Gourmet Grilled Cheese

A gourmet grilled cheese sandwich is only as good as what's inside it! Melty havarti cheese and spicy green harissa make this one something special.

Gourmet Grilled Cheese

This green harissa gourmet grilled cheese recipe is what I make when nothing but a grilled cheese will do. It has all the essentials of a good grilled cheese sandwich – crunchy, toasty bread and gooey cheese – but a handful of spinach and a slather of green harissa add an extra dimension of freshness and flavor. It’s lightly spicy and totally delicious – hands down the best grilled cheese I’ve had!

The green harissa is really the star of the show here. Made with charred peppers, garlic, lemon, spices, cilantro, pepitas, and olive oil, it has a similar texture to pesto and a delicious spiced flavor. It’s easy to make in the food processor, and it really jazzes up this gourmet grilled cheese recipe. I hope you love it as much as I do!

Open-faced gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches

How to Make Grilled Cheese

A basic grilled cheese requires just 3 ingredients:

  • Sliced bread – Sourdough bread is my favorite!
  • Cheese – I like havarti.
  • Butter or olive oil – As usual, extra-virgin olive oil is my pick.

Take this basic combination to the next level with a punchy spread, fresh veggies, or a mix of cheeses. I make my gourmet grilled cheese sandwich with havarti, green harissa, and spinach, but really, your filling options are endless. Swap in your favorite cheese, and skip the harissa if you like. A slather of Dijon mustard, chipotle sauce, or pesto would be great in its place. If you’re not in the mood for spinach, leave it out, or replace it with thin tomato or pepper slices, roasted tomatoes, roasted red peppers, pickled red onions, caramelized onions, or arugula.

Once you’ve assembled your ingredients, it’s time to cook! If you’re using it, slather the harissa onto a slice of bread and add some spinach and a thick layer of grated cheese. Top with the remaining slice of bread, drizzle with olive oil (or spread with butter), and grill your sandwich on both sides until the bread becomes golden brown and the cheese melts.

Serve with tomato soup or gazpacho, and enjoy!

Gourmet grilled cheese sandwich

Gourmet Grilled Cheese Sandwich Tips

Want to make the best gourmet grilled cheese you’ve ever had? Just follow these easy tips!

  • Better ingredients = a better sandwich. As with all simple recipes, the better your ingredients are, the better your grilled cheese will be. I like mine with sourdough or good crusty bread and havarti or sharp cheddar cheese.
  • Use a good melting cheese. Because higher-moisture cheeses yield the best oozy, pull-apart sandwiches, steer clear of crumbly, hard types of cheese like Parmesan or manchego. I use havarti here (Roth Cheese is a favorite), but gruyere, gouda, provolone, mozzarella, and white cheddar cheeses (or a mix!) are all great choices for a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich.
  • Cover for even cooking. If the bread is browning faster than the cheese is melting, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. The trapped heat will help melt the cheese before the bread gets too brown.
  • Save the leftover harissa. If you try this green harissa recipe (and I hope you do!), you’ll end up with some leftover. Save it for a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich on another day, or use it in something else entirely. I recommend scooping it onto tacos, avocado toast, grilled veggies, pizza slices, falafel, or a chickpea shawarma wrap! And for a more traditional (red) harissa recipe, check out page 281 of my new cookbook, Love & Lemons Every Day.

Grated havarti cheese and spinach on bread

More Favorite Comfort Food Recipes

If you love this recipe, try one of these classic comfort foods next:

For more easy dinner recipes, check out this post!

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Gourmet Grilled Cheese

rate this recipe:
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Serves 4
A handful of spinach and a slather of green harissa add extra freshness and flavor to this gourmet grilled cheese sandwich!


Green Harissa

Grilled Cheese

  • 8 sourdough bread slices
  • A few handfuls of spinach leaves
  • 2 to 3 cups grated havarti cheese
  • Extra-virgin oil, for grilling


  • Make the green harissa. Char the peppers over a gas burner or under a broiler until the skin is blackened all over. Remove from the heat and place in a bowl and cover with a towel or plastic wrap for 10 minutes. Slice off the stem and place the peppers, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, coriander, salt, honey, cilantro, pepitas and a few grinds of black pepper into a food processor and pulse until combined. Drizzle in the olive oil and process until smooth.
  • Make the grilled cheese. Slather the green harissa on the insides of each slice of bread. Assemble with spinach leaves and cheese. Pre-heat a cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium heat. Brush the outsides of the sandwich with olive oil and grill on each side until the cheese is melted.



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Rate this recipe (after making it)

  1. Lynn W

    5 stars
    Made this today for my sister and brother in law and it was a hit. My sister even said she’d pay for it in a restaurant. Oh, we added grilled chicken too…brother in law is a meat eater ha ha.

  2. Gil

    5 stars
    Prepared for tonight. Served w/your Gazpacho recipe that I made in the afternoon.
    It was fabulous 🙂

    Thank you <3

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      HI Gil, I’m so glad you enjoyed them together!

  3. Sabrina from newkitchenlife.com

    a very grown up grilled cheese, as you write, ,the ingredients make he sandwich, thank you

  4. Susan

    Wow! A harissa I could actually eat! I tend to like green salsas better than red anyway, and poblanos are generally not too hot for us. This sandwich sounds really good if I leave out the spinach. If you want a really good melty cheese, try Oaxaca or Asadero. The latter is extremely melty. Oaxaca is our favorite for quesadillas, but would also make an excellent grilled cheese sandwich.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Ooh, that cheese would be delicious!

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.