Green Harissa Grilled Cheese

Learn how to make grilled cheese with this easy recipe! I dress mine up with lightly spicy green harissa and a handful of spinach to make it extra fresh.

Grilled Cheese

Do you ever have days when you just need a grilled cheese sandwich? This green harissa 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 classic comfort food. I hope you love it as much as I do!

How to make grilled cheese

How to Make Grilled Cheese

A basic grilled cheese requires just 3 ingredients:

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

I love to dress up this classic combo with green harissa and spinach, but really, when it comes to grilled cheese, your filling options are endless. Swap in your favorite cheese, and skip the harissa if you like. A slather of chipotle sauce or pesto would be great in its place. If you’re not in the mood for spinach, leave it out, or add some thin tomato or pepper slices, roasted red peppers, or arugula instead.

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!

Green Harissa Grilled Cheese Recipe

My Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich Tips

Want to make the best grilled cheese sandwich 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 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 cheeses like Parmesan or manchego. I use Havarti here (Roth Cheese is a favorite), but gruyere, gouda, provolone, mozzarella, and cheddar are all great choices for a grilled cheese sandwich.
  • Cover for even cooking. If your bread is browning faster than your 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.
  • Toast both sides of the bread. This step isn’t entirely necessary, but it’s totally worth it. Before you add your fillings, get the inside face of your bread a little toasty in the pan. Then, load it up and grill on the outside, flipping halfway. Your bread will have a crave-worthy crunch that’s a perfect contrast to the creamy, cheesy middle.

Grilled Cheese Recipe

For a more traditional (red) harissa recipe, check out page 281 in my new cookbook, Love & Lemons Every Day. This zippy green version is very different, but just as delicious! If you have extra harissa after making this recipe, it’s yummy scooped onto tacos, avocado toast, grilled veggies, pizza slices, falafel flatbread, and especially these shawarma wraps

If you love this grilled cheese recipe…

Try my egg salad sandwich, vegan club sandwich, or meatball sandwich next!

For more easy dinner ideas, check out this post!

Green Harissa Grilled Cheese

rate this recipe:
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 20 mins
Serves 4
A handful of spinach and a slather of green harissa add an extra dimension of freshness and flavor to this grilled cheese sandwich!


Green Harissa

  • 2 green Anaheim peppers, or 1 poblano
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup cilantro
  • 1/4 cup pepitas
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper

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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  1. 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!

  2. Sabrina from

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

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

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.