitchen tastes like nachos, making it the perfect idea for feeding a crowd. A grilled cheese station? Please! Here, French bread slices are filled with all of the most beloved nacho ingredients: sour cream, salsa, a blend of Tex-Mex cheeses, cooked beef, taco seasoning, avocado, black beans, and eggs. If this seems over the top, yes — yes, it is. This grilled cheese sandwich is amazing and now indispensable in the same way that loaded nachos are. They incorporate a ton of toppings but no one can deny their ability to draw a crowd. Do it.
Fried chicken and waffle grilled cheese sandwiches
If you love Southern fried chicken and waffles, you’re in for a treat with this recipe from Adrienne’s Kitchen. Crispy homemade waffles serve as the sandwich bread for a filling that’s beyond decadent. Layers of cheese and from-scratch fried chicken turn into a gooey, indulgent mess when you set the sandwich to the pan or griddle. This dish is ideal as a weekend project, as you’ll need to plan ahead. Once you prepare the waffles and the fried chicken, the assembly of the grilled cheese is a cinch. I’d say these sandwiches are labor-intensive but well worth the effort.
Fried avocado and fresh mozzarella grilled cheese
This recipe from Grilled Shane can be described as inspired, in my opinion. Since the sandwich requires a mere three ingredients, you can probably guess that the quality of said ingredients should be high. Use fresh mozzarella over the processed kind, as the fresh stuff lends soft, delicate creaminess, whereas processed mozz is much drier and rather blah in its texture. Find an avocado that’s ripe but not overly so. You’re going for a nice green color with enough firmness to withstand frying. Sandwich the luxe fresh cheese with the crispy avo between slices of bread and grill away.
The mozzarella stick grilled cheese
Inspired by mozzarella sticks dipped in marinara sauce, this recipe from BS’ in the Kitchen is sheer kid-friendly genius. Using a handful of ingredients, the dish manages to taste like everything my inner child covets: string cheese, mozzarella sticks, and pizza. Bread slices are coated with breadcrumbs on one side and butter on the other, then generously layered with mozzarella cheese. After grilling until crisp, the sandwiches are served with classic marinara or pizza sauce for dipping. If all this information suits you, you may just need to make this dish ASAP.
Fontina and blackberry basil smash sandwiches
While this recipe from How Sweet It Is doesn’t call itself grilled cheese, it sooooo is. The fruit and cheese combo never gets old. Every bite is inevitably filled with satisfying surprise and awe. Here, lush blackberries are mashed with peppery basil leaves. The fruit mixture is layered with creamy Fontina cheese between slices of multigrain bread and brushed with olive oil, then cooked on a skillet or griddle until the crust is golden brown and crisp. Gloriously crunchy bread, melty cheese, and oozing fruit are all elements of a really great meal, don’t you think?
French toast grilled cheese with apples and caramel
Turning regular grilled cheese into French toast grilled cheese is one fabulous way to enjoy the ubiquitous sandwich before 9 a.m. This recipe from Culinary Cool shows you just how to do it. Prepare your French toast in a deliciously sweet and cinnamony custard, then cook as usual. Add cream cheese, thinly sliced apple, and rich caramel sauce, then cook the sandwiches until the filling is warm and gooey and the French toast is perfectly crispy. Enjoy the best of both worlds, as this adorable little sandwich tastes exactly like French toast and grilled cheese — plus it’s totally acceptable to eat for breakfast, so there.
Frico grilled cheese sandwiches
Grilled cheese sandwiches with cheese on the inside and the outside is the stuff dreams are made of. This recipe from Smitten Kitchen makes my head spin a little, but in a good way. Inspired by classic frico, or thinly fried or baked cheese, this sandwich gets its crisp exterior from cooking the cheese on the outside of the bread until the cheese becomes golden, brown, and incredibly alluring. More cheddar is melted on the inside because we’re still making grilled cheese sandwiches here! The result is cheese two ways, which is a concept I will always appreciate wholeheartedly.
Green goddess grilled cheese sandwich
This recipe from Thinn Recipes is ideal when you’re craving a light meal that still satisfies your overpowering craving for a delectable grilled cheese sandwich. The struggle is real. The colors of the ingredients in this sandwich are beautiful in addition to being absolutely tasty. Vibrant, herbaceous pesto, leafy spinach, and creamy avocado are paired with goat cheese and mozzarella in a grilled cheese concoction that manages to be totally mouthwatering without feeling heavy or overly indulgent. Yes, apparently, this elusive balance is possible.
Roasted beet and chevre grilled cheese
I’m a big fan of a well-executed roasted beet and goat cheese salad and an equally ardent admirer of a perfectly melty grilled cheese sandwich. This recipe from Chowhound combines these two loves with remarkable aplomb. Fork-tender oven-roasted beets are combined with salty, creamy goat cheese and sherry vinegar between slices of hearty bread. Fried in butter, the resulting sandwich possesses all the complexity of an elegant beet salad as well the simplicity of a rustic grilled cheese.
You probably didn’t need more reasons to make grilled cheese for breakfast, lunch or dinner, but if you did…