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The 10 Best Cheeses for Melting

Wondering whether to choose cheddar or mozzarella? Gruyere or Gouda? We'll help you pick the best melting cheese for every recipe.

The Best Cheeses For Melting GraphicTASTE OF HOME, GETTY IMAGES

Cheese is a central ingredient in so many of our go-to recipes. It’s sprinkled on chili, melted atop casseroles and swirled into rich sauces. While some cheeses are best suited for cheese platters and charcuterie boards, the best melting cheese becomes smooth and creamy when heated. Think of the gooiest grilled cheese you’ve ever had. Now that’s what we’re talking about.

Not all cheeses melt equally, so steer clear of acid-set cheeses. Chevre goat cheese, farmers cheese, feta, halloumi, ricotta or paneer do become softer with heat, but they won’t spread out and melt. Aged cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano aren’t a great choice, either. They will melt, but they don’t become as stretchy as younger cheeses.

Without further ado, let’s Brie-gin!

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mozzarellasvariophoto/Getty Images

Mozzarella

This cheese is iconic for its contribution to pizza, but mozzarella’s melting capabilities shouldn’t be limited to flatbread. The mild, milky flavor pairs well with a variety of dishes, expecially as a cheesy topping for lasagna or chicken Parmesan. Roll mozzarella in breadcrumbs to become the filling for cheese sticks, or blend it with other flavorful cheeses for cheese sauce or grilled cheese.

For superior meltability, look for a full-fat, high moisture mozzarella, like small balls packed in water. You can substitute other types of mozzarella for the ball form (like stracciatella or burrata), or look to other mild-flavored melting cheeses like provolone or Gouda.

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Organic Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheesebhofack2/Getty Images

Cheddar

When full-flavored meltability is on the menu, look to cheddar cheese. This firm cheese can be white or orange (depending on whether coloring is added during the process) and has a sharp, nutty taste. It’s fantastic for grilled cheese sandwiches and cheesy soups, but it works equally well when grated onto chili, sprinkled atop nachos, melted on roasted vegetables or kneaded into these cute Apple & Cheddar Mini Scones.

Young cheddar will melt smoothly, while aged cheddar can become oily and grainy with heat. Save those two-year-aged options for a cheese platter. If you’re looking for a good cheddar substitute, look to Colby, Edam or Gouda.

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fontina cheeseonairda/Getty Images

Fontina

Fontina is buttery and smooth, with a rich and creamy finish that makes it ideal for melting into sauces and soups. Look to this cheese when making baked pasta dishes, mix it with mozzarella for perfect pizzas or use it for an appetizer like this Fontina Asparagus Tart. It’s also fantastic for stuffed mushrooms or rolled chicken.

While it’s safe to eat the rind on fontina, the melting process will become smoother if it’s removed first. Provolone is the best substitute for fontina, but you can also use mozzarella or Havarti.

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Provolone cold cut cheese slicesMerrimon/Getty Images

Provolone

This cheese has a similar flavor profile to fontina, but aged provolone gets a little sharper and funkier (in a good way). Provolone is a particularly good choice for cheesesteaks, but it also works well with many other sandwiches and baked dinners. Choosing smoked provolone is a great way to add depth to a grilled cheese sandwich, too.

The easiest way to melt provolone on sandwiches is with pre-sliced cheese from the deli. If you can’t find it, look for shredded mozzarella and provolone blends, or swap it out with fontina or Muenster cheese.

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Wedge of gruyere cheese on board, with knife, close-upRosemary Calvert/Getty Images

Gruyere

Gruyere is a firm Swiss cheese that’s been aged for about six months (or longer). The result is an exceptionally nutty, grassy cheese that becomes creamy and rich when melted. It’s the perfect cheese for topping French onion soup or croque-madame sandwiches, but it’s also our go-to cheese for cheesy potatoes.

Stick with young Gruyere cheeses for maximum meltability, as the aged versions develop a complex earthiness that’s better suited for snacking. For a good substitute, use another Swiss cheese like Emmenthal or French Comte.

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Sliced gouda cheeseLisa Romerein/Getty Images

Gouda

For a mild, almost sweet melting cheese, look to Gouda. This cheese is reminiscent of cheddar but without the sharp edges. We love using Gouda in frittatas, but it’s also fantastic for other baked egg dishes like quiche and strata.

Look for the Gouda in red wax, an indication that the cheese hasn’t been aged for long. Young cheddar works as a substitution here, as does Edam and Muenster cheese.

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Slices of Havarti cheese on a cutting boardBWFolsom/Getty Images

Havarti

This super buttery cheese is similar to Monterey Jack, but it has a light acidity that makes it equally useful for sweet and savory applications. It’s a classic choice for turkey or panini sandwiches, and it tastes fantastic on a burger or french dip. When it comes to dessert, you can’t go wrong with Havarti as the base of a cheesy caramel dessert recipe.

Many Havarti cheeses are infused with herbs and spices, like pepper, horseradish or dill. If you can’t get your hands on this cheese, look for Monterey Jack or brick cheese instead.

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Piece of sliced taleggio italian cheese on a wooden cutting board with knife close up.sebastianosecondi/Getty Images

Taleggio

This washed-rind cheese has a very strong aroma, but its flavor is remarkably mild. It’s buttery and fruity with a tangy aftertaste and a velvety texture that will have you digging back in for bite after bite. Blend Taleggio with other melty cheeses for cheesy sauces, or be bold and use it instead of cheddar in a tomato pie. Taleggio and mushrooms pair exceptionally well too, especially in pasta dishes.

The rind is the most pungent part of Taleggio, but we generally remove it as it won’t melt as well as the creamy interior. Brie makes a fine substitute, as does fontina or Gruyere.

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Portion of Colby CheeseHandmadePictures/Getty Images

Colby

Most of us have seen Colby-Jack combinations at the grocery store, but Colby cheese on its own is a fantastic melting cheese. It’s softer and more mild compared to cheddar, with a sweet and buttery finish. It pairs well with deli meats for dishes like Baked Ham and Colby Sandwiches, but it’s also great for casseroles and savory cobblers.

It might be hard to find Colby in the cheese section, but it’s almost always available at the grocery’s deli counter. Monterey Jack has a similar melting texture, but a mild cheddar will be most similar in flavor. American cheese also works as a substitute here.

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American Cheese on Deli Paperbgwalker/Getty Images

American

While American cheese is a little controversial—it’s a processed cheese, not 100% cheese—its ability to melt quickly and smoothly is undeniable. It becomes ultra creamy, making it perfect for queso, hot sandwiches, burgers and soup.

You can find American cheese in individually-wrapped slices, but we prefer to buy it from the blocks at the deli counter. Good alternatives to American cheese include Colby, mild cheddar or Muenster.

Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.