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Is cheese good on BBQ chicken sandwich?

The barbecue chicken sandwich has long been a popular menu item at many restaurants. Its simple combination of grilled chicken, sauce, and toasted bun makes it a reliably tasty option. But does adding cheese take the sandwich to the next level or detract from its classic flavors? There are reasonable arguments on both sides of this debate, which will be explored here. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference. But looking at the pros and cons can help inform your decision of whether to get cheese on your next BBQ chicken sandwich order.

Pros of Adding Cheese

Enhanced Flavor Profile

One of the biggest advantages of adding cheese to a BBQ chicken sandwich is that it enhances the overall flavor profile. The salty, savory cheese complements the sweet, tangy barbecue sauce and the juicy chicken. This added layer of flavor makes each bite of the sandwich even more enjoyable. The interplay between the sharp cheddar or gooey mozzarella with the smoky, sweet barbecue sauce takes the sandwich to new heights.

Improved Texture

Another pro of cheese on a barbecue chicken sandwich is that the melted cheese improves the texture of the dish. Melted cheese has a velvety, creamy mouthfeel that contrasts nicely with the chicken and enhances the overall experience. The melted cheese helps hold the sandwich together and binds the ingredients, making it more cohesive and less messy to eat. The fat in the cheese also keeps the bun and chicken juicy. So the addition of cheese makes each bite of the sandwich smooth and luscious.

More Satisfying

Cheese adds more heft and substance to a BBQ chicken sandwich. The extra protein from the cheese makes the dish more filling and satisfying as a meal or snack. The richness of the cheese makes it feel more indulgent. So you’re likely to feel fully satisfied after eating a barbecue chicken sandwich with oozing cheese on top. Without the cheese, the sandwich may feel slightly insubstantial.


Putting cheese on your barbecue chicken sandwich allows you to customize it to your preferences. You can select your favorite melted cheese like cheddar, Monterey jack, mozzarella, or Swiss to accompany the chicken. The type of cheese can significantly change the flavor profile, so you can design an ideal BBQ chicken sandwich. Maybe you want the sharpness of cheddar or perhaps the gooeyness of mozzarella sounds more appealing. Either way, cheese allows you to personalize your sandwich.

More Visual Appeal

The sight of melted cheese dripping down the sides of a barbecue chicken sandwich is undeniably mouthwatering. Cheese adds more tempting visual appeal in addition to augmenting the flavor. The melted cheese oozing out from between the bun makes the sandwich look like an indulgent treat. This can arouse your appetite and make your barbecue chicken sandwich seem even more crave-worthy.

Cons of Adding Cheese

Overpowers Other Flavors

However, there are some potential drawbacks to adding cheese to a barbecue chicken sandwich. One is that the cheese can overpower or clash with the other flavors. A strongly-flavored cheese like extra sharp cheddar may dominate the subtleties of the barbecue sauce’s spices and sweetness. The distinctive taste of cheese may not complement a particular barbecue sauce’s flavor profile. This can throw off the balance of flavors that the sauce lends to the chicken and bun.

Too Rich

While cheese adds indulgence, it can also make the sandwich excessively rich and heavy. The richness of the melted cheese combined with fatty barbecue chicken and sauce may be overkill. Without cheese, the barbecue sauce cuts through the fattiness of the chicken for a cleaner flavor. But too much cheese can tip the scales, making the sandwich greasy and overly filling. This takes away from the barbecue chicken sandwich being a lighter, summertime-friendly menu option.

Diminished Chicken Flavor

Cheese melded with barbecue sauce tends to stick prominently to the chicken in each bite. This may leave you tasting the cheese more than the chicken itself. Without cheese, the natural flavors of the grilled chicken and smoky char can shine through. Cheese also visually obscures the chicken beneath a blanket of melted dairy. So cheese may detract from appreciating the quality of the chicken meat itself.

More Difficult to Eat

On a very practical level, cheese can make a barbecue chicken sandwich messier and more difficult to eat. The melted cheese tends to ooze out the sides and drip down your fingers as you try to pick up the sandwich. The cheese also causes the fillings to slide around more. This gives the sandwich a mushier, less cohesive texture overall. You may have to resort to a fork and knife to cut through all that melted cheese and avoid making a mess.

Higher in Calories

Ordering extra cheese naturally adds more calories, fat, and sodium to your barbecue chicken sandwich. Without cheese, the sandwich provides protein from the chicken as a relatively balanced meal. But the high fat and calorie content of cheese tips it into more indulgent, less healthy territory. The chicken also picks up additional fat from being slathered in cheese. So from a nutritional standpoint, cheese is not the best choice for keeping your barbecue chicken sandwich light.

Higher Cost

Restaurants often charge extra to add cheese to a sandwich. This means that choosing to add cheese increases the total cost of your barbecue chicken sandwich order. For diners on a tight budget, that additional expense for just one topping may not be worth it. Cheese is seen as a premium topping that warrants paying a little more. But if you want to keep your sandwich order affordable, skipping the cheese is one way to save a couple dollars.

Factors to Consider

Type of Cheese

One of the most important factors to consider is which variety of cheese to select, as this can significantly influence whether it complements or overpowers the other flavors. Mild, buttery cheeses like Swiss tend to pair better with the sweet barbecue sauce. Whereas an aged, sharper cheddar could clash. Soft and gooey mozzarella melts beautifully, while a crumbly cheese may not adhere as well to the chicken. So consider cheese choices beyond basic cheddar to find an ideal match.

BBQ Sauce Style

The style of barbecue sauce matters when deciding if cheese is a good addition. Sweet, tangy tomato-based barbecue sauces pair well with cheese, as the dairy balances out the acidity. But mustard-based or vinegar-heavy sauces have strong flavors that might overtake subtler cheeses. Spicy barbecue sauce also tends to work better without cheese, which cools down and dilutes the heat. Determine barbecue sauce flavor profiles before determining cheese compatibility.

Bun Type

The flavor and structure of the bun or bread used is important, too. Cheese pairs nicely with a sweet, eggy brioche bun to balance out the rich dairy. But an onion or pretzel bun might compete too much with cheese’s savory, salty qualities. A sturdy potato bun holds up well to melted cheese. But cheese could overwhelm a light, fluffy white bun. Consider the bun’s attributes when adding cheese.

Pairing Items

Think about any other toppings or fillings paired with the barbecue chicken and cheese. Do sweet grilled onions and peppers balance out the cheese’s richness? Does adding bacon contribute too much saltiness and fat? Are there other sauces like ranch that work with the cheese flavor? Determine exactly what is being combined in the full sandwich before assuming cheese will complement the overall combination.

Cooking Method

How the barbecue chicken itself is cooked and prepared affects the impact of cheese as well. Grilled chicken allows its natural juices and smoke flavor to remain prominent when cheese is added. But breaded and fried chicken tends to pair better with cheese to cut through the heaviness. Marinated or highly seasoned chicken may not require extra cheese flavor. But simply cooked unseasoned chicken benefits more from cheese’s enhancement.

The Case for Cheese on BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

Despite some drawbacks, there is a strong case to be made for adding cheese to your barbecue chicken sandwich:

More Flavor Complexity

Cheese does not have to overpower, but rather adds another layer of flavor. The creaminess and savoriness complements smoked chicken and sweet, tangy barbecue sauce. This combination of flavors is simply more interesting and complex.

Texture and Moistness

Melted cheese helps hold the sandwich together and prevents dryness by adding fat and moisture. This improves the mouthfeel significantly.


Choose a cheese variety that specifically suits the other flavors. For example, pepper jack’s heat matches spicy barbecue sauce.

Go-To Combo

BBQ chicken and cheese is a beloved flavor pairing for a reason. The molten cheese and barbecue sauce is a tried-and-true match.


Embrace the full indulgence! Cheese transforms an ordinary sandwich into a decadent cheat day treat.

The Case Against Cheese on BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

On the other hand, here are the most compelling arguments to skip the cheese:

Interferes with BBQ Sauce

The distinctivespice blends and tang deserve to stand out rather than get muted by dairy.


A cheese-less barbecue chicken sandwich has less fat, calories, and sodium. This makes it a lighter meal option.

True to the Classic

Traditional barbecue chicken sandwiches are all about the sauce. Cheese strays from this tried-and-true classic combination.

Easier to Eat

Without melted cheese gluing everything together, the sandwich ingredients stay neatly layered for convenient eating.

Focus on the Chicken

The chicken’s flavors can shine through better without cheese competing for prominence in each bite.


The debate around cheese on barbecue chicken sandwiches really comes down to personal preference. There are reasonable arguments on both sides. Here are some final tips for deciding the cheese factor for yourself:

  • Take the barbecue sauce’s flavor profile into account when choosing a cheese variety or skipping cheese entirely.
  • Consider your overall goals for health, cost, indulgence, ease of eating, etc.
  • Think about what other toppings are on the sandwich besides just chicken and cheese.
  • Sample some options! Try a barbecue chicken sandwich with and without cheese to determine which version appeals most to your preferences.

Barbecue chicken sandwiches are delightfully customizable. The beauty is you can ask for no cheese or extra cheese to design precisely the sandwich experience you desire. There are great arguments for both approaches. As long as all the components complement each other and satisfy your cravings, there is no single right or wrong answer. With your preferred barbecue chicken sandwich order in hand, it’s time to dig in and savor!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is cheese good on grilled chicken sandwiches?

Cheese can add great flavor and texture to a grilled chicken sandwich. The melted cheese pairs well with the charred, smoky flavor of grilled chicken. Moist, soft cheeses work best to evenly coat the chicken breast. Cheddar, Swiss, and pepper jack are popular options. Just be mindful of overpowering the natural taste of the chicken itself.

What is the most popular cheese for chicken sandwiches?

Cheddar and Swiss are likely the two most popular cheeses for chicken sandwiches like barbecue chicken. Cheddar has a sharper flavor that stands up to bold sauces. Swiss has a milder, nuttier flavor that melts smoothly. Other great options are Monterey jack, mozzarella, and provolone.

Is it better to add cheese under or over chicken?

It comes down to whether you want distinct layers of chicken and cheese, or a more cohesive blend. Putting cheese under the chicken keeps it separate for more pronounced individual flavors. Putting cheese on top melts it into the chicken for a creamier, cheesier flavor overall.

Should you put cheese on a chicken sandwich before toasting?

Yes, adding the cheese before toasting helps it melt optimally into the crevices of the chicken and soak into the bun. This infuses cheese flavor throughout the sandwich. Simply place the cheese on top of the chicken breast just before putting the entire sandwich into a panini press or skillet to toast.

Can you freeze barbecue chicken sandwiches with cheese?

It is possible to freeze assembled barbecue chicken sandwiches with cheese, but there will be some compromises in terms of texture and appearance. The cheese won’t reheat to a perfect melt. It works best to freeze just the chicken and barbecue sauce, then add the cheese after reheating. Another option is to keep cheese slices separate and place on the sandwiches just before eating.

Key Takeaways

  • Cheese enhances the flavor profile but can overpower other tastes. It improves texture and satisfaction, yet also makes the sandwich richer.
  • Cheese allows for customization, though it increases the sandwich’s cost and calorie count.
  • The cheese variety, barbecue sauce style, bun type, other toppings, and chicken preparation all impact the cheese’s effect.
  • Arguments for cheese include added complexity and moistness. Arguments against cite interfering with barbecue flavors and easier eating without cheese.
  • Personal preference rules when deciding on cheese for barbecue chicken sandwiches.

Summary Table

Pros of Cheese Cons of Cheese
Enhanced flavor profile Can overpower other flavors
Improved texture Makes sandwich too rich
More satisfying Diminishes chicken flavor
Allows customization More difficult to eat
Increased visual appeal Higher in calories
Higher cost

Closing Thoughts

The barbecue chicken sandwich is an adaptable classic. While cheese is not required, it can significantly enhance the experience when used thoughtfully. Consider the cheese choice, sauce flavors, and your own preferences when deciding whether to add this extra component. With so many excellent options for customization, there are great ways to savor barbecue chicken sandwiches with or without the cheese! What will your ultimate barbecue chicken sandwich creation look like?