Grilled Cheese (With a Secret Ingredient)

Best Grilled Cheese Recipe

Doesn’t it seem like most things are better when sandwiched between bread? This month, we’re featuring sandwich recipes — minimal cooking, maximum tastiness. Today, Posie from 600 Acres shares her dad’s secret recipe for the best grilled cheese…

Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Relish
by Posie Harwood of 600 Acres

When I talk about food, it’s almost always connected to my mom. We grew up on a farm and she cooked and baked everything we ate, from French fries to homemade pizza to ice cream. And while the kitchen was her space, my dad had his moments.

He specializes in three things: Christmas morning omelets perfect enough to make a French chef weep with envy, steaming bowls of Cream of Wheat doused with brown sugar and cream, and grilled cheese.

My dad’s grilled cheese is legendary. Partly it’s nostalgia: I loved watching him pull out our battered blue enamel skillet and set his ingredients down methodically. Is there a better feeling than being eight years old, hungry, and about to be fed?

Mostly, though, it’s technique. His secret is to add a thin layer of sweet relish into the sandwich while it’s still hot. It’s brilliant: Most people swear by mustard, but relish is the business. The smell conjures up a grilled cheeseburger with a pickle on the side, and the tangy vinegar of the relish helps to balance all that rich, ooey-gooey cheese and butter. Try this trick with other sandwiches, too: turkey and Swiss, a croque-monsieur, Brie and ham, a meatball sub, tuna salad, and so on.

Grilled cheese has very few ingredients, so you might think it’s crucial to start with expensive things: crusty artisan bread, pricy aged cheddar, homemade aioli, and European butter. Not so! There’s an alchemy that happens when soft bread and cheese meet hot butter — it transforms even the most humble ingredients into something intensely satisfying.

Just use a basic white sandwich bread. I’d skip the Wonderbread (too squishy) but anything else is fine. My dad uses Cracker Barrel cheddar cheese and I do too. Yes, expensive cheese will also taste good, but you really don’t need it. The butter and mayonnaise can be whatever brand you have on hand. The relish should be sweet, but that’s the only requirement.

Best Grilled Cheese Recipe

Grilled Cheese Recipe

The Best Grilled Cheese

Recipe: Grilled Cheese with Relish
Makes one sandwich

You’ll need:

2 tbsp. butter
2 slices white sandwich bread
Generous handful of grated cheddar cheese
2 tbsp. sweet relish

Slice your bread thickly and evenly.

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat until it foams and smells so delicious you want to spoon it up and eat it.

Liberally spread mayonnaise on the outsides of each slice of bread. Make sure you cover it to the edges.

Grate a large handful of cheese. (Please keep in mind that this is no time to be stingy! We are literally eating a bread, butter, cheese and mayonnaise sandwich so you might as well jump in with both feet, right?)

Place one slice of bread, mayonnaise-side down, in the skillet. Top the bread with your grated cheese and press it into an even layer. Place the second slice of bread, mayonnaise-side up, on top of the cheese.

Cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes per side, pressing down occasionally with a spatula. You can check to see if it’s ready to flip by peeking underneath: The bread should be darker than golden brown but not burnt.

When both sides have cooked, remove the sandwich from the pan onto a plate. Carefully open the sandwich (it will be hot) and spoon 2 heaping tablespoons of relish onto the sandwich. Spread it into an even layer and close the sandwich.

Let it cool just enough so that you can bite it. Eat!

The Best Grilled Cheese

Thank you so much, Posie!

The Best Grilled Cheese

P.S. More recipes, including a lazy egg sandwich and grilled cheese with balsamic roasted vegetables.

(Photos and recipe courtesy of Posie Harwood. This series is edited by Caroline Donofrio.)

  1. I love putting interesting ingredients in my grilled cheese but I’ve never tried this. It will definitely be next on my list.

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  2. I’m eating a yummy lunch at my desk, and it is just NOT ENOUGH after reading this recipe. I know I’m having for dinner tonight, and it reminds me of some great moment.

  3. OMG these pictures!!!!

  4. Jess. says...

    This was spectacular. I love a good variation on the perfection that is grilled cheese. Thank you! xox

  5. Christy says...

    Soooo great! This is how my Dad used to make me grilled cheese when I was little! Thank you for the sweet reminder and smile :)

  6. Lisa says...

    This is really good with dill pickle relish too…I don’t like the sweet stuff. And the other thing we often add is green Spanish olives because we use them often with salads. Tasty.

    • Jess. says...

      Yes! So good with chopped olives (especially anchovy-stuffed olives). Grilled cheese! Yum!

  7. Meg says...

    I LOVED grilled cheese and pickles when I was pregnant so this sounds very good to me!

  8. annie g says...

    I am English and have always been a bit confused by grilled cheese. I have just this second realised that you don’t mean toasted….which is what we do. Because that would be broiled….
    I am going to try this. We would call it griddled. Or even fried.
    Same basic language but easy to get confused sometimes.

  9. Meghan says...

    Mayonnaise on a grilled cheese?! I have never heard of this before and the way it is breezed over in the above makes me think I have been missing out on some sort of magical alchemy.
    I just always pile on the butter.

    • Oh, I have to have mayo on my grilled cheese!

    • Rachel says...

      I have never heard of this either! Mind=blown.

  10. I wouldn’t have thought to add relish to grilled cheese, but it might be worth trying one of these days!

  11. What a simple addition to grilled cheese but so perfect. As a child when I would order grilled cheese they would serve it with a pickle and I would set the pickle on top of my sandwich to get all the yummy juices in my bread and it would taste so yummy! I must try this ASAP.

  12. Carrie says...

    Yes, relish. But a very thin layer of mustard with relish is the best.
    Everyone says ew but then tries it and can never go back to having grilled cheese any other way.

  13. Noelle says...

    This makes total sense to me because whenever I’d order a grilled cheese at a restaurant as a kid, it always came with a pickle on the side. I didn’t like eating pickles, but I’d squeeze the juice all over my sandwich, LOL. Actually quite tasty :)

  14. Such an interesting combination! I love pickles so I have to keep this in the back of my mind. It’s also new that you spread mayo on your bread slices before grilling. Growing up, my parents always used butter!

    Meet Me in Midtown

  15. Alison says...

    Can’t wait to try this! We live on grilled cheese over here so I won’t have to wait long.

  16. Jess. says...

    Not only is this post utterly gorgeous, but this secret ingredient is genius! I guess I know what I’m having for dinner. . . .

  17. Yum-o! Looks amazing! My husband is going to thank me for saving this one. :)

  18. Isabelle says...

    I make homemade pesto all the time with whatever greens I have on hand, and I often add a layer of pesto to my grilled cheese. It makes it so much more flavourful (and slightly more healthy – so it makes me feel better about eating them)! I just spread it on with the cheese and grill away. Yum!

  19. Leticia Centeno says...

    I love grilled cheese!

    I think I already commented about this blog here before but girls, check

    So many grilled cheese recipes!

  20. Samantha Riedford says...

    I have the fondest memories of eating grilled cheese as a child, but our secret ingredient was different! My mom used to put a thin layer of grape jelly on top when it was still hot. Most people I tell this to think its weird, but everyone I’ve ever made it for has been totally converted! Try it out!

  21. Wow, yum and let us wipe off the drool from the table! Looking so forward to trying this and gobbling it all up!

    Strive to thrive,
    Thriving Wives

  22. I love putting interesting ingredients in my grilled cheese but I’ve never tried this. It will definitely be next on my list. It looks absolutely delicious. I love how Cup of Jo posts a lot of these grilled cheese “recipes” because I’m a single gal and these are simple and lazy enough to cook for myself.

  23. love you, posie!!! xo

  24. Sarah says...

    This looks ahhh-mazing! The Shealy house is having grilled cheese for dinner tonight :-)

  25. Julianna says...

    This sounds/looks wonderful, but i’m going to try it w/ dill relish :[]

    Reminds of grandpa’s visits and the parents going out for the night, he’d either whip up the best cheeseburgers of your life, or transform a simple frozen pizza with extra cheese, green olives, and garlic powder, always to be accompanied by homemade chocolate malts.

  26. Oh my goodness, this looks amazing! It definitely kicks up the grilled cheese game to a whole new level!

    Patrick @ The Bookshelves

  27. Liz says...

    This looks great, but Beecher’s cheese makes the best grilled cheese sandwiches!

  28. bisbee says...

    I don’t like mayonnaise or relish, but now I’m hungry for grilled cheese!

  29. Nothing I eat for lunch today will compare to how amazing this looks…

  30. Anne says...

    Lately I’ve been making mine with a thin layer of jalapeño cream cheese. A little kick but not overly spicy. It’s delicious.

  31. Caitlyn says...

    I’m eating a yummy lunch at my desk, and it is just NOT ENOUGH after reading this recipe. I know I’m having for dinner tonight, and will sing your praises for days!

  32. Now my mouth is watering. This looks so good.

  33. shawn says...

    i was just gifted a crate of sweet walla walla onions so fresh the tops are still green and crisp. they’re so bright in your mouth – apple-like and grassy with just a tiny bite of acid to remind you you’re eating something special. grilled cheeses at our house have been transformed and they’re really more onion sandwiches with a dash of cheese.

    but as soon as our onion supply runs out i’ll try this!

  34. Ohhh that sounds and looks so good. I have so many memories of grilled cheese and it’s still my very happy go-to when I don’t have leftovers for lunch. I had heard of using mayonnaise before, but didn’t know it was so expected! That surprised me. Now I need to make mayonnaise and get some relish :)

  35. Wow! This has got to be the most decadent delicious grilled cheese I’ve ever come across! Genius Dad!!! xo


    adorn la femme

  36. Kellie P. says...

    Bethany, you took the words right out of my mouth!!

  37. Wowzers that look delish but seriously naughty! Here in the UK we make cheese on toast which is similar but not sandwiched together, the cheese is just melted on the top under a grill. A friend recently introduced me to a squirt of lemon juice on the top and it’s makes it 100 times better

  38. Bethany says...

    Oh my sweet goodness!! Every bone in my pregnant body wants this pickly grilled cheese. How is this method not the norm?!

    • Audra says...

      Hahaha, your comment is great! I sincerely hope you get all the pickly sandwiches you deserve!

  39. Mary Jenkins says...

    now i’m STARVING.