How to Pair Cheese with Barbecue

Besides barbecue, cheese is possibly one of the best things that you can eat on the planet. There are so many varieties and flavor profiles that the combinations of food, drink, and cheese pairings are nearly infinite. The question is, how do you pair cheese with meat, especially barbecue? In this article, we will explore how to identify and combine flavors of different foods with your favorite cheese for the ultimate charcuterie and dining experiences.

The Rules:

The rule is that there is no rule. If you have a favorite or three or more, then eat the cheese with your other favorite foods. There’s no reason not to. However, there are a couple schools of thought when it comes to pairings that you can consider. These can take your cheese eating to new heights of tasty pleasure.

How Much Cheese Do You Need Per Person?

When serving cheese as part of a main course charcuterie, consider around 8 ounces or half-a-pound, that’s 227 grams per person. For dessert or an appetizer, an average of 2 to 4 ounces or 1/8 to ¼ pound, that’s 57 to 113 grams per person.

Like Goes With Like

The thought process here is that cheese and foods with similar flavor profiles will cancel the negative aspects of a combination and highlight the positive. Another way to look at this is that things that grow together go together. Find foods and cheese that come from the same region. Consider pairing grilled Iberico pork with intense and sharp Manchego, or smoky Idiazabal, both sheep cheeses with unique flavor profiles.

Recipe Blog - BBQ Charcuterie - Serve3

Barbecue Charcuterie Board

Charcuterie boards are all the rage right now and it’s not hard to see why! Charcuterie boards are fun and creative, the hardest part is organizing the contents of the board. You can put anything you can imagine on a charcuterie board.

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Recipe Blog - Steakhouse PorkChop - Serve3

Sous Vide Steakhouse Porkchops

This Sous Vide Steakhouse Porkchop Recipe uses a water bath to cook these stupendous and succulent chops to the perfect temperature and then finish them with the perfect sear on your Napoleon barbecue. This recipe would pair perfectly with the addition of just slices of either Manchego or Idiazabal cheese on the side.

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Watermelon and Feta Skewers

Watermelon and Feta Skewers an easy appetizer that takes summer grilling in a gourmet direction. Kicking back in the summer heat with your besties and some locally sourced cider never tasted so good.

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Opposites Attract

This is probably a more common practice than you think, however, it’s not just flavor profiles but textures too. The idea is to contrast and play off of the unique features of each element. Consider pairing grilled watermelon with feta cheese.

Either way you go, opposites or comparables, you need to remember that meat and cheese are made up of the same building blocks. Fat, Protein, and Salt. The idea is that you need to pair them so that you don’t overwhelm your senses and palate.

When you lay out your next cheese board or wish to add cheese to your next backyard barbecue, consider this:


Complementary flavors can make things interesting, as is the case with this grilled cheese recipe. Use sharp cheddar or pepper jack cheese to complement the creamy and sharp flavors in the Alabama barbecue sauce. This works well because you also have the contrast of the crisp bread and the meaty chicken. When combining complimentary flavors or textures, you need something to provide contrast, to break up the uniformity and give your taste buds a break.


There are many instances where soft cheeses don’t pair well with soft or buttery meat like putting brie on wagyu. Instead try a cheese that could stand on its own, like a nutty or earthy gruyere or a sharp and crumbly aged cheddar. Taste wise the sweet and salty combo is another great way to add contrast. Handeck is rich and nutty but causes a flavor explosion when tasted with chocolate, dried cranberries, or Glengoyne 12-year single malt.


Acidity brings brightness and can cut the fat and protein when consumed with cheese and meats. This is why you squeeze lemon or lime over your tacos. Adding pickles or a vinegar dressing to your food combinations will enhance the creaminess of cheese while reducing the fats to a less cloying feel. This can also add contrast to your meals while also providing a brightness or liveliness.

A great example of this would be pairing melty mozzarella with tomato or spicy flavors, like the ones found in most pizza recipes or a Butter Chicken Parmesan recipe.

Recipe Blog - Alabama BBQ Chicken Grilled Cheese - serve1

BBQ Chicken Stuffed Grilled Cheese

Grilled to perfection on either a griddle or directly on the cooking grids, these delicious sandos are the perfect meal to pair with soup or make for a group while camping.

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Recipe Blog - Butter Chicken Parmesan - serve2

Butter Chicken Parmesan

You have the delightful tomato-based sauce that is at once creamy and tangy, paired with beautifully marinated chicken that is coated in a crisp crust of breading and topped with gooey and melty cheese. Serve this meal over rice or pasta for a different take on your favorite Italian or Indian dinner.

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Considering Cured Meats

Cured meats come in two varieties. Understanding pairing cheese with these meats can give great insight into what cheese to pair with your next grilled meal.

Whole Muscle

These meats are left whole, salted, and hung to dry. They are sometimes smoked as well. The flavor profile is generally sweet, buttery, nutty, meaty and melt in your mouth. They’re often sliced paper thin. These pair well with hearty and crumbly cheeses. Bacons, prosciutto, and lardo fall into this category.

Cased Meats

These are fermented in humid environments. These are generally flavored intensely with pepper, fennel, and other spices and possess an acidic or tangy finish. These are very hearty and solid, ideal for dipping or spreading soft and creamy, gentle cheeses. Saucisson, salami, and soppressata are great examples of cased meats.

Pairing Cheese with Barbecue

As expressed above, different cheeses, different textures, and different pairings can elevate your next grilled meal to new heights. Here are just a few of the pairings that are most common in barbecue.

Find the Sauce of Your Flavor

Like cheese, BBQ sauce comes in many flavors, each with unique characteristics. Sweet and tangy sauces that are fruit heavy will pair well with the same cheeses that go well with fruit. Tangy, spicy, and zippy sauces will pair better with something creamier like a brie or gouda. Alabama white BBQ sauce is creamy and slightly tangy, pairing it with a similar cheese and providing the contrast elsewhere is an ideal way to go.

It's All About That Cheddar

Cheddar is a comforting staple found in most households. Possibly the most versatile of cheeses, it ranges from young, creamy and smooth to aged, tangy and crumbly. With the unique flavors produced from the processes of aging, there is a cheddar for just about every situation. When it comes to pairing cheese and barbecue, medium and old cheddars are creamier but can lean just a little sharper, although they are not quite crumbly yet, allowing it to melt easier than a very mature cheddar would. This makes it ideal for sandwiches and burgers. The more mature and crumbly cheddars possess the delightful qualities that would be preferable for cheese boards and charcuterie, pairing beautifully with both whole muscle and cased cured meats. This also makes an old crumbly cheddar ideal for pairing with sausages, hot off the grill.

Recipe Blog - Stuffed Venison Tenderloin - Serve2

Venison Tenderloin Stuffed with Comte, Apple and Walnuts

Including sweet and savory tasting flavors of Comté cheese is a natural next step in making this gourmet dinner something out of this world. Comté cheese begins with a strong and buttery flavor that builds until subsiding into a sweet and nutty finish.

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Bleu Cheese Blues

Blue cheese is a flavor that likes to be front and center. It is a creamy and sharp cheese, it can be salty and earthy, but always has a funky finish. Pairing like with like, you would top a dry aged steak with this, however, the funk can be overpowering. Instead, this cheese can take a regular steak or a big and beefy burger to new heights because it pairs so well with those creamy fats. Another interesting pairing would be smoked chicken tossed in sweet and hot barbecue sauce, served with a cabbage slaw and a creamy blue cheese dressing. Sweet, tangy, spicy and smoky chicken is contrasted by the crunch of the slaw, while the creamy and funky dressing brings everything together.

Where There's Smoke

Smoked cheese is a new dimension in flavor on its own. It’s also easy to make yourself if you want. Smoked cheese has a very distinct smoky flavor. I wouldn’t recommend pairing it with something smoked or using a smoking method for all elements of a dish. Smoke should be a note and not the whole thing. Pairing smoked cheese with smoked brisket in a stuffed pepper would be using the like with like suggestion, however, add a sweet or tangy barbecue sauce to glaze the bacon wrap to provide a counterpoint to all of the smoke.

Recipe Blog - Bacon Mac N Cheese Dogs - serve1

Bacon Mac 'N Cheese Hotdog

Silky homemade macaroni and cheese tops a perfectly grilled BBQ hot dog. Crumbled bacon, extra cheese, and a little love crown the top of this masterpiece for an unforgettable meal.

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Never Alone with Provolone

Foods that are spicy, salty, and grilled go well with provolone. It is sharp and a little nutty, with a buttery feel. It pairs well melted over a traditional Cheesesteak, enhancing the beef, and adding a creamy delight to the fresh bread. Havarti and gouda are also great to pair with your burgers if you have loads of toppings like sharp raw onion, garlic, or mustard.

What's so Great About American Cheese?

An honorable mention for everyone should be those squares of “plastic” cheese that you keep in the fridge. Why use them when you could fill your burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches with gourmet incredible-ness like Comte or Old Amsterdam Gouda? It’s actually quite simple. These single slices of flimsy cheese substance are ideal for adding that tiny hint of cheese flavor and creamy texture while taking a back seat and allowing the important ingredients to shine. This processed cheese product often starts life as actual cheese and is then processed further and combined with additional ingredients like emulsifiers. This produces an easy melting and silky texture that doesn’t break or separate like many other cheeses can. This makes it ideal for topping hot food or becoming the star of a grilled cheese sandwich.

Recipe Blog - Smoked Turkey Breast - serve2

Smoked Turkey Sandwich

This Sandwich Meat recipe is used to make a most delicious smoked turkey with brie and bacon sandwich, but you can use it for any lunchtime delights between two slices of bread. You can also use this flavorful filler for salads and any other magical meal that needs an extra hit of flavorful protein.

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Recipe Blog - Authentic Philly Cheesesteaks - serve1

Authentic Philly Cheesesteak

There isn’t actually much that goes into making the filling for an authentic Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich whether you make it on the BBQ or on a griddle. Seasoning is simple, salt and pepper, but you need to add liquid beef fat for that real huge hit of beefy goodness.

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Great Recipes with Cheese

Pairing cheese with anything can be as simple as finding common elements or naming the differences between the foods you are creating. You are very likely already applying some of the concepts listed above when it comes to pairing.

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