What is Monterey Jack Cheese?

grated monterey jack cheese

In search of a meltable cheese that’s great for pasta, grilled sandwiches, and Mexican dishes? You might have heard of Monterey Jack, a California-born cheese that’s semi-hard and can be used as a substitute for similar cheeses like Colby Jack. For today’s guide, we’ll answer the question, “What is Monterey Jack Cheese?” 

Read until the end to find out Monterey Jack’s origin, nutritional facts, taste, uses, and storage tips. 

What is Monterey Jack Cheese?

Monterey Jack cheese, also called Monterey cheese or Jack cheese, is a semi-hard cheese that comes from cow’s milk. You’ll recognize it for its pale yellow color and mild, buttery flavor, similar to Muenster cheese. Because of its mild taste, Monterey Jack can complement sharp tastes — e.g., sour cream, hot peppers, and gorgonzola cheese

Origin and History of Monterey Jack Cheese

Franciscan monks were the ones that brought this cheese to Monterey County, California in the 18th century. 

However, Monterey Jack wasn’t commercially produced until the 1850s when David Jack (who was born in Scotland but moved to the United States) popularized and sold the cheese with his name on it. Despite its origin, it is said that Monterey Jack is now being produced in Sonoma County. 

We checked the global Monterey Jack cheese market and found Netherlands, Germany, and France as the top exporting countries of this cheese [*]. 

Grades of Monterey Jack Cheese

As with most cheeses, Monterey Jack is graded on these four characteristics: flavor, body and texture, color, and finish and appearance [*]. Monterey Jack cheese with a USDA-grade shield means that it has undergone inspection by a trained and experienced grader. 

U.S. Grade AA

  • Flavor – fine and highly pleasing, free from undesirable tastes and odors 
  • Body and texture – reasonably firm, no sweet holes, yeast holes, or other gas holes
  • Color – natural, uniform, and bright 
  • Finish and appearance
    • Rinded and paraffin-dipped – evenly placed bandage, no wrinkles; smooth and firm rind. 
    • Rindless and wrapped – smooth and properly sealed covering, free from mold under the wrapper. 
    • Rindless and paraffin-dipped – paraffin coating adheres firmly. 

U.S. Grade A

  • Flavor – may have a bitter or flat flavor to a very slight degree
  • Body and texture – may be very slightly weak or loosely knit 
  • Color – natural, fairly uniform, and bright. May possess waviness to a very slight degree. 
  • Finish and appearance 
    • Rinded and paraffin-dipped – evenly placed bandage, not burst or torn; may have a soiled surface or surface mold but to a very slight degree only. 
    • Rindless and wrapped – wrapper should be neat but may be slightly wrinkled. 
    • Rindless and paraffin-dipped – cheese may possess a soiled surface but to a very slight degree; should be free from mold. 

U.S. Grade B

  • Flavor – may be fairly pleasing or lacking in flavor development, may have an onion-like or sour flavor to a very slight degree 
  • Body and texture – coarse, corky, crumbly, and gassy to a slight degree 
  • Color – dull, faded, mottled, and wavy to a slight degree 
  • Finish and appearance
    • Rinded and paraffin-dipped – may be uneven or wrinkled but not torn;  paraffin may be scaly or blistered but there should be no signs that mold has entered the cheese. 
    • Rindless and wrapped – mold under the wrapper may be present but not entering the cheese; soiled surface to a slight degree. 
    • Rindless and paraffin-dipped – paraffin may be blistered with very slight mold. However, there should be no indication that mold has entered the cheese.

Monterey Jack Cheese Nutrition

Low in carbohydrates, high in fat, and moderate in protein — Monterey Jack is the perfect cheese for people on a keto or low-carb diet. 

Cheese is a health-boosting food and so is Monterey Jack, thanks to its abundance of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and selenium [*]. 

According to the USDA, a 1-ounce serving or 1 slice of Monterey Jack provides [*]. 

  • Calories: 104 kcal
  • Carbs: 0.19 grams
  • Fat: 8.48 grams
  • Protein: 6.86 grams 

What Does Monterey Jack Cheese Taste Like?

This semi-hard cheese has a mild, slightly sweet, and buttery taste. Some enthusiasts would describe it as similar to Muenster, which is a semi-soft cheese that’s also from the United States. In this regard, muenster would be acceptable as a substitute for Monterey Jack. 

What is Monterey Jack Cheese Best Used for?

When it comes to snacking, Monterey Jack can be eaten on its own. Cut it into squares and serve it with crackers or other cheeses (e.g., pepper jack, cheddar, blue cheese) on a cheese board! Below are exciting Monterey Jack uses you should know:

  • Use it as a substitute for parmesan in pasta dishes 
  • Incorporate it into mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, tortilla bake, cheese rolls, and Mexican cornbread
  • Add it to toasted bread, grilled sandwiches, and quesadillas 
  • Serve it with wine (merlot, cabernet sauvignon, or pinot noir)

How to Store Monterey Jack Cheese

After opening Monterey Jack cheese, keep it in its original plastic wrap or in a glass container, then store it in the fridge. It should last up to 3 weeks. To tell if it has gone bad, check for a change in its texture, color, smell, and moldy appearance. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about Monterey Jack cheese with the common questions and answers below: 

What is Monterey Jack similar to?

It’s similar to Muenster, Gouda, Havarti, Edam, and Parmesan cheeses. 

What is the difference between mozzarella and Monterey Jack cheese?

Monterey Jack is firmer than mozzarella cheese. Mozzarella, on the other hand, has a stringy texture with a milder taste. 

Is Monterey Jack cheese a cheddar?

No, cheddar is a different type of cheese. Cheddar is a creamier cheese, although it’s semi-hard like Monterey Jack. Cheddar cheese has a different origin, England, whereas Monterey Jack is from the US. 

Does Monterey Jack cheese melt?

Yes, it does! It’s a melting cheese just like muenster, havarti, and mozzarella. 

The Bottom Line

Monterey Jack cheese is a must-try. This American cheese is low-carb, healthy, has a mild flavor, and is capable of melting. You should be able to find it in the cheeses section at the grocery or supermarket. 

Also, if you would love to explore more cheeses, we offer amazing bite-sized snacks at Käze! Our snacks come from real cheese — Cheddar Cheese Bites, Gouda Cheese Bites, and so much more! Shop our complete collection today.

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