What do you do when a recipe calls for Monterey Jack cheese, but you don't have any on hand? Fear not if you’ve found yourself in a pinch. In this definite guide, you will find the best substitute for Monterey Jack cheese.
What is Monterey Jack Cheese?
Monterey Jack, sometimes shortened to Jack cheese or Jack is an American semi-hard cow’s milk cheese. It has a pale yellow color and a mildly sweet and buttery flavor. The buttery taste comes from the cheese cultures used during production. The texture is smooth and flexible when young, becoming firmer and more granular as it ages.
This creamy mouthfeel melts exceptionally well, making it a popular choice for grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, nachos, baked dishes, and more. Its mild flavor allows it to blend well with other ingredients without overpowering them.
The cheese originated in Monterey, California, by Scottish and Mexican immigrant families in the 1800s. It is still a staple of Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisines and American cooking.
The Best Substitute for Monterey Jack Cheese
These mild and melty alternatives will work superbly if you don't have this ingredient. All of the following cheeses can be substituted in equal amounts.
1. Mild Cheddar Cheese
Why it works: Mild cheddar cheese has a pale color, smooth texture, and subtle flavor similar to this cheese. It melts well with just a slightly sharper taste.
Example dishes: Quesadillas, pizza, pasta bakes
2. Mozzarella Cheese
Why it works: Mozzarella offers the quintessential melted, stretchy texture. The mild, milky flavor also makes it a seamless sub.
Example dishes: Grilled cheese, quesadillas, pizza
3. Havarti Cheese
Why it works: Havarti's creaminess and multidimensional buttery, nutty taste make it a direct flavor match for Jack. It melts smoothly.
Example dishes: Sandwiches, cheese plates
4. Gouda Cheese
Example dishes: Mac and cheese, paninis, cheese fondue
5. Edam Cheese
Why it works: Edam has a mild, lightly salty flavor profile reminiscent of this cheese. It is softer when young but ages well.
Example dishes: Quiche, sandwiches, antipasto
6. Colby Jack Cheese
7. Fontina Cheese
Example dishes: Pizza, pasta, panini
8. American Muenster Cheese
Why it works: Muenster offers a soft, smooth texture and mellow flavor profile, much like young Jack cheese.
Example dishes: Grilled cheese, casseroles
9. Provolone Cheese
Example dishes: Pizza, burgers, cheese trays
10. Queso Quesadilla
Why it works: This Mexican cheese is designed for melting with a similar milky flavor. It performs well in Tex-Mex recipes.
Example dishes: Mexican dishes, such as quesadillas, nachos, enchiladas
11. Asiago Cheese
Example dishes: Risotto, pasta, soup
12. Port Salut Cheese
Why it works: Port Salut offers a soft, creamy texture with a mild, buttery taste like Monterey Jack. It melts beautifully.
Example dishes: Croque monsieur, grilled cheese, quiche
13. Swiss Cheese
Why it works: Mild Swiss cheese provides a subtly sweet, nutty flavor reminiscent of Monterey Jack. It has excellent melting abilities.
Example dishes: Fondue, panini, burgers
How to Use Monterey Jack Cheese in Cooking
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
This cheese is commonly used in grilled cheese sandwiches, where its mild flavor profile and meltability make it the perfect creamy and gooey filling.
Its smooth, creamy texture makes it ideal for layering between the tortillas when melted in quesadillas.
Monterey Jack cheese substitute: Queso quesadilla is the ideal substitute here.
This cheese's mild taste and excellent melting properties make it a popular pizza topping.
This cheese is added to pasta dishes like baked ziti, and macaroni and cheese to contribute to its signature creamy, smooth texture.
Melted Monterey Jack over nachos provides the right mildness and silky melted consistency to tie everything together.
Monterey Jack cheese substitutes: Queso quesadilla or Colby cheese will get you that smooth, melty consistency.
Its meltability makes it perfect for blending into creamy cheese sauces for vegetables, pasta, and more.
Crumbled over salads add a mild, creamy element without being overpowering.
Enchiladas and Tacos
This cheese's melt and mild tanginess make it the customary choice for melted cheese in enchiladas and tacos.
Substitutes for Monterey Jack: Queso quesadilla is your best for Tex-Mex flair.
Soups and Chowders
This cheese's soft texture and creamy melt make it the perfect finishing touch for blending into rich soups and chowders.
Substitutes for Monterey Jack: Try havarti cheese or fontina for melting into broths.
Monterey Jack's approachable flavor profile makes it a crowd-pleaser addition to cheeseboards.
Sandwiches and Paninis
This ingredient is commonly used in grilled sandwiches and paninis, where its creamy texture and melt hold everything together.
The melty properties of this cheese make it ideal for casseroles, macaroni and cheese, and other baked dishes.
Monterey Jack alternatives: For casseroles and bakes, gouda, cheddar, or fontina melt nicely.
With its approachable flavor, this cheese is often included on cheese platters and charcuterie boards.
It is sometimes used in cheese fondue for its meltability and mild tang.
Replacements: Opt for Swiss or gouda to mimic that creaminess when melted.
Monterey Jack's creamy, smooth texture makes it a great finishing cheese to stir into risotto.
Monterey Jack Cheese Replacement: Asiago gives an authentic creamy finish to risottos.
Handy Tips for Substituting Monterey Jack Cheese
- For improved meltability, shred or slice the cheese thinly versus large chunks.
- Adjust spice levels in a recipe if swapping for a more robust cheese like aged gouda cheese or cheddar.
- Add a pinch of lemon juice or white vinegar to mimic Monterey Jack's subtle tang.
- For a creamier consistency, melt the substitute cheese with a splash of milk or cream.
- Opt for younger, fresher cheeses as they typically have a milder flavor best suited to substitute.
- Try combining cheeses like cheddar cheese and mozzarella to get closer to Monterey Jack's flavor.
- Bake cheese sauce or fondue substitutes at a lower temperature to prevent separating.
Can you substitute Monterey Jack with mozzarella?
Mozzarella substitutes Monterey Jack due to its mild, milky flavor and exceptional melting qualities. Adjust any added salt since mozzarella has higher sodium levels.
Are Colby and Monterey Jack the same?
What cheese is most like Monterey Jack?
What cheese does Monterey Jack taste like?
This cheese has a light, mildly sweet, tangy taste, like a cross between mozzarella, provolone, and young Swiss. It is buttery without being too sharp.
What's the difference between cheddar cheese and Monterey Jack cheese?
Cheddar has a sharper, more intense flavor than the milder Monterey Jack. Cheddar is also harder and crumblier versus Monterey Jack's softer, supple texture when melted.
What is special about Monterey Jack cheese?
What makes this cheese special is its signature meltability and creamy texture when heated, making it perfect for quesadillas, grilled cheese, baked pasta, and more. It also has a mild, subtly tangy flavor.
Is Pepper Jack cheese the same as Monterey Jack?
No, Pepper Jack cheese is Monterey Jack with added crushed red or green pepper flakes, giving it a spicy kick. Traditional Monterey Jack does not contain pepper flavoring. So, if you prefer a spicier cheese, Pepper Jack cheese is the best option.
What goes well with Monterey Jack cheese?
Is Monterey Jack cheese good for melting?
Yes, this cheese is prized for its meltability. It gets incredibly creamy, smooth, and gooey when melted, making it perfect for grilled cheese, quesadillas, nachos, baked pasta, and pizza.
Can I substitute Monterey Jack for Parmesan cheese?
Is Monterey Jack cheese healthier than cheddar?
Monterey Jack is slightly healthier than regular cheddar. It has less fat and calories per ounce, as well as more calcium and less sodium. However, low-fat or reduced-sodium cheddar varieties can align with Monterey Jack’s nutrition profile.
Can you buy Monterey Jack cheese in England?
It is possible to find Monterey Jack cheese in England at some specialty cheese shops, online gourmet food retailers, or international food stores. However, it is not as common as in the US since it originated in California.
Other Handy Cheese Substitute Guides
If you've run out of other types of cheeses, I've got you back: