There are so many easy grilled cheese variations to try, it’s a shame that this crowd-pleasing staple often gets relegated to lunch and the kids’ menu.  I mean, it’s gooey, creamy, and with a buttery crunch — who doesn’t love a grilled cheese this time of year? With a few simple tweaks and additions, you can turn a grilled cheese into a satisfying meal for the whole family. Case in point: These 7 delicious grilled cheese variations that are perfect for dinner.

Related: 8 delicious, unexpected grilled cheese recipes beyond the ordinary. 

7 grilled cheese variations to try with your family

These recipes are delicious as is — or think of them as inspiration for your own grilled cheese variations that become a family favorite. The pan’s the limit! Or maybe the panini press.

The best grilled cheese variations to turn a regular grilled cheese into something dinner-worthy | cool mom eatsPhoto: Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

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1. Experiment with the cheese in your grilled cheese

One of our favorite ways to enjoy grilled cheese for dinner: Chicken & Spinach Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwich | Kleinworth & Co.

The first easy grilled cheese variation is a matter of changing up the cheese inside.Start with this mouthwatering Chicken & Spinach Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwich at Kleinworth & Co because goat cheese is always a good idea.  Using a panini press or even an affordable stovetop grill press takes the guesswork out, though you can make it in a pan, too, Using up leftover chicken or store-bought rotisserie makes this grilled cheese variation a fast and impressive weeknight dinner.

Variations: Other cheeses to use include fontina (amazing!) gruyere, gouda or smoked gouda, cheddar, feta, swiss, provolone, muenster, and pepper jack.But try whatever you have in the house — Talegio? Mozzarella? All good. Even better if you mix and match them together.

An affordable stovetop panini press for under $20 | cool mom eats

Tools of the trade: We found this affordable, non-stick stovetop grill press on Amazon for under $20. Gets great ratings, too!

2. Switch up the bread for your grilled cheese

One of our favorite ways to enjoy grilled cheese for dinner: Zucchini Crusted Grilled Cheese | Kirbie Cravings

While there’s nothing wrong with regular sandwich bread, why stop there? All breads are delicious. And then you can even go further; I’ll admit I have never tried a grilled cheese variation like this Zucchini Crusted Grilled Cheese from Kirbie Cravings, but I am downright intrigued. Bread is replaced with an easy recipe for a low-carb zucchini “crust,” giving you both flavor and nutrition from extra veggies. A double whammy.

Variations: Other bread and bread-like options for your grilled cheese include crusty French bread, Italian rolls, flour or corn tortillas (hello, quesadilla), pita bread, or even a cauliflower crust.

3. Add fruit to your grilled cheese.

One of our favorite ways to enjoy grilled cheese for dinner: Honey, Apple, Cheddar & Bacon Panini | Half Baked Harvest

Apple season is here and apples pair perfectly with all kinds of cheeses. The Honey, Apple, Cheddar and Bacon Panini at Half Baked Harvest takes it to another level by adding bacon and…honey. Try it Tieghan’s way just once and you’ll be hooked.

Variations: Other fruit (and fruity things) you can add to grilled cheese include pears, figs, strawberry fig jam and other fruit jams, quince paste, red pepper jelly, dried apricots, avocado. Which, yes, is a fruit.

4. Add protein to bulk up (and add major flavor) to your grilled cheese.

One of our favorite ways to enjoy grilled cheese for dinner: Ground Philly Cheesesteak Grilled Cheese | Dinner Then Dessert

I’ve seen a lot of cheesesteak-style grilled cheese sandwiches, but the Ground Philly Cheesesteak Grilled Cheese at Dinner Then Dessert is one of the easiest to whip up. That’s because she replaces traditional sliced steak with ground beef. A bonus: It’s not just easier to make, but easier for my little kids to eat.

Variations: Other meats or proteins you can add to grilled cheese include sliced steak, ham, sliced turkey breast, ground turkey, sliced chicken breast, and any sliced deli meat. Of course there’s always that staple, bacon. Or if you’re vegetarian, try black beans.

5. Pack your grilled cheese with nutritious veggies.

One of our favorite ways to enjoy grilled cheese for dinner: Spicy Smashed Avocado & Asparagus with Dill Havarti Grilled Cheese | Foodie Crush

The Spicy Smashed Avocado & Asparagus with Dill Havarti Grilled Cheese at Foodie Crush is my personal favorite grilled cheese variation. I know that asparagus isn’t always a kid favorite, sandwiching it between crusty bread with melty cheese makes it more appealing. Of course you can always serve your own with the asparagus, then go with another, more basic vegetable for the kids.

Variations: Other veggies to tuck into your grilled cheese include spinach, chopped kale, fresh or roasted tomatoes, mashed peas, thinly sliced sweet potato, shredded carrots, and red peppers. We also have it on good word that kimchi is outrageous on grilled cheese — grab some next time you’re at your local H-Mart.

Related: All the easiest, best dinners you never knew you could make on a waffle iron. 

6. Serve your grilled cheese with soup. Or…in soup.

One of our favorite ways to enjoy grilled cheese for dinner: Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons | Sue Bee Homemaker

To get kids excited about eating something new, sometimes it’s enough to just play around with its shapes. Keep your grilled cheese filling classic — then cut it into triangles or squares like Sue does to make her Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons at Sue Bee Homemaker. Yes! Grilled cheese as croutons! This soup is also a great make-ahead meal to have stashed in the fridge.

Variations: You can try nearly any soup to serve alongside a grilled cheese, but I suggest keeping it light and simple like chicken soup, miso soup, or even vegetable broth because it will fill you up fast.(I wouldn’t use Sue’s grilled cheese croutons in a miso soup though.)

7. Turn your grilled cheese into breakfast-for-dinner.

One of our favorite ways to enjoy grilled cheese: Bacon and Egg Grilled Cheese Sandwich | The Baker Upstairs

When you really can’t with the whole dinner thing, you  know we’re big fans of breakfast for dinner right? This satisfying Bacon and Egg Grilled Cheese Sandwich from The Baker Upstairs keeps things simple, hearty, and absolutely delicious. .

Variations: Other grilled cheese breakfast-for-dinner ideas include grilled cheese waffles (like these Pepperoni Pizza Waffles), a leftover pancake grilled cheese sandwich, or just a grilled cheese with a fried egg or some sliced hard boiled eggs, which we always keep on hand. Did someone say a few slices of bacon? Because, yes. Absolutely.