It's hard to resist the comfort of a grilled cheese sandwich. This quintessentially American meal satisfies without requiring much effort or ingredients—all you really need is bread, butter, and cheese. But if you're anything like us, we're always on the lookout to elevate basic recipes while still keeping it pretty simple. And, bonus points if we can sneak in nourishing veggies and fiber-packed fruits for a touch of natural sweetness.
So, we rounded up 12 healthier grilled cheese sandwiches to choose from, which feature delicious ingredients like kale, broccoli, pears, and more. In moderation, these grilled cheese sandwiches strike a nice balance of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) in one hand-held meal, without sacrificing the gooey, cheesy texture and flavor we all love.
Green Harissa Grilled Cheese
The Healthy Ingredients: Green harissa shines in Love and Lemons's grilled cheese recipe. It's comprised of "charred peppers, garlic, lemon, spices, cilantro, pepitas, and olive oil," and has a texture similar to pesto.
The Pro Tip: In place of harissa, Love and Lemons recommends swapping it out for chipotle sauce or pesto.
The Clincher: A few handfuls of spinach ensures we sneak in some greens alongside melty cheese, like havarti.
Brie and Pear Grilled Cheese Sandwich
The Healthy Ingredients: Sweet pear compliments brie and gruyere cheeses in this grilled cheese recipe from Le Petit Eats.
The Pro Tip: Drizzle with honey for an "extra pop of flavor." Le Petit Eats also recommends using bakery-quality bread. And, make your grilled cheese in a cast iron skillet if you have one, as "it helps the bread toast evenly," explains Le Petit Eats.
The Clincher: Fresh thyme, which adds an herbaceous contrast to savory and sweet flavors.
Breakfast Grilled Cheese With Ham, Egg, and Apple Butter
The Healthy Ingredients: Boulder Locavore's grilled cheese recipe is savory, a bit sweet, and packed with protein, thanks to ham and eggs.
The Pro Tip: Boulder Locavore opts for artisan ham, an aged English cheddar cheese with "stand-up-and-take-note saturation of cheddar flavor," and apple butter.
The Clincher: While you can go for store bought apple butter, Boulder Locavore's recipe for slow-cooker apple butter ensures you'll have extra leftover for other recipes.
Zucchini Grilled Cheese
The Pro Tip: Use vegan mozzarella or pepper jack cheeses to keep things dairy-free. And don't forget to sprinkle shredded zucchini with salt before adding to sandwich.
The Clincher: This sandwich is versatile enough to go wild with condiments. "One day I use pesto, some days mustard (dijon or yellow), chipotle or kimchi mayo," writes Brown Sugar & Vanilla.
French Onion and Apple Grilled Cheese
The Healthy Ingredients: Thinly sliced apples makes Half Baked Harvest's grilled cheese recipe equal parts sweet, salty, and savory; which is also thanks to caramelized onions and crispy prosciutto.
The Pro Tip: Use apple cider vinegar to caramelize onions, instead of sugar. "The sweetness from the cider helps the onions take on a really deep golden color while also adding a nice spiced cider flavor. It’s kind of sweet, kind of savory, and kind of really good," writes Half Baked Harvest.
The Clincher: Fresh thyme and sage help flavor the onions, and crispy sage for serving completes the grown-up sandwich.
Kimchi Grilled Cheese
The Pro Tip: Have fresh chives, and honey on-hand for serving.
The Clincher: "Slather the bread with some garlicky sesame butter," writes Half Baked Harvest, which is also known as "salty butter with garlic and raw sesame seeds." The sesame seeds (which Half Baked Harvest does not recommend omitting) will toast in the skillet.
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 & 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 grilled cheese 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 Seriously Delish recipe.
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 and Pear Sandwich With Red Onion and Rosemary
The Healthy Ingredients: Pears and spinach offer fiber and protein in this vegetarian grilled cheese sandwich from Two Peas & Their Pod. You'll also need red onion slices and a spreadable cheese; Two Peas & Their Pod opted for a Laughing Cow cheese wedge.
The Pro Tip: Brush pear slices with a bit of agave to help caramelize pears as you grill them.
The Clincher: A sprinkle of fresh rosemary adds an herby, elevated 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: "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.
The Clincher: "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.
Spinach Artichoke Grilled Cheese
The Healthy Ingredients: Spinach and artichoke add a nice balance of micronutrients to this grilled cheese sandwich recipe from A Couple Cooks. Add melted shredded cheese and it tastes interestingly close to spinach artichoke dip!
The Pro Tip: Make this sandwich gluten-free with gluten-free bread.
The Clincher: Garlic adds depth of flavor. You'll sauté it in a skillet before adding spinach and artichoke.
Hawaiian Pineapple Ham Grilled Cheese
The Pro Tip: Don't pass up the opportunity to enhance this flavor combination with Dijon or honey mustard.
The Clincher: "Pineapple and ham aren't some one-size-fits-all flavor combo out in the Islands," writes Salt & Wind. "But what they can't deny, is that no matter how it comes together, pineapple and ham make for a really delicious combo – especially when cheese is involved."