Monterey jack cheese is renowned for being one of the most versatile cheeses in the culinary world. Its classic flavor profile and creamy texture are appreciated in numerous dishes from various regions. But what happens when your recipe calls for it, and you discover you’ve just run out? Well, don’t fret, because you can still find substitutes you can use in its place. But before we begin, what do we know about Monterey Jack cheese? And what makes it such a preferred addition to various dishes?
What is Monterey Jack Cheese?
Monterey Jack cheese is a cheese variant native to the American regions. The name is derived from the popular city of Monterey in California, and the cheese is made from either skimmed or whole cow’s milk and aged for about a month. Monterey Jack cheese is white, with a semi-hard but smooth texture, so it’s easy to slice or grate. But perhaps the most noticeable feature of Monterey Jack cheese is the creamy, mild buttery flavor. This blends so well in recipes and allows you to produce that unique classic American or Mexican taste to a recipe.
Monterey Jack cheese comes in different variants, all made from the same general process of adding herbs and spices to young cheese or allowing it to age for longer than the normal time. You have two general varieties of Monterey Jack cheese; Aged Jack cheese and Pepper Jack. Aged Jack cheese, also known as dry jack, is a matured variety of Monterey Jack cheese. This type is made by allowing young cheese to age for up to 6 months, resulting in a firmer texture that can be grated or eaten plain. Pepper Jack, however, is named for being a spicy variety of Monterey Jack, as it’s mixed with black peppers and chili. This type is a popular option in Mexican cuisine and recipes like tacos and quesadillas.
Nutrition Facts Monterey Jack Cheese
Monterey Jack Cheese in Recipes
Because of its versatile flavor and texture, Monterey Jack cheese is a popular addition to recipes worldwide. It’s known to be one of the most famous cheeses, alongside Cheddar, Gouda, and other classic cheeses. Monterey Jack cheese is an All-American favorite, and I hardly find any classic and traditional American recipe that doesn’t include it. Its creamy texture and mild flavor make it a regular addition to appetizers and main-course dishes.
Monterey Jack cheese is also just as popular in the Mexican regions as well. Because it melts easily and has a soft taste that balances on the palates, many culinary experts consider it in their baking recipes. Monterey Jack cheese also works as an interesting garnish and topping for sweet and savory dishes. And because you can get it in different aged varieties, you can decide how sharp you want its taste to be in your recipe.
The versatility of Monterey Jack cheese is recognized in its use in popular recipes like;
- American burgers
- Pasta and Pasta Bakes
- Sandwiches, Subs, and Quiches
- Tex-Mex dishes
- Macaroni and cheese
- Crackers and Biscuits
- Baked goods
Monterey Jack Cheese Substitutes
If you ever find yourself out of Monterey Jack cheese in the middle of a recipe, never fear. Chances are you already have something in your kitchen to replace it but didn’t know. To help you figure it out, these substitutes for Monterey Jack cheese below are your best bet to bring out that exciting effect in your dish.
However, you should note that each substitute possesses different features that make them good alternatives for Monterey Jack cheese. And the one you pick depends on what you plan to achieve in the recipe. In that light, some cheese substitutes are better for recipes that need the mild flavor of younger Monterey Jack cheese. And others work best for recipes that require the stronger taste only Aged Jack can provide.
Colby cheese is perhaps the closest to Monterey Jack cheese in terms of flavor and texture. Because it’s also made from cow’s milk, the taste is just as mild as Monterey Jack, with almost the same semi-firm surface texture. Colby cheese also melts just as easily, and it can be sliced for recipes like sandwiches and burgers. Colby cheese, however, is moister on the inside, and as such, ages faster in certain recipes like crackers, so it must be used young in place of Monterey Jack. Still, it offers almost the same delicious effect in burgers, pasta, pizzas, and crackers.
This cheese is one of the most common substitutes for Monterey Jack since it’s also made from cow’s milk. Originally a Danish variant, Havarti cheese has a creamier texture compared to Monterey Jack cheese. But their taste is almost the same, being on the milder side, and a such, it works well as a substitute for Monterey Jack cheese in recipes like burgers and other grilled foods. Havarti cheese also melts just as good as Monterey Jack cheese, so it blends well as a substitute for it in pizzas.
Edam cheese works well as a substitute for Monterey Jack cheese in many recipes. This solid cheese is a Dutch original and has a unique ball-like shape with a red wax surface coat. Edam cheese is firmer than Monterey Jack cheese, making it perfect for recipes that need grated cheese or slices. And its taste profile is creamy and nutty, with salty notes. Younger Edam cheese has a springy texture, and when it’s aged, the taste is closer to Monterey Jack cheese. And both types can be used in pizzas, burgers, and sandwiches or server as side dishes or finger foods with wine.
American Muenster Cheese
This cheese is not to be confused with the Munster cheese from the Alsace region of France. The French Munster cheese is heavier, with a stronger, smoky flavor profile. But the American Muenster cheese has a milder taste similar to Monterey Jack cheese. It’s also semi-soft in texture, with a yellow color. American Muenster cheese slices just as easily as Monterey Jack cheese and is perfect for sandwiches and burgers. It also melts well, so you can substitute for Monterey Jack cheese in pizza recipes as well.
The most popular and versatile Dutch cheese variety ever made, Gouda is another perfect substitute for Monterey Jack cheese. It’s very similar to Monterey Jack cheese in texture and flavor, having the same mild taste. A major reason for this is because Gouda, like Monterey Jack cheese, is also made from cow’s milk. And in addition to its creamy taste, the flavor also had hints of citrus. Gouda melts easily and works in grilled recipes and pizzas. And you can alternate either younger or aged Gouda for younger or aged Monterey Jack cheese respectively in any recipe.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can you substitute mozzarella cheese for Monterey Jack cheese?
Mozzarella has a blander taste compared to Monterey Jack cheese and may not work well as a substitute for it in some recipes. However, if the recipe only requires the creaminess of Monterey Jack cheese without it having too much effect on the overall flavor, you can substitute it with mozzarella.
Is Cheddar Jack the same as Monterey Jack?
No. Cheddar Jack is a derivative of the combination of Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheese. Sometimes seen as an alternative to Monterey Jack cheese in recipes, it also carries the properties of Cheddar cheese.
Is Pepper Jack real cheese?
Yes, it is. Pepper Jack is just as much real as any other cheeses around. It’s only different in that it’s been flavored with spices and herbs like jalapeños, rosemary, habanero chili, sweet peppers, and garlic.
In the absence of Monterey Jack cheese, any of these substitutes can be used to create the same effect in your recipes. Each one comes with something special to offer along with their similar properties to Monterey Jack cheese. So make sure you explore these opportunities to create splendid dishes.