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19 Best Condiments To Elevate Your Grilled Cheese

Grilled cheese  with different condiments
Grilled cheese with different condiments - Static Media / Shutterstock / Getty

No food feeds our soul quite like a warm grilled cheese, complete with a browned, buttery crust and ooey-gooey cheddar, mozzarella, or American singles in the center. Oh, and don't forget the accompanying steaming bowl of tomato soup. It's the perfect remedy to the mid-winter blues, satisfying to eat when you're feeling under the weather, and delicious at pretty much any other moment as well.

For a long time, many people thought grilled cheese was just cooked bread sandwiching a slice or two of cheese. While there's nothing wrong with this simple and homely interpretation, it limits what is possible with this sandwich. Not only can you select an array of tasty additions to amp up the grilled cheese's texture and flavor, you can also check out the condiment shelf in your fridge for inspiration. These inexpensive and simple spreads and sauces are an easy way to give your grilled cheese the love it needs. Here are some of our favorite condiments to pair with the classic grilled cheese sandwich.

Read more: 26 Best Toppings To Add To Your Chicken Sandwich

Mustard

Mustard powder and condiment
Mustard powder and condiment - LN team/Shutterstock

The best condiments will always have a spot in our hearts -- and in our fridge. This includes any of the many variations of mustard. If you are a hot dog enthusiast, you likely have a squeeze bottle of the classic French's yellow mustard in your fridge. Or, if you like things spicy, you may stock up on your favorite Dijon. Regardless of what you choose, you should know that there is definitely a spot for this spread inside of your grilled cheese.

Mustard is the bold condiment you need to make your grilled cheese pop and a must-have for Ina Garten's grilled cheese. To make her recipe, she whips up a spread with Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, and parmesan and adds it to the sandwich. The sharpness of the Dijon pairs well with the rich selection of gruyere and sharp cheddar cheese. Plus, the grainy bits of the mustard give the sandwich its distinct color.

Pesto

Pesto sauce with ingredients
Pesto sauce with ingredients - Fcafotodigital/Getty Images

We wish there was a way to bottle up summer in a jar. Oh wait, there is -- pesto! Pesto is a magic spread that's filled with the summery flavors of freshly plucked basil, nutty parmesan cheese, rich olive oil, and a hint of pine nuts. You can also change up your spread by swapping out some of the basil for different herbs or extend your basil supply with the help of leafy spinach.

Adding pesto to your sandwich is an easy way to take it from good to gourmet. The herbal notes bolster the flavor of the cheese, and it works remarkably well with a range of varieties. We particularly love staying in the Italian domain and blending cheddar with mozzarella, freshly sliced tomatoes, and a schmear of herby pesto. You can also pair it with different types of bread. For example, a thick focaccia studded with olives and rosemary could make a perfect pairing for your pesto-infused grilled cheese.

Mayonnaise

Mayo in white bowl
Mayo in white bowl - Marko Jan/Getty Images

Although the fever around swapping butter for mayo on grilled cheese has died down in recent years, we're still supporters of using this condiment on the outside of your sandwich to get the perfect color and crunch. Although it might seem strange to use mayonnaise as a cooking tool, its qualities make it a great addition to the sandwich. First off, the spread has a higher smoke point than butter, which means you can heat it to higher temperatures without releasing unsavory fumes into your kitchen. Plus, it has a much more spreadable consistency than butter, which tends to rip and tear your bread if you're using it straight from the fridge.

You don't just have to use mayonnaise as a cooking grease, either. Aioli, which is basically a term for fancy mayonnaise, can infuse herbs and spices into your sandwich in an approachable way. We recommend trying a chipotle aioli, which can cut the creaminess of the spice. Garlic aioli is also a popular option for keeping vampires away and cementing your appreciation of this treasured allium.

Peanut Butter

Bread slathered with peanut butter
Bread slathered with peanut butter - Fcafotodigital/Getty Images

We can assure you we're still talking about a grilled cheese sandwich here and not shifting gears into PB&J territory. Peanut butter is the unconventional ingredient that will change your grilled cheese forever. The nutty undertones of the peanuts, combined with a sweet contrast from jam or jelly, can add depth to your sandwich that you didn't expect. Combining this sandwich staple with cheese is a great idea, especially when you consider how delicious those little peanut butter and cheese crackers can be.

One of our favorite ways to use peanut butter in this classic sandwich is to make it into an Elvis-style grilled cheese with bacon, goat cheese, bananas, and peanut butter. This sandwich capitalizes on all things savory by mixing the leftover bacon grease into the peanut butter and cheese spread.

Tomato Sauce

Marinara sauce with ingredients
Marinara sauce with ingredients - Bhofack2/Getty Images

Tomato soup and grilled cheese might be a classic combination cemented in history, but what about tomato sauce? As you can imagine, a touch of tomato sauce makes for a more savory grilled cheese since the spread is rife with umami-rich tomato, garlic, and onions. "Tomato sauce" is also a wide category in itself, so you have the creative liberty to play with different sauces, like vodka and marinara. You can start with a simple twist on a pizza grilled cheese by adding a swipe of red sauce to the inside of your sandwich, paired with herby basil, oregano, and soft mozzarella. A couple of slices of pepperoni may even be appropriate.

Mozzarella isn't the only cheese that can be elevated with tomato sauce. You can also make a traditional play on the sandwich with slices of plain American cheese, creamy goat cheese, or even provolone.

Kewpie Mayo

Kewpie mayo in bowl
Kewpie mayo in bowl - Bhofack2/Getty Images

Although Kewpie mayo shares some of the same ingredients as its American equivalent, the two are just not the same. This Japanese mayo makes Momofuku-worthy grilled cheese that is bound to please any palate.

Kewpie mayo has an unprecedented level of umami flavor thanks to the addition of monosodium glutamate (MSG) and the use of egg yolks. Conventional American mayo relies on extra canola or grapeseed oil to bolster its consistency. In addition, Kewpie also plays with a wider spectrum of vinegar that helps balance out the richness of the yolks. The result is a more pronounced, savory flavor that a jar of plain Hellman's won't ever come close to. Tuck it in between your bread slices for creamy umami flavor.

Guacamole

Closeup of guacamole
Closeup of guacamole - Valentyn Volkov/Shutterstock

Wait, this isn't a taco! It's not -- but that doesn't mean guacamole doesn't have a place here. Although we often think of guacamole (and avocado in general) as a topping for trendy toasts or an ingredient in our favorite taco Tuesday special, it's also the creamy ingredient that will make your grilled cheese rich, not soggy. The avocado provides a fresh contrast against the cheese's heaviness and richness.

Guac plays well with other ingredients, particularly breakfast grilled cheese items like bacon and egg. Or, you can spice your guacamole up with some chopped red onions, cilantro, and garlic for fiesta flair. Regardless of how you customize it, you can rest assured that your avocado will pack a big nutritional punch, too. It's full of potassium and healthy fats that will keep you satiated long after you finish your sandwich.

Mostarda

Mostarda in glass bowl
Mostarda in glass bowl - Saratm/Getty Images

You may not be familiar with mostarda if you aren't keen on Italian food. This condiment is an easy way to elevate grilled cheese because it introduces a slurry of new flavors, including fruity undertones from the bits of apricots, figs, and dates floating in the mustardy spread. Other mostarda varieties, like mostarda di frutta, swap out the stone fruits for pears, which pair beautifully with a smooth, well-rounded gouda. You can use homemade mostarda or pick up a jar from your local Italian shop for your sandwich.

The best way to use mostarda for your grilled cheese is to slather it in between your bread and the cheese. This placement allows the flavors of the mostarda to intertwine with the gooey cheese to create the perfect fruity-yet-zesty bite. If you prefer a condiment that's heavy on the mustard, you can also add an extra slather to your bread for even more flavor.

Apple Butter

Apple butter on toast
Apple butter on toast - Rudisill/Getty Images

Apple butter is an essential treat during the cool fall months. For those unfamiliar with this autumnal condiment, think of applesauce, but with deeper caramel notes and a thicker consistency. Already, you can probably imagine how well apple butter pairs with a sharp cheddar, caramelized onions, and bacon on delicious pieces of grainy, whole-wheat bread. As with other spreads, add your apple butter to the sandwich before you sprinkle or slap on your cheese, to ensure that the fruity flavors meld together in perfect, autumnal harmony. If you're making it at home, you can also tweak the recipe to add more of your favorite spices, like ginger and cloves.

Gochujang

White bowl of gochujang
White bowl of gochujang - boommaval/Shutterstock

Gochujang has risen into the spotlight in recent years, and it's easy to see why. When you taste it, you're immediately hit with waves of umami, saltiness, and, above all, spiciness, which makes it a versatile condiment for foods both inside and outside of Asian cuisine. We recommend adding gochujang to grilled cheese for a spicy punch. There are a ton of different cheeses to use with this condiment, including Monterey Jack, gouda, or even brie.

The key to using it in any dish, grilled cheese or not, is to add it incrementally. You only need about a teaspoon for your sandwich if you want a subdued hint of spice, as anything more may send you gasping for water. Besides adding it directly to the sandwich, you can mix this condiment with a bit of mayonnaise to make it into a milder aioli.

Bacon Jam

Bacon jam in small jar
Bacon jam in small jar - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

If you don't have any spare pieces of bacon lying around for your grilled cheese, bacon jam is the next best thing. This sweet yet savory jam is an excellent addition to grilled cheese that adds to its overall profile without distracting from the flavors that are already there. Besides the salty, bacon-y base, there's a wonderful brightness from the vinegar, subtle sweetness from the brown sugar, and sharp notes of onion. This jam also has one over on traditional bacon pieces because of its spreadable consistency, which means you get a little bit of bacon in every single bite.

Bacon jam is an easy recipe to make. Cook the onions and bacon down before adding in the brown sugar, vinegar, and water and letting it simmer for about 10 minutes. Besides grilled cheese, you can also use this condiment in your charcuterie boards or to make an out-of-this-world breakfast sandwich.

Chakalaka

Chakalaka in bowl
Chakalaka in bowl - From_my_point_of_view/Getty Images

Chakalaka is an integral component of South African cuisine, and is made of beans and warming spices that have been cooked down into a thick spread. A chakalaka grilled cheese, or braaibroodjie, is a popular sandwich in the region made with tomatoes, onions, various seasonings, and this delicious chutney. Although you might be wondering how beans and toast fare well with cheese, we can assure you the results are flavorful; the spread cuts through the richness of the dairy. We recommend using a well-aged cheddar.

The main element that chakalaka brings to the table that differs from other condiments is a range of complex spices. Turmeric, paprika, ginger, and coriander are only some of its possible tasting notes -- there's so much variation in the condiment that it's hard to nail down an exact recipe.

Kimchi

Bowl of kimchi
Bowl of kimchi - Ollo/Getty Images

There's so much to love about bright, briny kimchi. Kimichi recipes vary, but some sort of cabbage is usually involved, along with radishes and carrots. What this boils down to is a diverse portfolio of textures that hold onto the ginger and acidic pickling liquid. Every bite is unexpected and delicious, which makes kimchi a perfect fit in so many different kinds of dishes.

We recommend using mozzarella and cheddar cheese for an oozy kimchi grilled cheese. These cheeses are particularly rich and creamy, but also have a soft quality that will make biting into the sandwich and experiencing a quintessential cheese pull all the more satisfying. Secure your kimchi underneath the cheese before putting the sandwich in the pan to brown to perfection.

Relish

Relish in white bowl
Relish in white bowl - Msphotographic/Getty Images

It's easy to forget about relish in a fridge full of newer, stranger, more eye-catching condiments. But there's a place for humble relish when it comes to grilled cheese. A layer of pickle relish balances out the richness of your grilled cheese and introduces a bright, vinegary undertone. Anyone who has ever enjoyed a schmear of relish on their hot dog will know that there's a little bit of crunch there too, but not to the point of upsetting the sandwich's soft mouthfeel.

The one tricky bend that you'll need to navigate when working with relish is that the condiment leans wet. This has the potential to make your sandwich soggy and disrupt the perfect color and crispiness on the outside. Try to drain as much of the liquid as possible when you add it to your bread, to enjoy the mild flavor of the pickles without allowing your creation to fall apart.

Fruit Jam

Wooden spoon holding strawberry pieces
Wooden spoon holding strawberry pieces - Pinkybird/Getty Images

We can't say it enough: Fruit belongs in grilled cheese. Sweetened fruit jam offers a palate-pleasing texture that simply diced-up apples, blueberries, or other kinds of fruit just can't provide. It plays gorgeously in a grilled cheese, especially something like a jammy brie grilled cheese. The sweetness and mild acidity from the jam curbs the nutty richness of the cheese. Swapping plain sandwich bread for a crusty sourdough further guarantees an award-winning sandwich that takes lunch to a new level.

The exact jam you use on your sandwich will vary, based on your preference. Blueberry pairs well with thyme, rosemary, and a mild cheddar. Raspberry jam is another popular and common option that elevates savory cheeses and sliced meats to a new level. When you think about it, a grilled cheese is kind of like a simplified charcuterie board -- and fruit is a common addition to any board worth its salt. No wonder jam works so well in grilled cheese.

Barbecue Sauce

Barbecue sauce on the grill
Barbecue sauce on the grill - Nwphotoguy/Getty Images

We love barbecue sauce because it's complex. Not only do you get a subtle sweetness from the brown sugar or maple syrup, the hickory smoke profile always shines through. This tangy condiment is a good addition whenever meat gets involved with the otherwise vegetarian grilled cheese.

Pulled pork, for example, is a great ingredient that elevates grilled cheese and puts leftovers to work. Slather this meat in your favorite barbecue sauce and pile it high on your grilled cheese sandwich. To make it even better, opt for a sweet bread, like a brioche, to complement the tanginess of the sauce. You can also add a bit of barbecue sauce to your sandwich if you're working with leftover ham slices or otherwise bland chicken.

Honey

Honey dripping off spoon
Honey dripping off spoon - Martin Barraud/Getty Images

When we think of honey, we think of everything floral, herbaceous, and sweet. It's a great ingredient to pair with thyme or rosemary because it enhances their flavors. It's an even better ingredient to pair with grilled cheese because the sweetness curbs the richness of brie, gouda, cheddar, and many more types of cheese. Notably, honey is a difficult ingredient to contain to one spot, because it's so sticky and viscous. So, to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of your pan and burning, we recommend drizzling it on the top of your sandwich after you plate it. Sure, your fingers will get messy -- but isn't that part of the fun?

If you like things spicy, you can also swap out your honey for a hotter version. Hot honey is in its heyday, and it could be your next secret weapon in making delicious grilled cheese.

Buffalo Sauce

Buffalo sauce in a bowl
Buffalo sauce in a bowl - Michelle Lee Photography/Shutterstock

Buffalo sauce is like barbecue sauce, but with more heat and buttery undertones. The condiment comes in several variations depending on the heat level you're looking for, which allows you to easily customize your grilled cheese. We recommend using this sauce as a pairing for cheddar, which could use a little spicy oomph here and there, or with any sort of chicken or poultry addition. Serve your sandwich with a side of celery sticks, and you'll have everything you need for a delicious eating experience.

Buffalo sauce isn't the only way to infuse game-day flavor into your sandwich, either. You can also add leftover buffalo chicken dip to your grilled cheese. Go with hearty Texas toast or sourdough to help support your hefty filling.

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup bottles in row
Maple syrup bottles in row - Saturated/Getty Images

Maple is delicious in everything from lattes to jam, so, unsurprisingly, it's weaseled its way onto our list of the best condiments for grilled cheese. Unlike honey, which has a slightly more viscous texture, maple syrup has a thin consistency with more profound, oaky notes. It pairs well with anything meaty, including ham, bacon, and turkey, as well as slivered apples and thyme.

As with any sticky condiment, you should avoid cooking it on a hot surface; the smell of burnt sugar tends to linger for hours on end, and burnt syrup is a major pain to scrape off a pan. A quick drizzle before serving or a ramekin on the table filled to the brim with Vermont Grade A is the way to go.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.