19 Ways to Make an Ordinary Grilled Cheese Extraordinary

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A TOAST TO GRILLED CHEESE

A feel-good classic, the grilled cheese sandwich can be simple, elaborate, or totally offbeat. At its core are two slices of bread, sliced or grated cheese, and a little butter. The basic steps: Butter each slice of bread on one side, place in a nonstick pan butter side down, top with cheese, cover the pan, and cook over medium heat until the cheese starts to melt and bubble. Flip one slice of bread on top of the other, press them gently together, flip the sandwich over, and it's done. Here are 19 ways to make this iconic comfort food even better.

bread loaf with olives on wooden board on wooden table
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INCREDIBLE BREAD

To get a little more adventurous, start by varying the bread. An artisan loaf with garlic or olives baked into it, for example, can provide a much tastier base for a sandwich than standard white bread. Be aware, however, that you may need to adjust cooking time as a result -- particularly if using thick-cut slices.

traditional dijon mustard in a glass jar
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A TASTE OF DIJON

There's nothing like a little mustard to lend elegance and sharpness to a grilled cheese sandwich. For a hint of French cuisine in an all-American creation, add a dash of Dijon mustard to the non-buttered side of the bread before you add the cheese. Then sprinkle with a little salt and pepper before cooking.
Marmite
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MIGHTY MARMITE

One of the great tricks for making a unique grilled cheese sandwich is to offset the often smooth and creamy taste of the cheese with something sharp. Marmite, the flavorful spread made from yeast extract that has been popular in Britain for than a century, is one tasty option. Just spread a little on the non-buttered side of each slice of bread before adding the cheese. And don't use too much -- it's powerful stuff!

grilled cheese with onion
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SWEET ONION

To add both sweetness and vegetable goodness, consider cooking some onions to add to the sandwich. Just sauté sliced onions in butter until soft, then add them to the sandwich just as the cheese is melting. Not only will the sandwich taste more delicious, but the kitchen will smell wonderful.

mini grilled cheese sandwich without crust
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PRESCHOOL-STYLE

The Grilled Cheese Grill in Portland, Oregon, offers a few fun ideas. One such notion is that merely by cutting off the crusts, you can take someone back to their preschool days. Just add a juice box, and they'll be in full nostalgia mode.
jalapeño grilled cheese
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HOT AND SPICY

The Grilled Cheese Grill also offers a jalapeño popper version that includes grilled jalapeños, Colby Jack cheese, cream cheese, and corn tortilla chips on sourdough bread. There's the option of adding grilled ham to this already hearty combination for more protein.
grilled cheese on sourdough bread
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FINE AND FANCY

What do you get when you upgrade a standard grilled cheese with three different types of cheese, thick sourdough bread, garlic, thyme, and red pepper flakes? Something quite delicious, according to the blog The Garlic Diaries. With those ingredients, it's hard to go wrong.
brie grilled cheese
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A LITTLE BRIE

There's something wonderful about having sweet and creamy cheese flavors in a sandwich. Consider using slices of brie cheese on thick-sliced bread -- sourdough or another artisan bread would be a good choice -- with unsalted butter and a dab of sweet mango chutney. It will be gooey, but it will be good.
tomato and basil grilled cheese
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SWEET BASIL

Two slices of whole wheat bread with sliced, fresh tomatoes, a couple of basil leaves, havarti cheese, and a little honey make a really sweet grilled cheese sandwich. That's the recommendation of the blog Oh, Sweet Basil, which includes pictures of the Oprah-endorsed final product that will leave your mouth watering.
grilled cheese sandwich with avocado and spinach
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TBACO

What's a TBACO? A turkey bacon, avocado, cheese, and onion sandwich. Additions such as tomato spoil the fun of the name but make the sandwich even better. Add some spinach or basil leaves and you have a healthier version of a BLT that's dripping with goodness. Also consider using a little balsamic dressing -- and mozzarella as the cheese.
Nutella cream on spoon over black background
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A SINFUL SANDWICH

There's a sandwich from the Grilled Cheese Grill that's equal measures of funny and indulgent. Here's what owner Matthew Breslow says on his menu about the sandwich he calls "The Jaime": "You may want to eat this in private." It's made with grilled banana, Nutella, and cream cheese on cinnamon swirl bread.

cobb melt grilled cheese
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COBB MELT

A popular variation on the grilled cheese sandwich theme is the "melt." While both have bread and cheese, a melt puts the focus on the other ingredients. A Cobb melt from Dave Danhi of the Grilled Cheese Truck in Los Angeles (via Tillamook) combines traditional grilled cheese sandwich and Cobb salad ingredients.
Grilled Panini with Vegetables
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LOADED VEGGIE

No list of grilled cheese sandwich options would be complete without mentioning mushrooms. A sandwich recipe from the blog The Dreaming Foodie includes everything from spinach to tomatoes to onions to mushrooms -- all brought together within the loving embrace of cheese and bread.
grilled cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread on wooden table
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EXTRA CHEESY

There's no rule that says you have to add a ton of extra ingredients to make a brilliant grilled cheese sandwich. Sometimes you really want only bread and cheese. One way to make that more fun is to try different combinations of cheese, as each brings a different flavor to the sandwich. Consider combining mozzarella, cheddar, and havarti, for example.

grilled cheese sandwich with caramelized apples
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LIGHTENED UP

If you're counting calories, you may want to find ways to cut down on the cheese in your sandwich. Using less than an ounce of cheese -- and adding solid and tasty extras such as onions, celery, or even thinly sliced apple -- is one approach. You can also use lower-calorie bread and swap out butter for a low-calorie margarine. Be aware, however, that you may need to cook the sandwich longer and at lower heat.

grilled cheese sandwich on plate
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VEGAN

Can you even make a grilled cheese sandwich without cheese? There are quite a few ways to do it using vegan cheese substitute products. The blog It Doesn't Taste Like Chicken offers a recipe for a vegetable-filled grilled cheese sandwich using a vegan nacho cheese substitute.
Gluten-Free Crust
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PIZZA-STYLE

While a grilled cheese sandwich is not a pizza, these two favorites do share common elements: cheese and dough. To amp up the similarity, add a little tomato sauce, some pepperoni sausage, onions, and a little olive oil to your grilled cheese creation.

thick waffles with cheese and spice
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WAFFLICIOUS

Not only can you experiment with different kinds of bread, you can take bread right out of the mix. Consider swapping out the bread for waffles. You'll get a whole new set of tastes and textures, no matter what combination of cheese and extras you put between the waffles.

ripe raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries
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CHEESECAKE-INSPIRED

There's a reason cheesecake is served with berries. If you love the combination of sweet and savory, think about adding some berries to a grilled cheese sandwich. Blackberries, blueberries, and a variety of dried fruits are all fair game. You may want to start with a sweeter cheese, such as cream cheese.

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