Monterey Jack is a popular semi-soft American cheese known for its mild flavor and excellent melting properties.
Originally from Monterey, California, it has a creamy, smooth texture that makes it perfect for dishes like quesadillas, nachos, grilled cheese sandwiches, mac and cheese, pizza and more.
But what can you substitute if you don't have Monterey Jack handy? Luckily, there are several options that can mimic both the taste and meltability of this versatile cheese.
Havarti is a buttery, semi-soft Danish cheese that makes an excellent replacement for Monterey Jack. Like Jack, Havarti has a creamy, smooth texture with small holes throughout. It melts beautifully and has a mild, tangy flavor very reminiscent of Monterey Jack.
Since Havarti offers a similar creaminess and mellow flavor profile, you can substitute an equal amount in recipes calling for Monterey Jack. It will perform well in grilled sandwiches, nachos, tacos, omelets and any baked dish requiring melted cheese. The buttery notes in Havarti mimic that Monterey Jack tang.
Gouda is another fantastic choice, especially when you want that creamy melted consistency. This Dutch cheese has a subtly sweet, nutty flavor that varies from mild to robust based on age. Young Gouda is a great substitute for Monterey Jack thanks to its smooth texture and mild taste when melted.
Aged Gouda can stand in for dry Monterey Jack, which is firmer and more crumbly as it loses moisture over time. Try using the same amount of mild, young Gouda called for in a recipe like mac and cheese, paninis, grilled cheese or fondue to replicate Monterey Jack's creaminess.
Although fresh mozzarella won't work as well since it releases a lot of water, low moisture or aged mozzarella is an excellent substitute. Dry mozzarella has a creamy, smooth consistency closer to Monterey Jack. It melts beautifully into that quintessential gooey, stretchy texture.
Mozzarella also has a mild, milky flavor that won't compete with other ingredients. Use an equal amount of shredded low moisture mozzarella in pizzas, quesadillas, panini, pasta bakes and anywhere you want that classic melted cheese experience.
Muenster cheese makes a great replacement thanks to its soft, smooth texture and mellow flavor. American-made Muenster has a very subtle flavor reminiscent of Monterey Jack, without the assertiveness of French Muenster.
It melts wonderfully for grilled sandwiches or on top of cooked vegetables. Muenster also has a pale orange rind resulting from annatto seasoning. For the best flavor match, opt for young, mild Muenster to replicate Monterey Jack's tangy creaminess in recipes.
Colby cheese is an American original very similar to Monterey Jack. It has a pale yellow color and supple, smooth texture that melts easily. The flavor is also mild like Jack, with a hint of buttery sweetness.
There's even a combined cheese called Colby Jack which blends these two varieties. On its own, Colby makes an excellent melty substitute in dishes like omelets, mac and cheese, quesadillas and grilled sandwiches. Just be sure to use young, fresh Colby since it dries out and crumbles more as it ages.
Edam cheese is a Dutch classic recognizable by its bright red wax coating. When young, it has a semi-soft texture similar to Monterey Jack that's sliceable and meltable. Edam is salty, creamy and mildly nutty in flavor.
Aged Edam has more pronounced, complex flavors. But young Edam works well in quiche, paninis, sandwiches and anywhere you want a subtle tang. Try using the same amount of young Edam in place of Monterey Jack for a creamy mouthfeel and salty hint.
Queso quesadilla or quesadilla cheese is a perfect match when you need a Monterey Jack alternative for Tex-Mex recipes. This smooth, melty Mexican cheese is designed specifically for quesadillas, nachos, tacos and enchiladas.
It has a mild, creamy flavor profile similar to Monterey Jack. Swap in the same amount of queso quesadilla for melted Monterey Jack cheese called for in enchiladas, chimichangas or chilaquiles to get that authentic flavor.
Fontina is an Italian cheese that shares the same supple, creamy texture of Monterey Jack when melted. It has a pale yellow interior with small holes and a mildly nutty, rich flavor. The taste is still delicate enough not to overpower.
Fontina melts beautifully, which makes it a smart substitute in risottos, pastas, pizzas, paninis or vegetable gratins calling for silky melted Monterey Jack cheese. Use the same quantity as you would Jack for a seamless swap.
Swiss cheese is a broad term for the many holey, melty cheeses originating in Switzerland. Swiss cheese tends to have a mildly sweet, nutty flavor reminiscent of Monterey Jack.
The springy texture also melts very smoothly. Try substituting young Swiss cheese in sandwiches, fondues, quiches, gratins and anywhere you want that melted creaminess. Adjust any added salt since Swiss often has higher sodium levels than Monterey Jack.
Mild cheddar can work in a pinch thanks to its subtle flavor and creamy texture when melted. Stick to white or orange cheddar rather than extra sharp varieties, which can overpower.
Cheddar adds more tang than Monterey Jack, so use less than the amount of Jack called for or dilute it with cream cheese or milk. Also reduce cook times since cheddar can separate more easily. Overall, cheddar adds delicious melted cheesiness if you lack the other options.
Butterkäse is a mild, sliceable German cheese known for its smooth, creamy melt with a subtle buttery flavor. It makes an excellent substitute for achieving that creamy Monterey Jack texture in grilled sandwiches, baked dishes and Tex-Mex recipes.
Use the same quantity of Butterkäse in place of Monterey Jack. Just adjust any added salt since Butterkäse typically contains more sodium. The soft, spreadable texture when melted makes it a handy staple cheese in your fridge.
Crumbled feta cheese makes a tasty salty, tangy alternative for Monterey Jack in cold dishes like salads, tacos, sandwiches and cheese trays. The brininess pairs well with veggies, greens, meats and Mediterranean ingredients.
Use about half the amount of feta called for Monterey Jack, since feta is saltier and more strongly flavored. The crumbles won't melt the same way, so feta works better as a replacement when the cheese isn't being cooked or heated.
Queso blanco is a fresh, crumbly Mexican cheese similar to feta. It makes a great substitute for Monterey Jack when you want those salty, tangy flavors in Tex-Mex dishes like tacos, tostadas, enchiladas or chimichangas.
Queso blanco offers the acidity to cut through rich fillings. Just like feta, use about half the amount specified for Monterey Jack and add it as a garnish since it doesn't melt well. The bright, salty flavor pairs perfectly with spices, beans, rice and salsa.
Parmesan can work when you need a melty cheese with a punch of umami flavor. Grated parmesan won't get as smoothly creamy as Monterey Jack when melted. But it can be combined half and half with mozzarella or provolone to get that gooeyness.
The aged, complex taste of Parmesan adds rich savoriness. Use about 1/4 the amount of parmesan mixed with melty cheeses in risottos, pastas, pizzas and salads in place of Monterey Jack. A little goes a long way due to the sharpness.
Oaxaca cheese, also called quesillo, has a mild flavor and melty, stretchy texture quite similar to mozzarella. This white Mexican cheese is a traditional choice for quesadillas, tlayudas, molotes and chilaquiles.
Substitute Oaxaca for Monterey Jack using the same quantity in Tex-Mex dishes to get that authentic south of the border flair. When melted, it has a smooth, creamy consistency perfect for melting between tortillas or atop meat and veggie fillings.
Asadero is another soft, mild, melty Mexican cheese that works well in place of Monterey Jack. It has excellent melting properties similar to Oaxaca cheese. Slightly tangy and creamy when melted, asadero is traditionally used in quesadillas, chorizo sausage, chiles rellenos and taco fillings.
Use the same amount as Monterey Jack in enchiladas, burritos, tacos al pastor and chimichangas to get that authentic texture and flavor. The mild creaminess perfectly cuts through and compliments spicy Mexican dishes.
Chihuahua cheese originated in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. It's a fresh, mild white cheese similar to Monterey Jack and other Mexican melting cheeses. Chihuahua has a soft, creamy texture when melted, moderate saltiness and slightly tangy flavor.
This cheese is traditionally used in chiles rellenos de picadillo and queso fundido (Mexican fondue). Replace Monterey Jack with chihuahua using a 1:1 ratio to achieve that smooth melted consistency and mild flavor. It's excellent in quesadillas, nachos, tacos and burritos.
Farmer cheese is a crumbly fresh cheese that makes a good substitute for Monterey Jack in cold dishes where you want a mild dairy flavor. It won't melt well since it contains less moisture. But the soft, creamy texture is similar.
Use farmer cheese in place of Monterey Jack in equal amounts when making dips, salad dressings, cheese trays or just eating plain with fruit and crackers. The mild tanginess and fresh flavor pairs well without overpowering in sweet or savory cold preparations.
Cottage cheese is another fresh, crumbly cheese that mimics some of the creamy dairy flavor of Monterey Jack - just without the melt factor. The curds have a pleasant soft texture that pairs well with both sweet and savory ingredients.
Use cottage cheese in cold dishes like salads, sandwiches, parfaits and dips calling for Monterey Jack. Keep the ratio about 1:1, adjusting if you want more or less tanginess. The mild, milky flavor complements fruits, vegetables, herbs and more without dominating.
Ricotta is a fresh Italian whey cheese with a snowy white color and creamy texture reminiscent of Monterey Jack. Although it won't melt the same way, ricotta has a subtly sweet, milky flavor and soft curds perfect for recipes where you don't need to melt the cheese.
Use it as a replacement in lasagna, manicotti, cheesecake, cannoli filling, dips, salads and gnocchi in the same quantity as Monterey Jack for a fresh, mild cheesy element. The fluffy texture also makes ricotta a handy, affordable substitute in baked goods.
Mascarpone is an Italian cream cheese with a rich, silky texture and buttery, subtly sweet flavor. Though it won't melt like Monterey Jack, mascarpone can mimic its rich creaminess in recipes where you use the cheese cold.
Use it in tiramisu, cheesecake, dips, frosting, stuffed crepes and pasta fillings like ravioli. The lush mouthfeel pairs deliciously with eggs, chocolate, citrus, berries, nuts and coffee. Replace Monterey Jack 1:1 with mascarpone for creamy richness without overbearing flavor.
Cream cheese makes an easy replacement thanks to its tangy yet sweet flavor and smooth, spreadable texture. Since it contains stabilizers, cream cheese won't melt the same way as Monterey Jack. But it adds similar dairy richness and body.
Use cream cheese in an equal quantity to Monterey Jack in dips, cheesecakes, frosting, pastries, bagels and anywhere you want a boost of tangy creaminess. Blend with milk or soften slightly if you want a pourable consistency to replace melted Jack cheese.
Key Takeaway: Havarti, Gouda, and Muenster offer the closest flavor and texture match for Monterey Jack. But cheeses like mozzarella, Swiss, cheddar, and Mexican-style cheeses can also substitute well in recipes.
How to Use Monterey Jack Cheese
Now that you know the best substitutes, it helps to also understand how Monterey Jack is commonly used in cooking so you can mimic recipes properly. Here are some of the top uses for this versatile cheese:
Monterey Jack is a favorite for quesadillas thanks to its creamy melt and mild flavor that perfectly balances the other fillings.
Substitute: Queso quesadilla, Oaxaca, asadero or a mix of mozzarella and cheddar will give you that ideal gooey cheese layer.
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Slabs of melty Monterey Jack between buttery toasted bread make the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich.
Substitute: Havarti, Gouda, Muenster, mild cheddar or Swiss will all get ooey and gooey when grilled.
Mac and Cheese
Monterey Jack is the quintessential cheese mixed into the creamy sauce that makes mac and cheese so addictive.
Substitute: Young Gouda, Havarti, mild cheddar or a blend of cheeses like mozzarella, Gruyère and parmesan.
Melted Monterey Jack tops nachos, binding all the toppings together with salty, creamy deliciousness.
Substitute: Queso quesadilla, Colby, Pepper Jack, or a Mexican style cheese like Oaxaca or asadero.
Shredded Monterey Jack is commonly used as a pizza topping or in the cheese blend due to its mild tang and melt.
Substitute: Mozzarella, Fontina, provolone, Havarti, Gruyère or a mix.
Enchiladas and Burritos
Monterey Jack is the customary choice for melted cheese inside enchiladas, burritos and other Mexican dishes.
Substitute: Oaxaca, asadero, chihuahua, Pepper Jack, or a Mexican style blend.
Quiche and Souffle
Monterey Jack is often mixed into eggy dishes like quiche, souffle, frittata, and omelets for its melty creaminess.
Substitute: Gruyère, Havarti, fontina, mild cheddar, Colby or Swiss.
The smooth melt of Monterey Jack makes it perfect for blending into cheese sauces for cauliflower, broccoli, pasta and more.
Substitute: Mild cheddar, Colby Jack, Gouda, Muenster, Havarti or Swiss work well.
Melty Monterey Jack is sometimes used in cheese fondue for its creamy texture and mild bite.
Substitute: Try Emmental, Gruyère, Gouda, Appenzeller or raclette cheese.
Crumbled Monterey Jack over salads adds a creamy element and salty accent without being overpowering.
Substitute: Feta, goat cheese, blue cheese, aged cheddar, farmer cheese or queso blanco.
What is the best substitute for Monterey Jack cheese?
Havarti is the closest match, offering a similar creamy, tangy flavor and meltability. Young Gouda and Muenster also make excellent substitutes.
Can I use mozzarella instead of Monterey Jack?
Yes, low-moisture or aged mozzarella works well, providing great melt and mild flavor. Use equal amounts to replace Monterey Jack.
Is cheddar a good substitute?
Mild white or orange cheddar can work in a pinch. But cheddar has more tang, so use less and reduce cook times since it can separate more easily when melted.
What about Swiss cheese as a substitute?
Young Swiss cheese makes a smooth, creamy substitute for Monterey Jack. Just watch the salt content, since Swiss is often higher in sodium.
Can I use Mexican-style cheeses instead?
Yes! Queso quesadilla, asadero, Oaxaca or chihuahua all mimic Monterey Jack's texture. Use equal amounts in enchiladas, tacos, quesadillas.
What if I don't need to melt the cheese?
Try crumbled feta, farmer, cottage or ricotta cheese in equal amounts for salads, cheese trays, etc. The flavor will be similar without the melt factor.
Is cream cheese a viable substitute?
Cream cheese can work in dips, spreads, cheesecakes. But it won't melt the same way. Blend with milk to approximate Monterey Jack's creamy fluidity when melted.
Monterey Jack is prized for its creamy, melty texture and mild flavor.
When substituting, prioritize cheeses that melt well like Havarti, Gouda, and Mexican-style cheeses for cooking.
For unmelted uses, fresh cheeses like feta or ricotta offer a similar creamy dairy taste.
With a wide range of substitutes, from mozzarella to cheddar, you can mimic Monterey Jack in any recipe.