The Ultimate Guide to the 7 Best Cheeses for Chili

The 7 best cheeses for chili

Adding cheese to chili is a popular way to enhance the flavor and take it to the next level. While personal preference plays an important role in choosing the best cheeses for chili, there are some tried and true combinations that are worth exploring. In this article, we will discuss the seven best cheeses for chili, their flavor profiles, and why they pair so well with this popular dish.

1. Cheddar Cheese

Cheddar is undoubtedly the top choice when it comes to pairing cheese with chili. Its tangy flavor complements the rich heat of chili. There are several types of cheddar cheese available, each with a unique flavor profile:

  • Mild Cheddar: With a buttery and mild flavor profile and a creamy, smooth texture, Mild Cheddar is a popular choice.
  • Medium Cheddar: This variety has a smooth and creamy flavor and texture.
  • Sharp Cheddar: Bolder in taste with a sharper flavor, sharp cheddar still maintains a balanced profile. It is slightly less creamy in texture.
  • Extra Sharp/Extra Old Cheddar: This cheddar is crumbly and has salty cheese crystals. It has the strongest and most pungent flavor of all cheddars.

The aging process is responsible for the different flavors of cheddar cheese. Mild cheddars are typically aged for a few months, while extra sharp or extra old cheddars can be aged for several years. Starting with a mild cheddar and gradually working your way up to the sharpest option can provide a unique flavor experience. In addition, smoked cheddar can add an incredible layer of flavor to your chili.

2. Monterey Jack Cheese

Monterey Jack cheese is an all-American cheese that pairs well with chili. It has a mild and buttery flavor profile with a subtle tang. The cheese melts beautifully in hot dishes due to its high butterfat content. Its creamy and smooth texture makes it easy to work with. Monterey Jack cheese is light yellow in color and tastes similar to mild cheddar or colby cheese.

3. Pepper Jack Cheese

Pepper Jack cheese is a variation of Monterey Jack cheese that incorporates hot pickled peppers to give it a spicy kick. The cheese melts well in chili, and the hot peppers add an extra layer of flavor to the dish. The base flavor of Pepper Jack cheese is mild, buttery and creamy, making it an excellent choice for those who prefer less spicy or tangy cheeses. It adds a rich creaminess to chili that cuts through the acidity of tomatoes and complements milder varieties of chili.

4. American Cheese Slices

American cheese slices are a classic addition to chili, known for their creamy and salty flavor profile. The cheese melts smoothly and adds a delicious element to the rich and spicy chili. American cheddar cheese slices are a natural pairing for tomato-based chili. To ensure even melting and distribution, it is recommended to shred or cut the cheese slices before stirring them into the chili. Another option is to use American cheese slices to make a classic grilled cheese sandwich to enjoy with your chili.

5. Blue Cheese

Blue cheese is a controversial choice due to its distinct flavor, but it can create an incredible flavor combination when paired with spicy chili. This cheese has a subtle sweetness and an incredible tang that cuts through the richness of slow cooked chili. It is recommended to start with a small amount of blue cheese, as its flavor can be stronger compared to other cheeses on this list. However, adding more cheese is always an option if you want a more pronounced flavor. Stir creamy blue cheese into your chili for a unique and delicious twist.

6. Salsa Con Queso

Salsa con queso, a creamy cheese dip, is an excellent accompaniment to chili. Its creamy texture, subtle kick of flavor, and delicious cheesiness make it an ideal choice. You can opt for a regular salsa con queso made with orange cheese or try a creamy queso blanco dip for a slightly different flavor. If you like a tangy element in your chili, salsa con queso is a great option to consider. It pairs well with the rich and spicy flavors of chili and adds a creamy dimension to the dish.

7. Smoked Gouda

Smoked Gouda or any other type of smoked cheese can be substituted for this option. The smokiness of the cheese adds an extra layer of flavor to the chili, reminiscent of smoked bacon. Gouda cheese has a rich, nutty, caramel-like flavor that some people describe as similar to butterscotch. This subtle sweetness, combined with the smoky flavor, creates a truly incredible addition to any bowl of rich and spicy chili. Choosing a young Gouda will provide a creamy texture, while an aged Gouda will have a firmer texture and a more pronounced flavor.
In conclusion, when it comes to the best cheeses for chili, cheddar takes the crown, with its sharp flavor that perfectly complements the heat of chili. However, there are several other options worth exploring, such as Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, American cheese slices, blue cheese, salsa con queso, and smoked Gouda. Each cheese brings its own unique flavor profile and texture to enhance the overall flavor of the chili. Whether you prefer a milder cheese or enjoy bold and tangy flavors, there is a cheese on this list to suit your taste preferences. So go ahead and experiment with different cheeses to find your perfect combination and elevate your chili to new heights of deliciousness.


What is the best cheese to use in chili?

The best cheese to use in chili is cheddar. Its sharp flavor complements the heat of chili and adds a delicious richness to the dish.

Can I use different types of cheddar cheese in my chili?

Absolutely! You can choose from mild, medium, sharp, or extra sharp/extra aged cheddar, depending on your preference. Each type offers a unique flavor profile, so feel free to experiment and find your favorite.

Is blue cheese a good choice for chili?

Blue cheese can be a great choice for chili if you enjoy its distinct tangy flavor. However, it is recommended that you start with a small amount as its flavor can be strong. You can always add more to taste.

Are there spicier cheese options for chili?

Yes, Pepper Jack cheese is a spicier option that adds a kick of heat to your chili. It has a mild base flavor with the addition of hot pickled peppers, making it a perfect choice for those who like a little extra heat.

Can I use Salsa con Queso in my chili?

Absolutely! Salsa con queso, a creamy cheese dip, can be a delicious addition to chili. Its creamy texture and subtle flavor kick pair well with the rich and spicy flavors of chili.

Can I substitute other smoked cheeses for Smoked Gouda?

Yes, you can substitute other smoked cheeses for smoked Gouda, such as smoked cheddar or smoked mozzarella. The smoky flavor of these cheeses adds a delicious twist to your chili, reminiscent of smoked bacon.