Havarti Cheese vs. Monterey Jack

Havarti and Monterey Jack are both semi-soft cow's milk cheeses from different parts of the world. Havarti originates from Denmark, while Monterey Jack hails from California.

Havarti Cheese vs. Monterey Jack

Despite their geographic differences, these cheeses share some similar traits that make them versatile ingredients in cooking. However, they also have distinct qualities that set them apart.

So if you're trying to decide which to use, let's take a closer look at how havarti cheese and Monterey Jack cheese compare.

Flavor Profile

When it comes to flavor, both havarti and Monterey Jack have a mild, subtle taste. However, there are some nuances.

Havarti tends to be lightly sweet and tangy, with notes of butter and cream. It has a richer depth of flavor compared to Monterey Jack.

Monterey Jack is known for its simple buttery flavor that is fresh and clean on the palate. It has a hint of saltiness and slight acidity.

So while they both taste mildly milky and buttery, havarti brings a more complex sweetness. Monterey Jack offers an uncomplicated, delicate flavor.

Key Takeaway: Havarti has a sweet, tangy, buttery depth. Monterey Jack tastes simply salty, acidic, and buttery.


The textures of these two cheeses also have similarities and differences.

Havarti has a supple, smooth consistency that is creamy on the tongue. When sliced, it holds together well with a subtly springy bite.

Comparatively, Monterey Jack is softer and creamier than havarti, with a flexible body that melts easily. It has a velvety feel, almost like mozzarella.

So while both have a creamy essence, Monterey Jack is more malleable and melty in the mouth. Havarti is firmer and slightly elastic.

Melting Ability

A key factor that sets havarti and Monterey Jack apart is their melting capability.

Monterey Jack really shines in this area. Its high fat content causes it to melt exceptionally smoothly. When cooked, it becomes ultra gooey and stringy, making it perfect for:

  • Quesadillas
  • Grilled cheese
  • Nachos
  • Baked pasta dishes

While havarti also melts well, it cannot quite achieve that viscous, stretchy melt of Monterey Jack. It softens into a creamier, soupier consistency.

So Monterey Jack has the upper hand for recipes needing cheese that oozes and strings when melted.


You can distinguish havarti from Monterey Jack based on appearance too.

Havarti has a white color, like mozzarella, with a very pale ivory or yellow hue. Its rindless exterior is waxy and shiny.

Monterey Jack is identifiable by its pale golden color, reminiscent of straw or hay. Without a rind, it has a matte, almost chalky exterior.

So havarti is a white cheese, while Monterey Jack is distinctly golden. Havarti also has a smooth, waxy rind unlike Monterey Jack's dull rind.

Uses in Cooking

Due to their meltability and mild flavors, both havarti and Monterey Jack work well in a variety of dishes.

Havarti excels in:

  • Sandwiches
  • Cheese boards
  • Cream sauce

Whereas Monterey Jack shines in:

  • Quesadillas
  • Nachos
  • Baked pasta
  • Pizza

Havarti's sweet tang pairs nicely with fruits and nuts. Monterey Jack suits well with corn, chilies, and Tex-Mex spices.

So havarti fits best showcasing its flavor simply, while Monterey Jack blends without dominating other bold ingredients.


There is a noticeable price difference between havarti and Monterey Jack cheese. Havarti tends to be more expensive since it is imported. Comparatively, American-made Monterey Jack is very budget friendly.

However, you may be able to find domestic havarti for a comparable price to Monterey Jack. Shopping sales and buying store brands rather than premium imported havarti can reduce costs.


In the U.S., Monterey Jack will be far easier to locate than havarti since it is a common American cheese. Monterey Jack can be readily found pre-packaged at any grocery store.

For havarti, you may need to check specialty cheese shops or higher-end grocery stores. However, major stores are increasingly stocking it due to rising popularity. Shopping online in bulk can also secure a stash for future recipes.

Key Takeaway: Havarti costs more but Monterey Jack is widely available. Online shops or sales can improve accessibility and affordability.


There are some small nutritional differences between havarti and Monterey Jack:

  • Havarti is slightly lower in calories and fat since it has higher moisture content.
  • Monterey Jack has a bit more calcium and protein thanks to its denser consistency.
  • Both are packed with B vitamins, though Monterey Jack has higher vitamin B12 levels.

However, these disparities are quite small, so both deliver excellent nutrition. The choice comes down to preferences for texture, taste, meltability, and cost rather than nutrition.

Common Substitutes

If you don't have havarti or Monterey Jack available, several cheeses make suitable substitutes in recipes requiring:

A Mild Flavor


  • Mozzarella
  • Provolone
  • Queso fresco
  • Mild cheddar

Great Melting Abilities


  • Gouda
  • Fontina
  • Muenster
  • Asiago

A Semi-Soft Texture

Good options are:

  • Edam
  • Gouda
  • Cheddar
  • Swiss

The right havarti or Monterey Jack swap depends on if your recipe relies more on flavor, meltability, or texture as the key quality.


Is havarti or Monterey Jack better for grilled cheese?

Monterey Jack is the best choice for grilled cheese. Its meltability and mild flavor allow it to get perfectly gooey and stringy without overshadowing the bread or other fillings.

What's a good substitute for Pepper Jack cheese?

Muenster, gouda, or cheddar blended with spices like jalapeños makes a good homemade Pepper Jack substitute to mimic the flavor kick.

Can I replace havarti with feta?

You can use feta in place of havarti but the flavor and texture will differ quite a bit. Feta is saltier, crumblier, and more acidic than the sweet creaminess of havarti.

Is havarti related to Swiss cheese?

No, despite some textural similarities, havarti and Swiss do not share any historical ties or cheesemaking techniques. Havarti is Scandinavian; Swiss originated in Switzerland.

Can I substitute cream cheese for Monterey Jack?

Cream cheese has a similar milky flavor to Monterey Jack but lacks the firmness necessary for many baking applications. Stick to cheeses like cheddar or gouda for a better substitute.


While havarti and Monterey Jack share a generally mild, buttery flavor profile typical of semi-soft cheeses, they have unique differences that make each variety shine in particular culinary uses.

Havarti brings a sweet complexity and firm smoothness that pairs elegantly with fruits, nuts, and sandwiches.

Monterey Jack's incredible melt makes it the star for ooey-gooey quesadillas, pizza, and baked pasta, complementing spicy accents.

Cheese Lover Chloe 🧀
Cheese Lover Chloe 🧀

I'm a total cheese fanatic! When I'm not busy studying to be a cheesemaker, you can find me scouring local farmers markets and specialty shops for new and exciting cheeses to try. Brie is my all-time fave, but I also love exploring aged goudas, funky blues, and rich creamy camemberts. Looking forward to sharing lots of melty, gooey cheese pics and reviews!