10 Cheese Substitutes for Monterey Jack
Monterey Jack was first developed by the friars of Monterey, California, and as legend has it, it was popularized by a single American salesman with the surname of Jack, thus it is called Monterey Jack.
Monterey Jack is a pale yellow, semi-hard, super meltable cheese made from cow’s milk, most commonly produced in the United States.
Known for its mild flavor (it is only aged about one month) and slight sweetness, Monterey Jack is sometimes referred to as “America’s Original” since it has become the favored cheese to top cheeseburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches, two very popular American meals.
Due to its high-fat content and meltability, it is often popular as a melting cheese for Mexican foods, quesadillas, and mac and cheese. Monterey Jack is sometimes referred to as “the poor man’s cheddar,” because it is super cost-efficient due to its short aging process and easy production.
As Monterey Jack became more popular, it developed some derivatives such as Colby Jack (marbled with Colby,) Cheddar Jack (blended with Cheddar,) and Dry Jack (a similar version but ages up to 6 months.) It also has a popular addition of hot peppers and is called Pepper Jack, used primarily in Mexican recipes to add more spice.
Often referred to just as “Jack,” Monterey Jack is versatile, delicious, and simple. If you cannot find Jack Cheese, there are plenty of other semi-hard cheeses on the market that will make fine substitutes. Here are a few of our favorites:
1. Cheddar Cheese
Classic Cheddar cheese is often made from pasteurized cow’s milk, so like Jack Cheese, it will be great for all your melting and slicing needs.
Cheddar cheese also has the same smooth texture and firm bite as Monterey Jack and is even combined with Monterey Jack in many cheese blends because of its similarities!
If you’re looking for a true substitute, look for a yellow or white Cheddar rather than the classic orange variety as this will be closer to the appearance of true Jack cheese.
2. Hard Italian Cheeses, like Parmesan
Although these types of cheese also have a stronger flavor and tend to be saltier than young Monterey Jack, they will offer a similar cheesy flavor to whatever you are cooking!
Hard Italian cheeses like Parmesan, Grana Padano, and Pecorino (or American Romano cheese) can be grated on any dish to give them a salty, flavor punch, so these types make great substitutes for Jack cheese.
These Italian cheeses do tend to be quite a bit more expensive, so consider this if you’re on a budget!
3. Vegan Cheddar or Monterey Jack (if you can find it)
The market for vegan cheeses continues to grow and there truly are some fantastic ones on the market right now!
Soy-based cheese products come in all sorts of flavors and colors and these cheeses tend to melt like the real thing, so they would make the best Jack alternative.
In addition, you might be able to find an actual vegan version of Monterey Jack if you search, but keep in mind that if you’re looking for something melty and stringy, then a soy-based version is your best bet — although the cashew-based cheeses are great, they do not melt like the real thing.
Havarti is basically the Danish version of Monterey Jack and will be very similar in taste, texture, and look. The only main difference is that Havarti has small Swiss-like holes in it and is aged for about three months, so it will have a stronger cheese flavor and smell.
A good alternative would be to combine some white Cheddar and grated Havarti for an excellent Monterey Jack substitute! But Havarti on its own will work great… (grate? See what we did there?).
Another excellent alternative to Jack, Gouda is one of the oldest cheeses still in production today!
This famous Dutch cheese is made in a similar way to Jack cheese and Havarti, but is aged longer and will have a darker yellow color and higher salt content.
Gouda is very good served on its own, on a platter for its stunning color and slicability. However, it is also a good melting cheese and shares Monterey Jack’s slightly sweet flavor profile.
Could it be… The French Monterey Jack? It is pretty close!!
Comté is also made from cow’s milk, however, unlike the casual nature of Monterey Jack production, Comté is made with very specific cow’s milk from a very specific region, using a very specific process. The result is a super creamy, full-flavored, beautiful golden yellow cheese with a flexible but tough rind.
Comté is beloved in France and is used on cheese platters, sandwiches, and savory pastries. It will make a fine alternative to Jack cheese for its ability to melt and for its overall deliciousness.
Colby is made in a very similar fashion to Cheddar and Jack cheese, but through the process is shocked in ice water which results in a slightly different texture.
Colby is known for being slightly rubbery and has a bit of a ‘fake cheese’ texture and just so happens to be bright orange.
For these reasons, it will be different from Monterey Jack… but its flavor profile makes it a fine alternative. It is also super melty making it a great cheese to blend with others and use for mac and cheese or to melt on burgers or nachos. Colby is an excellent substitute for Jack cheese!
Or, Colby-Jack is a great substitute for plain Jack (or plain Colby!) because it contains about 50% Jack Cheese, with the addition of Colby, making it ultra melty and delicious!
Co-Jack is a super popular cheese in American diners because it is extremely affordable and when it melts it gets super gooey and stringy… just what a cheese lover wants!!
8. Muenster Cheese
Another American-made cheese is Muenster cheese! This variety makes a great alternative to Jack Cheese because it is made in a very similar process and has a similar flavor profile.
The main difference is that Muenster has a famous bright orange rind that is made from annatto, which is the main coloring agent in orange cheddar (and other orange cheeses.)
For this reason, Muenster will be a different shade than Monterey Jack cheese so keep this in mind, depending on what color you want your finished recipe to have, but if you’re not picky, Muenster is a great replacement!
9. Swiss or Emmental Cheese
Either one of these Swiss-based cheeses will also work in place of Monterey Jack, and tend to be the same shade of yellow or white. Swiss cheese is of course known for its air pockets, making it slightly different from the solid nature of Jack Cheese, but it is quite similar in flavor and melting qualities.
Swiss cheese is very easy to find, and Emmental will add a little extra bite to whatever you are cooking.
Overall, Monterey Jack cheese has plenty of great alternatives. A versatile, simple cheese with a complex history, Monterey Jack Cheese has quickly become a favorite in America, and worldwide. It is easy to find, easy to eat, and easy to love!
If you’re looking for a cheese that melts great, has a long shelf life, is found on just about any grocery store shelf or restaurant menu across the states, has high calcium and a simple flavor profile, Monterey Jack is definitely worth it to try! And of course, if for some reason you cannot find it, check out any one of these excellent Jack alternatives.
Related: Top 29 American Desserts