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St. Patrick’s Day Grilled Cheese

March 15, 2021
5 min. read

Irish Rarebit Grilled Cheese

Welcome to the second installment in our Holiday Grilled Cheese blog series! In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we present to you a fun Irish/American crossover recipe that ties in some fun facts about Irish history and cuisine!

At first glance, you may be thinking to yourself…”this doesn’t look like a traditional grilled cheese.” And in some ways, you would be right; but we’re here to convince you that it’s actually the perfect name for what you see here. Read through the below fun facts to follow along with our logic, then scroll down to find the full recipe!

We’re calling this dish “Irish Rarebit Grilled Cheese” and here’s why:

Fun Fact #1: Grilled Cheese = Cheese Toastie

What we call a “grilled cheese sandwich” or simply “grilled cheese” in the U.S. is actually called a “toasted cheese sandwich” or “cheese toastie” in the U.K., Ireland, and other areas of the Commonwealth. (If you think about it, neither term is a perfect representation of the preparation method since this type of sandwich is most commonly pan-fried rather than grilled or toasted.)

Fun Fact #2: History of Rarebit

Irish Rarebit is a spinoff of the more common Welsh Rarebit, which has an interesting history on its own. This famous dish consists of a melted cheese sauce (often blended with beer, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and spices) poured over toasted bread before being broiled until the cheese is bubbling.

Welsh Rarebit (and its variations) is similar to another popular dish in the U.K and Ireland, “cheese on toast,” not to be confused with the “cheese toastie” mentioned above. The main difference between the first two is that Welsh Rarebit uses a creamy cheese sauce whereas “cheese on toast” typically uses sliced cheese; both are added to toasted bread before being broiled. A “cheese toastie” uses two slices of bread like a sandwich, making it similar to the American grilled cheese.

Rarebit is a derivation of the English word rabbit, despite the dish containing no meat. Welsh rabbit originated in the 18th century, possibly as early as 1725. Some theories state that the original name was used to illustrate how cheese was often used as a substitute for meat since it was more affordable. While the dish is still called by its original name today, it is more widely known as its reinterpreted “Welsh rarebit” to help clear up any confusion.

Fun Fact #3: Grilling = Broiling?

In the U.S., we typically use the term “grilling” to describe something being cooked over a dry heat source using a charcoal, gas, or electric grill or barbecue. (Note: other areas of the world have different names for this method of cooking.)

In the U.K., Ireland, and other areas of the Commonwealth, the term “grilling” instead refers to cooking food directly under a source of direct dry heat; this is what we refer to as “broiling” in the United States.

Now…let’s tie it all together!

If we combine all three of the above facts, we see that “Irish Rarebit Grilled Cheese” is actually the perfect title for this recipe. While this open-faced sandwich may not be grilled in the traditional American sense of the word (but then, neither are regular grilled cheese sandwiches…), it is in the Irish sense of the word being that the cheese is broiled, or grilled, just prior to serving. Additionally, this dish is a creative combo of three popular regional dishes: the “cheese toastie,” the Welsh/Irish Rarebit, and “cheese on toast,” all of which resemble the American grilled cheese sandwich—and all of which are the epitome of comfort food.

Featured Grilled Cheese: Irish Rarebit Grilled Cheese

Irish Rarebit Grilled Cheese

This Irish variation on the classic Welsh Rarebit makes a few strategic ingredient swaps to further enhance the cultural flavor palate!

For starters, we chose to use our classic Potato Bread as the base for this recipe. Potato bread, in addition to Irish soda bread, is very popular in Irish cuisine. (Learn more about the importance of potatoes in Irish cuisine here.) We toasted the bread and rubbed it with a fresh clove of garlic to impart a delicious savory flavor.

Next, we piled on some sliced mini pickles, or gherkins, as they’re called in Ireland and other areas of the world. We topped these with a layer of ooey-gooey cheese sauce made from shredded cheddar cheese, ale (we used non-alcoholic), butter, Worcestershire sauce (a British creation), egg yolks, and spices. To make this dish as authentically Irish as possible, try to find an Irish brand of cheddar cheese (which they are famous for), an Irish ale (if using), and consider adding in the optional ingredient of some English or Irish mustard for extra tanginess!

And there you have it: A traditional Irish grilled cheese recipe that somehow manages to be equal parts American at the same time. Enjoy!




Find a quick video tutorial for this recipe on our Youtube channel! Click “Watch Later” to save it to your library for quick access.


Looking for additional grilled cheese ideas?
Explore these 30 Grilled Cheese Recipes for more inspiration.


Further Reading:

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