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Vegetarian Recipes

Green Harissa Grilled Cheese

Do you ever have days when you just need a grilled cheese sandwich? This green harissa grilled cheese recipe is what I make when nothing but a grilled cheese will do. It has all the essentials of a good grilled cheese sandwich – crunchy, toasty bread and gooey cheese – but a handful of spinach and a slather of green harissa add an extra dimension of freshness and flavor. It’s lightly spicy and totally delicious – hands down the best grilled cheese I’ve had!

The green harissa is really the star of the show here. Made with charred peppers, garlic, lemon, spices, cilantro, pepitas, and olive oil, it has a similar texture to pesto and a delicious spiced flavor. It’s easy to make in the food processor, and it really jazzes up this classic comfort food. I hope you love it as much as I do!

How to make grilled cheese

How to Make Grilled Cheese

A basic grilled cheese requires just 3 ingredients:

  • Sliced bread – Sourdough is my favorite!
  • Cheese – I like Havarti.
  • Butter or olive oil – As usual, extra-virgin olive oil is my pick.

I love to dress up this classic combo with green harissa and spinach, but really, when it comes to grilled cheese, your filling options are endless. Swap in your favorite cheese, and skip the harissa if you like. A slather of chipotle sauce or pesto would be great in its place. If you’re not in the mood for spinach, leave it out, or add some thin tomato or pepper slices, roasted red peppers, or arugula instead.

Once you’ve assembled your ingredients, it’s time to cook! If you’re using it, slather the harissa onto a slice of bread and add some spinach and a thick layer of grated cheese. Top with the remaining slice of bread, drizzle with olive oil (or spread with butter), and grill your sandwich on both sides until the bread becomes golden brown and the cheese melts.

Serve with tomato soup or gazpacho, and enjoy!

My Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich Tips

Want to make the best grilled cheese sandwich you’ve ever had? Just follow these easy tips!

  • Better ingredients = a better sandwich. As with all simple recipes, the better your ingredients are, the better your grilled cheese will be. I like mine with sourdough bread and Havarti or sharp cheddar cheese.
  • Use a good melting cheese. Because higher-moisture cheeses yield the best oozy, pull-apart sandwiches, steer clear of crumbly, hard cheeses like Parmesan or manchego. I use Havarti here (Roth Cheese is a favorite), but gruyere, gouda, provolone, mozzarella, and cheddar are all great choices for a grilled cheese sandwich.
  • Cover for even cooking. If your bread is browning faster than your cheese is melting, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. The trapped heat will help melt the cheese before the bread gets too brown.
  • Toast both sides of the bread. This step isn’t entirely necessary, but it’s totally worth it. Before you add your fillings, get the inside face of your bread a little toasty in the pan. Then, load it up and grill on the outside, flipping halfway. Your bread will have a crave-worthy crunch that’s a perfect contrast to the creamy, cheesy middle.


For a more traditional (red) harissa recipe, check out page 281 in my new cookbook, Love & Lemons Every Day. This zippy green version is very different, but just as delicious! If you have extra harissa after making this recipe, it’s yummy scooped onto tacos, avocado toast, grilled veggies, pizza slices, falafel flatbread, and especially these shawarma wraps.

If you love this grilled cheese recipe…

Try my egg salad sandwich, vegan club sandwich, or meatball sandwich next!

Green Harissa Grilled Cheese

Author: Jeanine Donofrio

Recipe type: main course

  • 2 green Anaheim peppers (or 1 poblano)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon honey or maple syrup
  • ¾ cup cilantro
  • ¼ cup pepitas
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 sourdough bread slices
  • A few handfuls of spinach leaves
  • 2 to 3 cups grated havarti cheese
  • Extra-virgin oil, for grilling
  1. Make the green harissa. Char the peppers over a gas burner or under a broiler until the skin is blackened all over. Remove from the heat and place in a bowl and cover with a towel or plastic wrap for 10 minutes. Slice off the stem and place the peppers, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, coriander, salt, honey, cilantro, pepitas and a few grinds of black pepper into a food processor and pulse until combined. Drizzle in the olive oil and process until smooth.
  2. Make the grilled cheese. Slather the green harissa on the insides of each slice of bread. Assemble with spinach leaves and cheese. Pre-heat a cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium heat. Brush the outsides of the sandwich with olive oil and grill on each side until the cheese is melted.


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Vegetarian Recipes


“I want you to come watch the movie with us ON the couch, not be in the kitchen!”

I’ve been filling out this one-question-a-day journals for moms that I received for Christmas. It records a little thought or memory over the last year, and then starts again, so you can see how your answers change over a few years. One of the recent ones, prompted me to jot notes about what I am learning as a mom, and I found the question so general I was basically annoyed. I am a romantic, and also wildly pragmatic. In the span of a day I can tear up over the depths of love I feel for my kids, and also wish for them to have a mute button. We all have worlds within us; mothering pushing me into the corners of myself I am sometimes proud of or other corners ashamed of, but am I learning? Yes, every single day. Sometimes in the moment and other times after a particular season. But in 2021, my answer in the bullet journal was that I see my kids are wanting me to play with them. They aren’t registering all the service and shuttling and laundry and what it takes to pull off a week, they just want to play WITH me. It’s natural for me to move within lists and tasks and responsibilities and hustling, but playing is something I have to pay attention to. For them and for me. We usually do a family movie on Friday nights and my son (6.5), see quote above, pointed out that I don’t actually watch the movie, I tinker in the kitchen and he wants me in the couch cuddle. Flattered, and found out that I’d rather make granola than watch The Croods 🙂 So from annoyed, to passing on the question to fellow parents, what are you learning? Try not to be annoyed. Maybe circle back to it.

I published this recipe over on SKCC a few weeks ago and wanted it to live here. We’re trying to find more family-friendly vegetarian recipes (it’s easy for me to fill up on roasted veggies and big salads, not so much for the kids). This batch lasts us two meals – once with noodles, maybe half zoodles, and the second round on toast or english muffins with cheese melted on top, like a pizza sort of thing? It freezes well and is great to deliver to new parents.


Serves 6


2 Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion – roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic
sea salt to taste
pepper to taste
1 head of cauliflower (about ¾ lb. or 12 oz. riced)
1/2 cup of raw walnuts pieces
1/2 tsp. of Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. of fennel seeds – crushed
2 Tbsp. of tomato paste
2 Tbsp. of balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup of red wine (or broth of any sort, and double the vinegar to mimic the wine’s acidity)
28 oz. of canned, crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup of red lentils
red pepper flake to taste

For serving

12 oz. of pasta or choice, zoodles, etc.
fresh, torn basil


In a large Dutch-oven or stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium low heat.

In a food processor, pulse the onion and garlic into smaller bits. Add them to the pot with a big pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté to soften, about 3 minutes.

Pulse up the cauliflower florets to get a rice-like texture. Add the riced-cauliflower to the pot and sauté to soften, about 5 minutes.

Pulse the walnuts in the processor and add those to the pot along with the Italian seasoning, fennel seed, another few generous pinches of salt and pepper, tomato paste and balsamic vinegar. Sauté until fragrant.

Add the red wine, cook about 3 minutes, then add the crushed tomatoes, ½ cup water, lentils, pinch of pepper flakes and stir to combine. Turn the heat to low, put the cover ajar and let it simmer gently for 30-35 minutes. Turn off the heat, taste for seasoning and adjust.

Cook your pasta or zoodles according to instructions. Top with cauli Bolognese, grated cheese, fresh basil and enjoy!

The Bolognese will keep in the fridge for a week and can be frozen for a few months.

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