Cilantro Pesto Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Some of us loved to eat and cook before going gluten-free and some of us did not. I think if you were a foodie prior to going gluten-free that presents a different set of challenges/emotions than if you were not. If you were a foodie than you are both excited and devastated at the diet challenges ahead. I mean, is a gluten-free brioche still a true brioche? Well, I think it is. But I might have thought I would never eat true brioche again once upon going gluten-free.

If you were already a foodie you tried to find fruits, vegetables, and herbs in peak season and cooked them well. You already tried to find organic grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, or tofu. So as a foodie, you were already armed with knowledge that would help you on your gluten-free journey whether or not you realized it.

Since the typical American diet is loaded with processed foods that include many starches and few fruits and vegetables, the gluten-free diet really is a hard transition if you primarily ate convenience foods prior to going gluten-free. I do not think it is advisable to simply replace the gluten-laden processed food with gluten-free processed food. This will be hard on your pocketbook and your waistline, not to mention depressing. It is important to start learning about fresh foods; and honestly, someone has to learn to cook.

I get emails now and again from the newly gluten-free surviving on Amy’s frozen foods (I have been there believe me), begging me for recipes that are quick and easy. And I think to myself, it is time to get motivated, renew your “friendship” with food and get yourself in the kitchen. After all you it will be harder to heal if your desire is to simply heat something up or go out to eat all the time. I challenge all the newly gluten-free to become “foodies” and get back in the kitchen. It really will make you feel better. A brownie made with rice flour is still a brownie. You may not even be able to eat just one. So, this post is dedicated to the newly gluten-free who might be learning to cook for the first time. Let’s rediscover the grilled cheese sandwich together, shall we? I am adding a little cilantro pesto to mine.

cilantropesto Cilantro Pesto Grilled Cheese Sandwiches


1 cup packed cilantro

2-3 Tablespoons olive oil (or to taste)

1/4 cup almonds, pistachios, or pecans

1/2 jalapeno (or serrano chile) or less (depending on taste)

sea salt to taste (1/4 teaspoon maybe?)

[some people add garlic, but I like it without garlic]


You can tell by the ingredients listed that this is a taste as you go type of recipe. Depending on the flavors of the cilantro, hotness of your jalapeno, and the type of nuts you use the proportions maybe different. Just throw all the ingredients into a mini-prep Processor and taste as you go.

Makes enough pesto for two generously pestoed grilled cheese sandwiches- I am sorry I didn’t measure! If you need a lot, double the recipe.
And now my husband, gluten-free grilled cheese expert, will tell you how HE made the sandwich.

Hey. Natalie asked me to walk everyone through making a grilled cheese. A little disclaimer: This is the only right way to make a grilled cheese sandwich. If you can’t handle that truth, please skip this section.

And now, on to the grilled cheese:

  1. grilled cheese1.thumbnail Cilantro Pesto Grilled Cheese SandwichesMake sure the stovetop is clean – This is perhaps the most important step in all of grilled-cheese-dom–particularly if you have a smooth electric cooking range that burns and marks easily. Seriously, clean, clean, clean – this is to both fulfill the “ounce of prevention” and counteract the “h311 has no fury” axioms.
  2. grilled cheese2.thumbnail Cilantro Pesto Grilled Cheese SandwichesGather your ingredients – Lots of butter or margarine, sliced cheese–Cheddar, Colby/Jack, Spicy Jack, whatever you like (even American if you’re into eating plastic), and sliced bread. The goal here is to have everything on-hand and ready-to-use so as to keep full attention on the pan and avoid any mishaps.
  3. grilled cheese3.thumbnail Cilantro Pesto Grilled Cheese SandwichesNuke the bread – If you’re using gluten-free bread, it’s likly that it’s coming from the freezer all stuck together and cold. Put all of the bread that you think you will use in the microwave for a minute or so on the defrost setting. Now we’re ready to turn on the stove.
  4. grilled cheese4.thumbnail Cilantro Pesto Grilled Cheese SandwichesMelt the butter – Turn on the stove to the middle setting and let the pan get hot. Add a slug of butter (1/16th of a stick) and cover the bottom of the pan with it. Ideally you want enough butter to soak a little way into the bread.
  5. grilled cheese5.thumbnail Cilantro Pesto Grilled Cheese SandwichesAdd the bread – Take two slices of bread and add them to the pan. Make sure that they lie flat and get fully covered in butter. Leave them there until they get a nice toasted look on the underside (Yes, it’s okay to peek) Note: Some people like to combine steps 4 and 5. This is a mistake as coverage is never as uniform as an in-pan application; it is an inefficient use of time–particularly when making several sandwiches; and it unnecessarily challenges the integrity of the already-structurally-challenged gluten-free bread.
  6. grilled cheese6.thumbnail Cilantro Pesto Grilled Cheese SandwichesAdd more butter – As you get ready to flip the bread over you will notice that your butter has been soaked up into the bread, so reload, add more. I generally push the bread off to one side and melt the butter on the other side, but another technique is to hold one slice up and melt the butter in its place so that step 7 is easier.
  7. grilled cheese7.thumbnail Cilantro Pesto Grilled Cheese SandwichesFlip the first slice – Similar to step 5 but requiring a little more dexterity as the pan is crowded and gravity is working against you. You only want to flip the first slice as the other one will have its second side grilled in step 9.
  8. grilled cheese8.thumbnail Cilantro Pesto Grilled Cheese SandwichesAdd the cheese and flip the second slice on top of the cheese – Quickly — good thing you have it all sliced and ready-to-go right there. Normally this would require two steps but I wanted to underscore that they must be performed in such a quick sequence that it would seem instantaneous to the untrained eye. This is crucial to obtaining an even melt and thorough heating. Keep this configuration until the bottom surface is well-toasted.
  9. grilled cheese9.thumbnail Cilantro Pesto Grilled Cheese SandwichesFlip the whole assembly – Grill the other side of the sandwich. When done remove it from the pan and serve hot.

There you have it, a fully cooked, four sides grilled, evenly melted, delicious grilled cheese sandwich.


grillledcheese Cilantro Pesto Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

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