15 Tips And Ingredients That Will Make Your Grilled Cheese Even Better

When you think of classic comfort foods, a grilled cheese sandwich is likely to come high up on the list. Perfectly gooey cheese enveloped in soft bread with a crunchy crust — what's not to love? But if you think that is all grilled cheese has to offer, you are in for a delicious surprise. This simple, unassuming dish has loads of untapped potential, and with the addition of a few ingredients from your fridge, it can be elevated to a whole new level of flavor and sophistication.

Whether switching out the basic elements like bread and cheese for more adventurous options — or adding ingredients to create a grilled cheese version of a classic meal, a little creativity can turn your familiar lunch into a culinary adventure. The possibilities are endless, from Mediterranean-inspired variations to grilled cheese desserts. Join us as we look at 15 ways to reinvent this classic sandwich — and get ready to take your grilled cheese game to delicious new heights.

1. Mix up the bread

When considering tasty new ways to upgrade the humble grilled cheese, most people think about the filling. But a great way to level up your grilled sandwich is to vary the kind of bread you use. We tend not to think about the bread — it's just the vehicle for the gooey goodness inside. But actually, the bread is a key player in the overall texture and flavor of the sandwich.

Though a white loaf is a classic for a reason, being more inventive with the bread will lead to surprising taste combinations. Sourdough, for example, with its tangy flavor and slightly chewy texture, will create a different experience from the usual white. When grilled, it will make a fantastic crust, and the slight acidity will perfectly complement the rich cheese.

If a super crispy crust is not your thing, try making your grilled cheese with brioche instead. The high butter content means you get a luxurious, soft sandwich that is the ultimate indulgent snack. At the other end of the spectrum, whole grain or seeded breads don't just offer a healthier option — the nuttiness will complement the cheese beautifully and make for a heartier meal.

Consider the thickness of the bread, too, when preparing your sandwich. Your bread needs to be thick enough to hold all your delicious ingredients once cooked, but slice it too thick, and you will have a disappointing ratio of bread to filling. Medium slices are your best option, creating a balanced sandwich where every mouthful has a satisfying amount of bread and melted filling.

2. Use a variety of cheeses

The cheese in your sandwich is the heart of the dish, and trying out different combinations can elevate the flavor to ridiculous new levels of deliciousness. Of course, classics such as cheddar or American cheese are often used for their versatility and ability to turn fantastically gooey — but switching them out for some left-field options can be a game-changer. Or better yet, combine a few different cheeses and see what unique concoctions you can create. If you want a straight swap for your usual cheddar, consider gruyère or gouda. Gruyère has a wonderful nuttiness that will make your sandwich more sophisticated but still familiar, whereas gouda will add a tangy punch, especially if you choose a mature version. Both cheeses pair perfectly with bacon for the ultimate grown-up sandwich.

If you want to go in a totally different flavor direction to your usual grilled cheese, choose a creamier cheese such as mozzarella or brie. These could both be used in combination with cheddar or American cheese and will add a luxurious creaminess to the mix. Both known for their decadent texture when melted, their mild flavors mean you can add any assortment of accompaniments that you wish, from caramelized onions to fruits such as cranberries and figs.

For a bigger flavor hit, add some blue cheese with the milder cheeses to introduce pockets of saltiness and piquance. Stepping outside of your cheese comfort zone will allow you to create some surprisingly tasty combinations that will be a treat for your taste buds.

3. Add butter or mayo to the outside

Most of your time trying to improve your grilled cheese sandwich will be spent working on the filling, but don't overlook an important hack to perfect the outside of it, too. Since the crust is the first part to hit your taste buds, creating the best possible mouthfeel is crucial if you want the perfect sandwich. Whether you are cooking your creation in a sandwich press or a skillet, adding fat to the outside of the bread will help produce a fantastic crust.

With its high fat content, butter is the preferred choice for many, creating a perfectly browned layer that gives a satisfying crunch from the first bite. Be sure to use room temperature rather than chilled butter to make sure you get an even spread across the whole slice of bread if you want a smooth layer.

For a different approach that will add some tangy flavor to the crust, coat with mayonnaise instead. Since it has a higher smoke point than butter, you will reduce the chances of burning your masterpiece and create a sharp, crackly crust that will take your sandwich to another level.

If you are wondering how on earth you will choose between butter and mayo — relax, because you don't have to choose. Instead, coat your bread in mayonnaise and then fry it in melted butter. The combination of fats will take you to new realms of culinary ecstasy, and give your grilled cheese sandwich the ultimate crunchy coating.

4. Add a crunchy element like bacon

Now that we've covered the basic elements of your sandwich — the bread, cheese, and crunchy coating — it's time to get inventive with the inside. While undeniably enjoyable, creating your sandwich using only cheese every time is like rewatching the same box set over and over — because there is a whole universe of Netflix out there waiting to be discovered. So many ingredients will elevate your grilled cheese game, and none is more widely loved than bacon.

Soft, silky cheese needs a crunchy element to set it off, and crispy bacon is the perfect ingredient for the job. Cheese and bacon are classic partners, and the smokiness of the ham will complement sharp cheddar or creamy brie superbly. The key is to cook the bacon in advance before adding it to the sandwich, ensuring it will have the sought-after crunch. Baking it in the oven is an easy way to achieve this without it becoming greasy.

If you are looking for a vegetarian way to get the crunch factor, consider adding crispy onions or raw bell peppers for a similar textural effect, or crumble some tortilla chips or kale chips inside for an extra-crispy option. Adding any crunchy element to your grilled cheese sandwich will improve the overall enjoyment of the dish and transform a simple sandwich into a gourmet delight.

5. Throw in some avocado

Adding avocado to your grilled cheese sandwich will give it a beautiful creamy texture as well as a fresh flavor to complement the cheese. If you're a fan of avocado toast, then you definitely need to be eating some avocado grilled cheese. Avocados are famously packed full of heart-healthy fats, meaning that having this dish for breakfast is a great way to start your day.

Choosing a cheese to match the avocado isn't a difficult task — the creamy green fruit masquerading as a vegetable pairs well with a number of cheeses — classics such as cheddar and mozzarella will work perfectly well, but why not experiment with goat cheese or blue cheese for a tangy combination? To ensure you get the gorgeous, oozy texture of a regular grilled cheese, mix in some mozzarella for maximum meltability.

To finish off your avocado masterpiece, throw in a few raw veggies such as thinly sliced tomatoes or bell peppers and a handful of fresh herbs — cilantro or basil will both elevate other flavors well. Finally, drizzle on some high-quality balsamic glaze, and you will have a grilled cheese breakfast fit for royalty.

6. Add pickles

In the list of flavors that were made to go with cheese, pickles deserve to make the cut. Though not as common a combination as some of the others on this list, cheese and pickles are the perfect match — the vinegar cuts through the richness of the cheese to create a party on your taste buds.

Any pickled vegetable will work well here, but cucumbers such as dill pickles will complement most cheeses. If you are looking for something with a bit more kick, pickled jalapeños will create a spicy contrast with a mature cheddar or other strong cheese.

To get the perfect balance in your grilled cheese sandwich and avoid pickle overload, slice them thinly and distribute evenly across the bread. This will give you a zing of pickle with every bite without it being overwhelming. Sweeter pickles, such as bread and butter pickles, can be used instead if you want a more mellow flavor that still has a bit of zing. Experimenting with different combinations of pickles and cheese will introduce you to a variety of exciting flavors, and one may just end up being your new favorite lunch.

7. Go Italian with mozzarella, pesto, and tomatoes

Transform your grilled cheese sandwich into an indulgent Italian treat by incorporating the classic combination of mozzarella, pesto, and tomatoes. These classic Italian flavors will elevate your sandwich to another level and bring a fresh flavor to this familiar dish.

The success of this variation relies on the quality of the mozzarella to create a creamy, gooey texture that will give the ultimate in grilled cheese satisfaction. The bright pesto flavor will cut through the richness and give a tangy flavor to the mild cheese. Fresh tomatoes will complete the sandwich with a juicy burst of acidity, or you can use sun-dried tomatoes if you want a deeper flavor.

For an authentic Italian sandwich, choose a crusty ciabatta as your bread, as it will soak up the flavor of the pesto superbly. Drizzling some olive oil on the outside before frying will create the perfect golden crunch. This Italian-inspired grilled cheese lies somewhere between a sandwich and pizza and is the perfect gourmet version of the classic comfort food.

8. Sweet grilled cheese

If you are looking to do something totally different with your next venture into grilled cheese, consider making it for dessert instead of an entrée. While most of us think of cheese as mainly fulfilling savory cravings, many mild cheeses can be used in sweet dishes — New York cheesecake, anyone? The key is to pair the correct cheese with its fruity partner, and you will have a unique dessert to satisfy your next sweet urge.

Cream cheese, mascarpone, and ricotta all work just as well in sweet dishes as in savory and are a great option for a sweet grilled cheese sandwich. Pair their mild flavors with fruits that have a burst of tang, such as blueberries or raspberries, and add honey or maple syrup if you want extra sweetness. A grating of orange or lemon zest will lift the flavor and brighten up the cheese and fruit mixture.

For the bread, sourdough is unlikely to work, so opt for a slice of buttery brioche. Spread a layer of your favorite jam or lemon curd on the bread before assembling your sandwich to intensify the sweet, fruity flavor. This sweet twist on a grilled cheese sandwich makes a creative and delicious snack that can be enjoyed as an indulgent breakfast or a comforting end to a meal.

9. Make it Hawaiian with some ham and pineapple

If you love your pizza with a tropical vibe, maybe it's time to add that flavor to your grilled cheese. Smoky ham and juicy pineapple are a fantastic sweet/savory combo, and the melted cheese holds them together beautifully.

Start by choosing a cheese that will melt really well and complement the ham and pineapple. Mozzarella will give you that classic Hawaiian pizza flavor, but Swiss cheese or gouda will add a nuttiness that will work well, too. A blend of a few different cheeses will create layers of flavor and texture.

Slice the ham and pineapple thinly and add in even layers to keep the flavor balanced. Choose your bread carefully, as it has to cope with the juiciness of the pineapple without becoming soggy. A denser, whole grain bread will absorb the moisture and create a tasty, crunchy crust when cooked. This creative take on a grilled cheese sandwich will transport you to tropical shores with its savory and sweet flavors and will become a snack you return to again and again.

10. Make a Monte Cristo

To take your classic grilled cheese sandwich up a notch, try giving it the French toast treatment and creating a Monte Cristo. Based loosely upon the French classic Croque Monsieur, it involves taking a grilled cheese sandwich, dipping it in egg, and frying until it has formed a perfect golden crust and the cheese has melted completely. It makes an indulgent dish that can be enjoyed equally as a luxurious breakfast or easy-to-make lunch.

To create this French-inspired delight, choose a bread that has a soft texture but can soak up the egg mixture without falling apart. Brioche is a great option and will lend a sweetness to the sandwich. A traditional Monte Cristo filling consists of ham, cheese, and turkey, but you can be creative and add whatever you like. Gruyère cheese is a great option for the filling, melting beautifully and creating a silky texture and nutty flavor.

Dip the whole sandwich in a beaten egg on both sides until the bread has soaked up the mixture. Fry in hot oil until the cheese has perfectly melted and is oozing out of the sides. Some people like to add a sweet element to their Monte Cristo with powdered sugar and a fruit compote to create a sweet and savory treat. If you prefer your sandwiches to remain savory, serve with mustard mayo and a few tart pickles.

11. Pulled pork

Grilled cheese sandwiches are often made with easy ingredients that are already sitting in your fridge, but if you have some leftovers from midweek meals, you can elevate your grilled cheese to epic proportions. Tender pulled pork, with its smoky, savory flavor, is a brilliant addition to a grilled cheese sandwich and can transform it from a light snack to a substantial meal. 

Choose a strong cheese such as a mature cheddar or gouda to complement the smokiness of the pork and create a beautifully melted texture alongside the shredded meat. Grating the cheese and mixing it through the pork before assembling the sandwich will allow the cheese to melt through the meat and create a harmonious mouthful with each bite. 

Since pulled pork is a more robust filling than most grilled cheese ingredients, be sure to choose a sturdy bread that is up to the challenge. Thick-cut sourdough is an ideal choice that will cope with the weight and moisture from the shredded meat. 

Remember to add seasoning to your meat/cheese mix in the form of fresh herbs, black pepper, or some chopped jalapeños if you want a hit of spice. A drizzle of BBQ sauce will finish it off beautifully. Fry your sandwich in butter to create a perfect golden crust, and you will have a meal to satisfy all your grilled cheese desires.

12. BLT grilled cheese

Time for some grilled cheese fusion — taking ingredients of the classic BLT sandwich and transforming into a delicious melted cheese version. Bacon, lettuce, and tomato are the perfect combination of flavors and textures, and when combined with melted cheese and toasted bread, they create a mouthwatering savory snack.

The beauty of a BLT lies in the contrast between the ingredients, and it is important to maintain this in the grilled cheese version. Good quality bacon is a must, and cooking it to a beautiful crisp provides a delicious crunch to the sandwich. For the lettuce, choose a variety with a crispy texture, like baby gem or iceberg. Plump tomatoes will finish off the trio nicely and provide a hit of tangy sweetness.

Most cheeses work well with these ingredients, so you can afford to be playful and experiment with different options. Mozzarella or brie will give a great melted texture without overpowering the rest of the filling, while mature cheddar or gouda will provide extra sharpness. The bread should be simple — a classic white loaf, for example — and assemble your sandwich, keeping the cheese close to the bread so that it melts quickly. You can choose to save the lettuce until after cooking to keep it crisp or add it along with everything else to warm and wilt it slightly.

This BLT-grilled cheese combo is a satisfying and familiar dish that delights with taste and texture. The fresh ingredients, alongside the gooey cheese, create a perfectly balanced blend of tangy, salty, and sweet flavors and make an awesome lunch or late-afternoon snack.

13. Greek grilled cheese with feta, olives, and peppers

Brighten up your grilled cheese sandwich by adding a Mediterranean flair with feta cheese, olives, and bell peppers. This Greek-inspired version has a delicious balance of salty, tangy, and fresh flavors that will fill your lunch with sunshine even on the rainiest of days.

Feta cheese is not commonly used on grilled cheese as it doesn't really melt, but it does soften and has a delicious texture when cooked. If you are keen to have the traditional melted cheese effect, you could add some grated Mozzarella alongside the feta. Chopped kalamata olives and diced bell peppers in between the cubes of feta will make sure you get a burst of Mediterranean flavor in every mouthful. The salty feta and olives are balanced beautifully by the fresh peppers, which also add a welcome crunch.

If you want to continue the authentic Greek vibe, you could make this grilled cheese sandwich in pita bread instead of traditional bread. The thin nature of the pita means the filling will soften quickly while the bread will get a lovely crispy crust. Dried or fresh oregano will also add further Greek flavor, either in the filling or added to the oil in the pan before cooking. Serve with a dollop of tzatziki on the side, and enjoy a delicious taste of Greece for lunch or a hearty snack.

14. Add jalapeño poppers

If you are a lover of all things hot and spicy, adding jalapeño poppers is a great way to improve your grilled cheese and get your chili heat fix. The creamy, spicy kick of the poppers alongside the gooey melted cheese is a match made in heaven.

You can either buy pre-made jalapeño poppers or make your own by stuffing the chilis with cream cheese. If making them yourself, you can control the heat of the overall dish by removing as many of the seeds and as much of the white membrane as you wish. You can deep fry them or oven-bake them before slicing to add to the grilled cheese sandwich.

You'll want to choose a cheese that goes well with the heat of the chilis — something like a Monterey Jack will add flavor without overpowering. For the bread, a plain white will provide a neutral taste and allow the flavor of the jalapeño to shine through.

To assemble, slice the jalapeño poppers in half to allow them to sit in the bread, then add sliced or grated cheese on either side of them to allow it to melt easily. The result is a mouthwatering take on a classic sandwich that will satisfy anyone looking for a spicy kick from their lunchtime snack.

15. Chicken parm grilled cheese

If you are looking for the ultimate upgrade for your grilled cheese, why not combine two favorite comfort foods into one spectacularly indulgent treat? Chicken parmesan has a similar vibe to grilled cheese, with its contrast of soft center and crunchy exterior, so it makes sense that a fusion of the two would be pretty awesome.

If you have some leftover chicken parmesan, you are good to go, but otherwise, you will have to bread a chicken cutlet and fry until the meat is cooked and the crust is golden. Mozzarella and parmesan are the cheeses of choice for chicken parm, but you could add other cheeses to increase the umami flavor.

Bread choice is very important here, since this is not your average grilled cheese. A robust, thick-cut loaf is essential to support the weight and moisture content of the chicken and cheese without becoming soggy. As you layer your sandwich with the meat and cheese, you may want to add a spoonful of marinara sauce across the top for that authentic chicken parm flavor — but if you don't think the bread can handle it without falling apart, serve it on the side instead.

Cook the sandwich carefully to prevent the delicious fillings from escaping, and allow it to sit for a few minutes afterward to let the cheese set slightly and hold everything together before you slice. Serve it with a side salad and enjoy the comfort of two classic dishes in one.