When people associate a particular type of food with Canada, they often think of poutine. Though, Canadian cuisine goes far beyond that one dish. We are also known for Montreal-style bagels, Donair’s, Nanaimo bars, butter tarts and so much more.

April 12th is National Grilled Cheese Day, one of the world’s most popular comfort foods. Although it wouldn’t be considered a prototypical Canadian food dish, there are still recipes and restaurants that make it feel like our very own. Before we take a bite into the best ways to celebrate National Grilled Cheese Day in Canada, we want to take you on a journey through time, exploring the beginnings of this delicious dish. 

Believe it or not, it wasn’t until the 1920s, when sliced bread became popular and readily available. This signaled the starting point for grilled cheese sandwiches as we know it today. Basic in nature, the cheese dream, an open-faced grilled cheese sandwich, was popular in the U.S. during the Great Depression. Whether it be take-out or a DIY experience, continue reading to explore elaborate recipes and unique restaurants to help with your National Grilled Cheese Day celebrations in Canada.

Grilled Cheese Recipes with a Canadian Twist

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Image courtesy of Jason Bangerter, Executive Chef, Langdon Hall

Niagara Gold Crunch – Award Winner

Jason Bangerter is an award-winning Canadian chef who started his career in 1994 in Toronto, Canada. His culinary journey has taken him to places like England, Germany, and France, where he worked at prestigious restaurants before returning to Toronto. Here, he joined the team at Auberge du Pommier, within the Oliver and Bonacini group of restaurants.

In 2010, he was selected to lead and open two new downtown restaurants at the TIFF Bell Lightbox – O&B Canteen and an upscale dining room and lounge, Luma. It is here that the story of his award-winning Niagara Gold Crunch Grilled Cheese Sandwich begins.

While at O&B Canteen, Jason entered his Niagara Gold Crunch grilled cheese sandwich into the 2012 Great Canadian Grilled Cheese Cook-Off Competition held by the Dairy Farmers of Canada. His delicious masterpiece won the top prize, and since the competition has never been held again, the recipe remains undefeated. Even if another competition ever opens up, Chef Bangerter is confident there is no match for the Niagara Gold Crunch. 

This is no ordinary grilled cheese sandwich. What makes this recipe so special? It’s the ideal mix of local ingredients, cooked to perfection. To get this sandwich started, combine mayonnaise, garlic, thyme, and pepper in a small bowl. Spread the mixture on one side of each bread slice. Place half of the Niagara Gold cheese on one bread slice. Finish by topping with prosciutto, arugula, and any remaining cheese. The Niagara Gold cheese used in this recipe comes from the Upper Canada Cheese Company and is a washed rind that is semi-soft with nutty, earthy overtones and mellow buttery flavors. The Niagara region of Ontario is famous for its wineries. Pulverized wine must is added to the flour when making the dough for the bread, adding additional local significance and taste. Although the ingredients are important, the way it is cooked is also crucial to the final result. Combine butter, thyme, and garlic in a pan and cook the sandwich, almost as if you were cooking a roast! Continue adding butter into the pan as necessary. Once you’ve completed basting your Niagara Gold Crunch Grilled Cheese sandwich, be sure to place it in the oven for a few minutes to remove excess butter. Chef Bangerter recommends serving the dish with pickles. 

You can find the full recipe at the Dairy Farmers of Canada official website.

Roasted Bell Pepper 

This sweet and spicy grilled cheese sandwich is made with local BC cheeses and served with homemade jam. The chef behind this creation, Ned Bell, says that this recipe makes for a rustic, chewy, crunchy and cheesy experience. You can watch Chef Bell prepare the dish in the video above. It all starts with a medium saucepan. Combine red and yellow peppers, tomatoes, honey, vinegar, and salt. Don’t forget the cheese! Layer cheddar cheese, Pacific Pepper Spicy Verdelait cheese, and tomato slices on one of the bread slices. Be sure to serve the dish with a side of jam, preferably sweet and homemade.

The Stampede Centennial 

When you think of Canadian grilled cheese sandwiches, there are few that reflect our nation better than the Stampede Centennial. Originally created by chef Liana Robberecht from Alberta, this dish is a combination of Canadian provolone, blue cheeses and Alberta BBQ pulled beef short ribs. The name of the dish is an honor to the over one hundred years of passion for agriculture in the province it originated in. Whether it be lunch, dinner, or an afternoon snack, you can make the Stampede Centennial at home using this recipe provided by the Dairy Farmers of Canada.

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Try These Canadian Cheeses in Your Creation

When looking to add some flair to your next gourmet grilled cheese recipe, it is important to use the right ingredients. And yes, we are talking about the main ingredient, cheese. It is recommended to avoid younger cheeses like fresh mozzarella and brie, as they melt in long strings. Instead, opt for extra-aged cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano, cheddars, and crumbly blue cheeses as accent ingredients. 

Some Canadian cheesemakers have added their twist to this main ingredient. Consider the below cheeses as a choice for your recipe. 

Raclette, which comes from the French term racler,” means to scrape” in English. Depending on who you ask, Raclette might be French or Swiss cheese. In any case, Canadian cheesemakers have embraced it in this country for many years, mainly due to its taste and melting properties. They have also put their twist on the original. For example, Fromagerie La Station de Compton, located in the Eastern Townships, QC makes an organic version that is both fruity and nutty in taste.

Alpine Style cheeses are also popular in Canada and great for grilled cheese making. It is made from milk that comes from mountainous regions. How does that make the cheese different? The cows in these regions tend to eat a specific diet of grasses and foliage found in these high-altitude environments. This category includes traditional European cheeses such as Gruyere, Comté, and Beaufort. Canadian cheesemakers have also embraced Alpine Style, crafting unique versions. For example, The Farmhouse Natural Cheeses, located in Agassiz, BC makes an Alpine Style that is a semi-soft rind cheese with a golden interior and a mild buttery flavor.

Grab a Grilled Cheese Sandwich at These Local Canadian Establishments

Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck – Vancouver, BC

Mom’s Grilled Cheese Food Truck is a must-try mobile establishment that can usually be found by the Vancouver Art Gallery. Guests can make their own sandwich by selecting the bread, cheese and add-ons like sliced dill pickle and double smoked bacon among other toppings. A well-known menu item is the Jackson 3, featuring brie, boursin, and guyere cheese in one sandwhich.

Stuff’D Grilled Cheese – Toronto, ON

Located in a shipping container stall at Market 707 in Toronto, Stuff’D Grilled Cheese makes over a half dozen renditions of this popular sandwich. All the menu items, except one, come filled with either jerk chicken, paneer, or beef steak. The other is a vegan cheese option on gluten-free bread. The Bombay Bad Boy grilled cheese sandwich is a favorite among visitors and features butter chicken sauce and pulled jerk chicken. No matter what menu item you decide on, all come with a side of fried pickles and tater tots loaded with more cheese.

Le Cheese Truck – Montreal, QC

As the name suggests, Le Cheese Truck is all about menu items with maximum cheese. They started as a mobile food truck (which they still operate today) but have gained so much popularity in the community that they have also opened a standalone restaurant. Besides macaroni and cheesecake, they serve up one style of grilled cheese sandwich. It is the basic recipe with bread, butter, and cheese, but there’s just something about it that makes this place a popular spot for Montreal area foodies.

Interested in trying your hand at recipes involving maple syrup? Check out these top recipes to celebrate maple syrup season. 

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