Chopped cheese is a melt-in-your-mouth, flavor packed sandwich that originated right here in New York City. This quick and hearty meal has developed a cult-like following. Learn how to make it with my best chopped cheese recipe.
In this post, you’ll discover everything you need to know to make this iconic sandwich at home. I’ll walk you through choosing the right ingredients, special preparation tips, step-by-step cooking instructions, and plenty of serving ideas. You’ll even find troubleshooting advice for common issues.
Let’s dive in and get cooking!
A Brief History of the Chopped Cheese
While its exact origins are disputed, the chopped cheese sandwich likely emerged in Harlem bodegas in the 1990s. The simple concept combines ground beef with melted cheese in a hero roll. Chopped cheeses quickly became a go-to order at bodegas and luncheonettes all over New York City. Their speed, affordability, and deliciousness made them a hit with everyone from construction workers to college students.
This humble sandwich even gained some high-profile fans like Jay-Z and Cardi B. While it remains especially popular uptown in Harlem, the chopped cheese has developed a city-wide following. It’s become a classic NYC sandwich right up there with pastrami on rye and bacon egg n cheese.
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Why Make Chopped Cheese Recipe at Home?
There’s nothing better than grabbing a freshly made chopped cheese from your local bodega. But when you want that taste at home, my recipe lets you recreate it with just a skillet and basic ingredients.
Making your own allows you to control the quality of ingredients. You can tweak flavors to your taste. Homemade chopped cheese also means enjoying that hot, melty sandwich without stepping outside.
This recipe lets you enjoy a New York City staple anywhere. Keep reading to learn how make it like a seasoned Harlem chef.
Ingredients Needed For Chopped Cheese Recipe
Chopped cheese sandwiches contain just a handful of ingredients, but quality makes all the difference. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Ground Beef – 1 pound 80/20 ground beef provides the right fat ratio for flavor and moisture. Go for freshly ground if possible.
- Cheese – Use 6 to 8 slices of a melty cheese like American, cheddar, or provolone. Mix it up with different varieties.
- Rolls – Soft hero rolls or Portuguese rolls allow the filling to melt into the bread.
- Onion – 1/2 of a yellow or white onion, diced. Adds crunch and flavor.
- Seasonings – Salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika amp up the flavor.
- Butter – A small amount of butter crisps up the rolls.
Optional additional toppings: fried eggs, lettuce, tomato, mayo, hot sauce, etc.
Equipment You’ll Need
Part of the appeal of chopped cheese is how easy it is to make. You don’t need any special kitchen tools.
- Skillet – Use a medium cast iron or non-stick skillet to cook the beef and melt the cheese.
- Spatula – A sturdy spatula helps chop and stir the meat mixture.
- Knife and Cutting Board – For slicing the onion, cheese, and bread.
- Paper Towels – To drain excess grease from the beef.
That’s it! Now let’s get cooking.
Step-by-Step Cooking Guide
Follow my simple step-by-step instructions to make your own delicious chopped cheese sandwiches at home.
1. Prepare the Ingredients
- Dice the onion into small pieces. Shred or slice the cheese.
- Lightly toast the hero rolls in a toaster oven.
- Season the ground beef with garlic powder, salt, pepper, and paprika.
2. Cook the Onion
- Melt 1 tsp butter in a skillet over medium heat.
- Add the diced onion and cook for 5 minutes until translucent. Transfer to a plate.
3. Brown the Beef
- Raise heat to medium-high and add the ground beef to the skillet.
- Use a spatula to break up and chop the meat continuously as it cooks.
- Cook for 7-10 minutes until the beef is browned and crumbled.
4. Drain and Season the Beef
- Transfer the crumbled beef to a plate lined with paper towels. Let drain 1 minute.
- Return the beef to the skillet and season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
5. Assemble the Sandwiches
- Place 2-3 slices cheese over the beef and lower heat to medium.
- Cover and cook for 1 minute until cheese melts.
- Scoop beef and melted cheese into the toasted hero rolls.
- Top with cooked onions.
6. Dig In!
- Add any additional toppings like lettuce, tomato or mayo.
- Slice in half if needed, and enjoy your fresh homemade chopped cheese!
Cooking Tips for Chopped Cheese Perfection
- Use a heavy skillet for even browning. Nonstick prevents sticking.
- Chop and stir the beef often as it cooks for evenly crumbled texture.
- Resist pressing down on the meat to avoid dense, rubbery texture.
- Draining excess grease prevents a soggy sandwich.
- Covering allows the cheese to melt evenly over the beef.
- Layer cheese slices instead of shredding for better meltability.
- Don’t overfill the rolls or the cheese can leak out.
Customize your chopped cheese with these easy additions:
- Bacon Chopped Cheese – Cook 4-6 slices chopped bacon with onions for a BLT vibe.
- Jalapeño Popper Chopped Cheese – Mix in diced jalapeños and top with spicy queso.
- California Chopped Cheese – Add guacamole, sprouts, and tomato for a west coast twist.
- Breakfast Chopped Cheese – Fry an egg and use cheddar cheese for an AM sandwich.
While chopped cheese tastes great on its own, here are some tasty sides to serve it with:
- French fries for dipping into that delicious beef and cheese.
- Pickles provide a refreshing, crunchy contrast.
- Coleslaw or potato salad round out the meal.
- Chips and hot sauce bring a spicy kick.
- A cold beer or soft drink wash it all down.
A typical chopped cheese sandwich delivers a satisfying dose of protein and calories:
- Calories: Around 650
- Total Fat: 35g
- Protein: 40g
- Carbs: 40g
While high in protein and calories, chopped cheese is also high in saturated fat. Enjoy it in moderation as the occasional indulgent treat.
Storage and Reheating
Leftover chopped cheese sandwiches store well for 2-3 days refrigerated. Reheat them in the microwave or skillet to crisp up the bun again before serving. The melted cheese may separate slightly, but it will still taste delicious.
Troubleshooting Chopped Cheese
Having issues with your chopped cheese? Here are some common problems and how to fix them:
Problem: Beef is undercooked or pink in the middle.
Solution: Cook for a minute or two longer, breaking up the meat into smaller crumbles as it finishes cooking.
Problem: Buns are soggy from grease.
Solution: Drain beef well and blot with paper towels before assembling sandwich.
Problem: Cheese isn’t melting evenly.
Solution: Make sure cheese slices overlap slightly for full coverage. Cover skillet so steam helps melt the cheese.
Problem: Sandwich fillings are falling out the back.
Solution: Don’t overstuff the buns. Use only 2-3 slices of cheese and moderate amounts of onion and beef.
Got questions about making chopped cheese? Here are answers to some common queries:
What type of onion works best? Use yellow or white onions. Sweet onions like Vidalia are too mild. Red onion works in a pinch but may overpower.
Can I use turkey or chicken instead of beef? You can, but beef’s fat content makes it ideal for chopped cheese. Opt for 85% lean ground turkey or dark meat chicken.
What’s the best cheese for chopped cheese? American cheese gives an authentic melty texture, but also try cheddar, provolone, or Monterey jack. Avoid hard, crumbly cheeses.
Should I toast both sides of the bread? Lightly toasting just the inside helps the buns get crispy enough to hold the filling without getting dried out.
How long does assembled chopped cheese last refrigerated? Store assembled sandwiches up to 2 days refrigerated. Warm through before serving. Ingredients start to separate after that.
The Joy of Chopped Cheese
As a born-and-raised New Yorker, chopped cheese holds a special place in my heart. The flavor takes me back to eating these sandwiches on my high school lunch breaks in Harlem. I hope my easy homemade recipe lets you experience this NYC staple no matter where you live.
This sandwich is all about the juicy, flavorful beef coming together with melty cheese in a crispy bun. Savor the comforting mix of textures and flavors. Customize it to your taste. Just be warned – make it once, and you’ll start craving this sandwich again and again.
Let me know how your homemade chopped cheese turns out! Share your creations or leave any questions in the comments.