It's hard to resist the comfort of a grilled cheese sandwich—especially after a long day. This quintessentially American meal satisfies without requiring much effort or ingredients—it's mostly just bread, butter, and cheese. But if you're anything like us, that simple pleasure can also be too rich and—dare we say it—cheesy. That's where healthy grilled cheese sandwiches come in.
The next time you're looking to slather softened butter on a hunk of bread and cover it with a mound of cheese, don't let the thought of calories cloud your excitement. We've put together a list of 11 healthy grilled cheese sandwiches to choose from, which feature delicious ingredients like kale, broccoli, pears, and more. In fact, one recipe doesn't include any bread at all.
These sandwiches may not be as "clean" as a salad, but sometimes even the strictest diet deserves to get a little messy.
Sweet Potato and Kale Grilled Cheese
The Healthy Ingredients: Whole grain bread and Havarti cheese may be part of this tasty sandwich from Two Peas and Their Pod, but it's also layered with kale, sweet potato, and red onion for a healthy edge.
The Pro Tip: Peel and slice the sweet potato to make sure it gets evenly cooked in the sandwich.
The Clincher: Add a balsamic glaze or reduction to give the healthy veggies an added layer of flavor.
Green Grilled Cheese
The Healthy Ingredients: Spinach, avocado, pesto, and a leek give this sandwich its verdant name. The sandwich, created by Stephanie and Mike from I Am a Food Blog, was inspired by that of Jessica Merchant's in Seriously Delish.
The Pro Tip: Spread butter evenly on one side of the bread, and then spread pesto on the other side. Who knew one slice of bread could have so much flavor?
The Clincher: Stephanie and Mike "couldn’t resist using butter instead of olive oil and adding in some thickly sliced avocados," which would be hard for us to pass over, too.
Grilled Cheese on Cauliflower "Bread"
The Healthy Ingredients: While cheddar can be a star ingredient of this dish created by Tess Ward, it's what she does with cauliflower, olive oil, and an egg that make this dish healthy.
The Pro Tip: Instead of using typical bread, Ward created her own with "slices" of cauliflower florets mixed with egg and parmesan.
The Clincher: Add in finely sliced pickle or jalapeño for a bit of spice.
Apple and Fontina Grilled Cheese
The Healthy Ingredients: Baby spinach is layered with slices of sweet-tart apple in a Fontina-based sandwich that uses Dijon mustard to tie everything together.
The Pro Tip: Don't just spread mustard on to any bread. Dawn Perry of Bon Appétit used pumpernickel bread to make this simple lunch staple that much tastier.
The Clincher: "Transfer sandwiches to a wire rack and let cool slightly (this will keep the cheese from squeezing out when you slice them)," the recipe notes.
Grilled Pear and Blue Cheese
The Healthy Ingredients: A cored Anjou pear is matched with slices of blue cheese in this refined recipe from Clean Eating.
The Pro Tip: Although you can make this sandwich in a skillet, Emily Christopher of Clean Eating recommends making it in a panini press instead. It'll help keep the cheese in place.
The Clincher: A layer of arugula gives the robust flavors a peppery finish.
Roasted Broccoli Grilled Cheese
The Healthy Ingredients: Thinly sliced roasted red peppers, broccoli, white cheddar, and mozzarella combine to make this colorful sandwich from Sam at Ahead of Thyme.
The Pro Tip: "Broccoli and cheddar cheese are already such a wonderful pairing that it makes sense to throw them together in a sandwich," Sam says, adding that roasted red peppers bring out their flavors.
The Clincher: "The secret is to make sure to weigh down the sandwich with something heavy (like a cast iron) when you are grilling. This will help the sandwich get that browned, crispy crust that makes for the perfect grilled cheese," Sam writes.
Chili Relleno Grilled Cheese
The Healthy Ingredients: Get ready for a grilled cheese sandwich recipe from Fitness Magazine that packs a kick, thanks to poblano peppers, chili powder, and Monterey Jack cheese.
The Pro Tip: Coat the avocado in lime juice (so it keeps its green coloring) and add salt for flavor.
The Clincher: Layering the sandwich in a mixture of beaten eggs, chili powder, and milk will give it a rich, golden exterior.
Roasted Tomato and Artichoke Grilled Cheese
The Healthy Ingredients: Slices of tomatoes and mozzarella mix with shredded Gouda and basil pesto in this recipe from Manda of the Merry Thought.
The Pro Tip: Pat and dry the halved artichokes so that they cook evenly on a baking sheet with the garlic, tomatoes, and olive oil.
The Clincher: Don't tie yourself to measurements with this recipe—Manda didn't. "I feel liked grilled cheese is an add-as-much-as-you-like kind of recipe," she writes.
Roasted Asparagus Grilled Cheese
The Healthy Ingredients: White cheddar cheese and gruyère mix in this sourdough-topped recipe from Becky of the Vintage Mixer, but it's the addition of asparagus that makes it nutritious.
The Pro Tip: "Remove the woody ends of the asparagus and toss the spears with olive oil, then sprinkle with the sea salt and pepper," Becky says. Then roast them on a baking sheet for up to 10 minutes.
The Clincher: Choosing between the two cheeses? Pick the gruyère. "It's a perfect pair with the asparagus and melts really well," she writes.
Eggplant Grilled Cheese
The Healthy Ingredients: Japanese eggplant is cut into planks alongside minced garlic and aged cheddar to make up this pick from Food & Wine.
The Pro Tip: Before you assemble the sandwich, grill the eggplant for up to five minutes in the same pan.
The Clincher: Pickles and mustard are just two of the optional ingredients of this sandwich, so you can always add more to it if you like.
Hawaiian Grilled Cheese
The Healthy Ingredients: Fresh pineapple and plum tomato complement Fontina and mozzarella cheese in this decadent choice from Grilled Cheese Kitchen by Heidi Gibson and Nate Pollak.
The Pro Tip: "We turned this classic pizza combination into one heck of a grilled cheese sandwich by using fresh, high-quality ingredients," write the authors.
The Clincher: Add a pinch of red pepper flakes at the end for one last hit of flavor.