Sliced on the diagonal and served with a cup of tomato soup (swimming with Goldfish, of course!), a classic grilled cheese can transport you right back to childhood. Add a few unexpected but easy flourishes—caramelized onions, a wedge of avocado, kicky kimchi—and the classic sandwich becomes all grown-up.
Put An Egg On It
Gussy up a ham and cheese sandwich and you have the Frenchified croque monsieur, oozy with nutty Gruyere. Put an egg on it and you’ve got a croque madame, shipping this month from Plated. With the sweet snap of fresh apples and the earthiness of bitter mustard greens, this is one kind of breakfast-for-dinner we can get behind.
Don’t Use Butter
Blasphemy, you say! But “buttering” the outside of your bread with mayonnaise before it hits the griddle is a trick grilled cheese aficionados (and star chef Gabrielle Hamilton) swear by. It won’t burn as quickly as butter or stick to the pan, and still you’ll wind up with an evenly golden, crisp sandwich.
Dress up your grilled cheese for a tea party with a touch of fruit. Goat cheese and strawberries are garden party fare, but when the berries aren’t in season, try a dab of strawberry preserves on your grilled cheese; as the fall air turns cool, opt for pear with Gouda on rye bread.
Give It Something Green
Squint your eyes, and grilled cheese with a leaf of lettuce seems almost virtuous. But don’t stop there when it comes to a bright touch of fresh veg. Slices of tomato are classic, of course, but think outside the box and add avocado, zucchini and basil with parmesan, or Brussels sprouts on your cheddar.
(Image: Kim’s Healthy Eats)
Kick Up The Spice
Cream cheese with hot pepper jelly is a Southern party classic for a reason. Here’s the combo in sandwich form, after it returns from a semester in Paris. Funky French Époisses, a creamy cow’s milk cheese, gets a smear of sweet-hot pepper jelly for results are worth crossing the Atlantic for. Jalapenos are also a no-brainer, as is the reigning queen of condiments, sriracha.
Add Something Funky
The bright acidity of pickled vegetables ricochets off the richness of cheese in the most brilliant way. Try adding kimchi, pickled red onions or the more classic cornichon—or, if you want to keep it real simple, a slip of mustard.
(Image: Killing Thyme)
Add Something Smoky And Salty
Weren’t you wondering when we’d get to bacon? The morning meat isn’t the only cured slice to top your grilled cheese: consider prosciutto with mozzarella and fresh basil leaves, or spicy soppressata with provolone.
Make It Masquerade As Dessert
Things are about to get wild in these grilled cheese sandwiches that double as dessert. Dark chocolate and parmesan are a surprising match whose odd couple deliciousness has been scientifically proven. And then there’s brie and Nutella, which Serious Eats obsessive J. Kenji López-Alt swears by. Got the griddle on yet?
(Image: Serious Eats)