I personally taste-tested a variety of Monterey Jack cheese substitutes to find the best one for every occasion. Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry swap, or want a substitute that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
Colby Jack or pepper Jack are the best substitutes for Monterey Jack cheese. But if you can’t find either of them, a blend of mozzarella and mild cheddar will work. If you want something with a more complex flavor profile, try edam cheese.
I made different batches of chicken quesadillas (yuuuuuum, my friends loved it) to put several Monterey Jack cheese substitutes to the test.
Monterey Jack is an American cheese made from cow’s milk. It has a mild, buttery flavor with a light tang. But what makes it a favorite in the kitchen is its excellent melting capabilities, thanks to its high fat and moisture content.
I was looking for substitutes with a similar flavor profile and melting properties. Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Colby Jack cheese||A mixture of Colby and Monterey Jack||10/10|
|Pepper Jack cheese||Studded with chili peppers||9/10|
|Mozzarella + cheddar||Cheap and accessible||8/10|
|Havarti cheese||Multiple flavor options||9/10|
|Muenster cheese||Melt in your mouth texture||8/10|
|Edam cheese||Has a more complex flavor profile||8/10|
Colby Jack cheese
This cheese is a delightful blend of Colby and Jack cheeses, making it an excellent direct substitute for Monterey Jack. You might also see it called CoJack.
It has the same creamy, buttery essence as Monterey Jack but boasts an extra touch of sharpness thanks to the Colby. The Colby also gives it a unique appearance with orange marbling.
Colby Jack cheese also melts really easily – what more could you want from a substitute?
How to substitute: Replace Monterey Jack in a 1:1 ratio with Colby Jack.
Pepper jack cheese
If you don’t mind switching things up, why not try pepper Jack, the spicy version of Monterey Jack? It’s Monterey Jack cheese with added chili peppers, you might also see versions with added garlic and herbs to further enhance the flavor.
Because pepper Jack is intended to appeal to the masses, it has a mild to medium heat level, so don’t worry about blowing your guest’s heads off! If you want something more extreme, look for habanero Jack, or ghost pepper Jack. There’s also sweet pepper Jack for those who can’t handle any heat.
Psst… I’ve also seen chipotle Jack, but I’m not sure if this was special or if it’s a mainstream thing.
How to substitute: Replace Monterey Jack in a 1:1 ratio with pepper Jack.
Mozzarella + cheddar
Mozzarella is an excellent melting cheese like Monterey Jack but it can get a bit stringy and the flavor is more milky than buttery. Combine it with mild cheddar and these problems go away.
You get more of a creamy melted consistency and the richer flavor of cheddar makes up for the mildness of mozzarella. I used equal amounts of mozzarella and cheddar, and this worked like a charm with my quesadillas. This combination will also work perfectly in sauces and dips.
Both cheeses are super common, so you’ll be able to find them in any grocery store or you might already have both of them in your fridge.
How to substitute: Replace Monterey Jack with an equal amount of mozzarella and cheddar.
Havarti is another alternative that hits all of Monterey Jack’s flavor notes – creamy and buttery, with the slightest touch of tang, although the flavors are generally more pronounced.
It’s usually sold sliced, which makes it a convenient ingredient for sandwiches but less ideal if you want to grate it.
Like Monterey Jack, you can also find flavored varieties of Havarti cheese including pepper-infused versions. If you’re up for something a little different, try a dill or caraway-infused havarti.
How to substitute: Replace Monterey Jack in a 1:1 ratio with Havarti cheese.
Muenster cheese has the same creamy, melt-in-your-mouth qualities as Monterey Jack cheese and a similarly mild flavor (although the flavor gets stronger as it ages). It’s got slightly sweet undertones but the same subtle tanginess.
It’s an American cheese that’s inspired by the French Munster cheese, but they’re not that similar. One distinctive feature of Muenster cheese is the vibrant orange rind, caused by the addition of annatto. This rind is a little saltier than the cheese itself, but it’s completely edible. I like adding it to my food because of the color contrast it adds.
How to substitute: Replace Monterey Jack in a 1:1 ratio with Muenster cheese.
Last but not least is Edam cheese. This Dutch cheese matches Monterey Jack’s creamy flavor but also comes with pleasant nutty and salty notes to jazz things up. It’s great if you want something slightly more complex.
Edam’s flavor also gets sharper as it ages, so it’s important to choose a younger variety when substituting for Monterey Jack.
You’ll normally see Edam cheese in cheese platters, but it’s also great sliced and stuffed in sandwiches, grated over pasta or salads, or shredded and melted into a luscious sauce.
How to substitute: replace Monterey Jack in a 1:1 ratio with young Edam cheese.
Other substitutes to consider
The suggestions above are my top picks for Monterey Jack substitutes, but they’re not the only options. Here are more alternatives you can try:
- Gouda: This is another Dutch cheese. It has the same buttery flavor base as Monterey Jack, but with nutty, almost caramel-like notes that set it apart. Its excellent melting capability has made it a favorite ingredient for mac and cheese.
- Gruyère cheese: This Swiss-origin hard cheese melts into a smooth, creamy texture, just like Monterey Jack, which makes it a perfect substitute for sauces and casseroles. Its flavor is slightly sweet and nutty, and it tastes great with robust proteins like beef.
- Young provolone: This cheese has a slightly sharper flavor compared to Monterey Jack, but it’s not overpowering. It has a picture-perfect cheese pull when you melt it.
- Emmental cheese: This is another Swiss gem with a mildly sweet and nutty taste and excellent melting properties, I love it in sauces and fondues.
- Tybo cheese: This Danish cheese might be a little tricky to find, but if you happen to have some, it’s very similar to Monterey Jack cheese. It works wonderfully in dishes where you want the cheese to be a team player, not the star of the show.
Substitutes to avoid
As you can see, there are lots of cheeses that are able to match Monterey Jack’s delicate flavor and excellent melting properties. But not all of the suggestions on the internet were suitable.
I saw one website suggesting you use Parmesan cheese or dry Jack cheese. Both of these have undergone a long aging process, which means they don’t melt well and they don’t have the same creaminess as Monterey Jack. They also have a much stronger taste, especially parmesan which is very salty.
Best Monterey Jack Cheese Substitutes + 2 To Avoid
- 30 grams colby jack cheese
- 30 grams pepper jack cheese
- 30 grams mozzarella + cheddar equal amounts of each
- 30 grams havarti
- 30 grams muenster
- 30 grams edam
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen Monterey jack cheese substitutes at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined with the recipe.