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History of the Grilled Cheese Sandwich

History of the Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Does the mere suggestion of smooth, mild, patriotic American cheese, creamy Danish Havarti, buttery Norwegian Jarlsberg, or sharp Vermont cheddar—maybe even melded together in a crisp, four-cheese Panini sandwich—make your mouth water? Or how about a slice of mozzarella and some fragrant pesto, between thick slices of artisan bread, lightly grilled in salted butter? If cheese and its many manifestations are a big part of your DNA (card-carrying Wisconsin residents withstanding), you may be one of the millions likely to celebrate National Grilled Cheese Day on April 12th!

Grilled Cheese History

Though the history of “cooked bread and cheese” predates many records, the first U.S. modern accounts link an open-faced sandwich to the 1920s when inexpensive sliced bread and American cheese were readily available. Called a “cheese dream” during the Great Depression, the concept sometimes involved ham or bacon, or perhaps eggs, cayenne, mustard or mayonnaise, browned on both sides and served in tomato sauce at Sunday supper. In fact, a 1918 Good Housekeeping magazine also featured cheese dreams.

How Do You Like Your Grilled Cheese?

Maybe you’re a purist and fancy your grilled cheese simple and straight up: American cheese with a little butter on grilled or toasted white, rye or pumpernickel, or you’re something of a grilled cheese voyeur — inspired by the concept of salty Swiss and sliced Bartlett pears on grilled brioche, or maybe tangy goat cheese with roasted red peppers and spinach on grilled ciabatta bread. Whatever you like, and limited only by your culinary imagination, there’s a great grilled cheese experience out there for everyone.

From easy and traditional to elaborate and exotic, these tasty variations of warm, toasty cheese sandwiches will make you melt and help you and your family celebrate Grilled Cheese Day in gooey, gastronomical style:

South of the Border Grilled Cheese


1/4 cup tomato-based salsa
2 tablespoons canned fire roasted diced green chilies, drained
1 teaspoon taco seasoning
2 tablespoons butter, softened
8 slices hearty artisan jalapeño bread
4 ounces (1 cup) queso quesadilla cheese,* shredded

In a small bowl, combine salsa, chilies, and taco seasoning; let stand 5 minutes. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Spread salsa mixture on the non-buttered side of 4 slices of bread; top each slice with 1/4 cup cheese. Cover with the remaining 4 slices of bread, buttered side out. Place sandwiches on medium-heat electric griddle or in a preheated skillet over medium heat. Cook 4 to 5 minutes per side, or until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted. Serves four.
*Can substitute Monterey Jack, Asado, or other Mexican cheese.

Sourdough, Swiss, and Mango Chutney Grilled Cheese

8 slices sourdough bread
2-3 tablespoons butter, softened
8 slices Swiss cheese
1/2 cup mango chutney (more or less, depending on taste)

Butter both sides of bread, placing 2 slices of cheese and spreading a layer of mango chutney inside each sandwich. Grill in skillet, on medium-heat electric griddle, or in Panini maker. Serves four.

Grilled Cheese, Ham, and Jam on Brioche

8 1/2″-thick slices brioche
2-3 tablespoons butter, softened
8 slices Gruyere cheese
4 slices baked ham, thick cut
1/2 cup strawberry or raspberry jam

Spread four pieces of brioche with jam and a little butter. Top each with ham and Gruyere and another slice of brioche. Butter outside of sandwiches and grill. Serves four.

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  • Mary says:

    Open face, under the broiler…poor man’s “pizza”. On a cookie sheet, sliced bread thinly buttered side down, mayo on top, sliced garden FRESH beefsteak tomato, topped with good cheese and broiled til bubbly on top. Yum

  • Ellen says:

    Basic American cheese, white bread.
    Swiss cheese with mustard on rye.
    Love them both. Add tomato to either, even better!

  • Maggie B. says:

    I agree any cheese with any bread and at jam sounds worth trying, but I’ve been partial to sharp cheddar and a thin layer of blueberry jam grilled on a pre-toasted English muffin for many years now.

  • RFerris says:

    I grew up (I’m 69) with Wonder Bread, butter on both sides and real American cheese. But today, I prefer sourdough or seedless Beefsteak rye, cojack cheese and lightly buttered only on the outside for grilling on a griddle. And dill pickles and chips to set it off! I am a “grilled cheese purist”, w/o all the extras!

  • ddeldeb says:

    What about a gooy Velveeta grilled-cheese with a slice of onion.

  • Danny Bayhan says:

    Im 65 years old and every time I eat a grill cheese (Tayste Bread & American Cheese & Relish) I think of my Grandmas house in the 1950s it was a staple every weekend and Ill never never forget it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Paula Waters says:

    I had a wonderful grilled cheese sandwich and it was cheddar cheese (I think) thinly sliced granny smith apples, bacon, and pesto sauce and it was out of this world…..sounds not so good but was fabulous!

  • PegT says:

    Oh Exploding Mary–as my grandaughters would say, “Pllllleeeeease:!!!

  • Dorry says:

    First-Settle down “Exploding Mary”….it’s just a grilled cheese! A great Grilled Cheese for me is…any bread type with Am.= “yellow” cheese, sliced carrots and mayo and sometimes crisp bacon. Yummmm yum so good on a cool Saturday afternoon after working out doors!

  • Aberjoe says:

    I saw a TV chef who proved, “any kind of bread with any kind of cheese and any kind of jelly or jam,” is always delicious! I tried it and it’s true, I haven’t been able to disprove it yet.

  • Ali says:

    You say: “Does the idea of a perfect plate of sliced sweet pickles, string cheese, rye crackers, and an old movie seem like the best vacation ever?”

    I like it, only thing you left out was that nice glass of red wine to go with… 🙂

  • Exploding Mary says:

    Okay, there’s a problem here, right at the top of the article– American Cheese is not patriotic. How can I read further?

    Foodstuffs may be indigenous, but not patriotic, and even if they could be, processed cheese would not be on the list. It’s an unwarranted cuteness of phrase that is also disrespectful to the idea of patriotism. Do not use such ridiculous expressions again, please.

  • Kathy says:

    Our local premier restaurant, the Lightfoot has a GCOTD (Grilled Cheese of the Day) special every day. I frequent them often!

  • Kim says:

    I concocted a grilled cheese sandwich I call “Grilled Cheese Gone Wild…Kim’s Style.”
    EVERYONE around here loves it. Any type of cheese..any type of bread..sliced tomatoes..
    onion slices ( I prefer sweet onion)..bacon bits (real kind) and Miracle Whip. It is really

  • SueD says:

    Gruyere or Jarlsberg with thinly sliced crisp apple

  • ARodrigue says:

    I love putting tomato, green pepper and onion between two pieces of cheese and grilling on whatever bread I have.

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