Wisconsin pepper jack is the go-to variety when looking to add a bit of heat to any recipe calling for a meltable, semi-soft cheese. The spiciness of the peppers is balanced amazingly well with the creamy, buttery cheese, ensuring you get the best of both worlds. Even if your appetite for spice only goes as far as mild salsa, you can still enjoy milder versions of pepper jack when blended with varieties like Wisconsin colby, provolone and gouda. Or, if your palate craves something of a hotter variety, you can find versions of pepper jack that are guaranteed to turn up the heat.
Choose your level of spiciness by paying attention to the types of peppers used in the pepper jack you’re buying. Milder pepper jack cheese uses red and green jalapeños, sweet peppers and/or chipotle spices, which add a smoky flavor from using smoke-dried peppers. Hotter varieties use serrano, habenero or Thai chili peppers, which are all rated higher on the Scoville scale of spiciness (the higher on the Scoville scale, the spicier the pepper). If you really have a love for spice, you can even try using a pepper jack made with ghost peppers — these peppers are rated 3–4 times hotter than traditional habenero peppers!
Here are a few of our favorite recipes that kick it up a notch — ranging in spiciness from mild to extra-hot. Keep in mind that each recipe can also be adapted by using the pepper jack that suits your taste.
For the milder crowd:
A larger rendition of a taco salad minus the taco meat! Shredded pepper jack still packs a bit of heat alongside tomatoes, bell peppers, black olives, avocado, black beans and deli meat all atop fresh romaine.
Cream cheese tames the spice of shredded pepper jack and banana peppers, keeping the spicy level mild in these snack roll-ups.
For those who like a little more heat:
This cheeseburger features the super flavorful, but not super spicy, ingredients of fire roasted green chiles, corn relish and red pepper aioli. Add a slice of pepper jack and this burger has the perfect blend of southwestern spices.
Pizza is a great way to experiment with levels of spice; use a spicier pepper jack variety on one half and a milder one on the other to test which you like best!
For those with a taste for the extra-hot spices:
Not only do peppers appear on this sandwich in the cheese, but they are also layered on in the form of quick-pickled jalapeños, making this sandwich extra spicy. But don’t worry, all of the veggies — carrots, radishes and cucumbers — provide a crunchy, fresh flavor to complement the heat.
Wisconsin pepper jack is joined by “mojo mustard” — a spicy mustard blend using black pepper and hot sauce — and spicy pickle relish to really amp up the spice level of this grilled sandwich.
For more recipes using Wisconsin cheese, visit EatWiscosninCheese.com.