Toum Grilled Cheese  Recipe (2024)

By Ham El-Waylly

Toum Grilled Cheese Recipe (1)

Total Time
15 minutes, plus 15 minutes for the toum (optional)
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When I was a teenager, I remember getting freshly baked akkawi cheese manakeesh with sides of cucumber and beet-stained turnip pickles and little plastic containers of toum for dipping at a Lebanese bakery in Doha, Qatar. Cheese manakeesh, a topped flatbread found throughout the Levant, is delicious with toum, a sauce made by combining garlic, lemon juice, salt and oil. This grilled cheese hits those notes, skipping a trip to the bakery. Slathering the bread with toum instead of butter instantly gives it garlic bread vibes. Though you can purchase toum at many supermarkets and Middle Eastern specialty stores, making it at home gives it a more vibrant punch. It lasts for months and can be used anywhere a tangy, garlicky wallop is needed. Use in salad dressings, as a rub on roasted meats, as a sandwich condiment, or even as a dip for crudités.

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Yield:1 sandwich, plus 1¾ cups toum

    For the Homemade Toum (optional)

    • 1medium head of garlic, peeled (about 12 cloves)
    • 2tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 lemon), plus more to taste
    • 2teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
    • cups neutral oil, like grapeseed oil

    For the Sandwich

    • 2slices bread, preferably from a rustic loaf, no more than ½ inch thick
    • 3slices Muenster cheese
    • 4cornichons, thinly sliced lengthwise
    • 2tablespoons toum (prepared or homemade), plus more for dipping
    • Kosher salt

Ingredient Substitution Guide


  1. Step


    Prepare the toum (or proceed to Step 4, if using store-bought toum): Place garlic, lemon juice, kosher salt and 1 tablespoon water in a tall, narrow container; blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Let sit for at least 10 minutes to mellow out some of the raw garlic’s bite.

  2. Step


    Dump the neutral oil on top, then lower the immersion blender to the bottom of the container. Turn the blender on, but don’t yet move it. Once the mixture starts emulsifying and thickening, slowly tilt the blender to introduce more oil to the mixture and very slowly pull the blender to the top of the mix. Plunge the blender up and down until the toum is fully emulsified and thick. (This streamlined toum recipe sacrifices fluffiness for ease by using a stick blender. If you want to make perfectly fluffy toum, prepare this recipe using a food processor.)

  3. Step


    Stir well and adjust the toum with more salt and lemon juice as needed. (The toum recipe makes about 1¾ cups.) Transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate, if not using immediately.

  4. Prepare the sandwich: Divide the cheese evenly between the two slices of bread, tearing one piece in half to split it. Shingle the cornichons in one even layer on one side. Carefully close the sandwich. Evenly spread 1 tablespoon of toum on one side of the sandwich.

  5. Step


    In a medium nonstick skillet, place the sandwich, toum-side down. Press the sandwich firmly with a spatula to compress. Cook over medium-low until lightly golden underneath, 5 to 6 minutes.

  6. Step


    Spread 1 tablespoon of toum on the top side of the bread, then flip the sandwich over and press firmly. Cook until bread is lightly golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes, then flip back over. Since toum is made of mostly garlic, it burns easily. Take your time, reducing the heat to low, flipping and pressing the sandwich often to ensure that the cheese melts evenly and the bread doesn’t burn, about 3 more minutes. Lightly season both sides with salt and serve immediately, with a side of toum for dipping.



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Cooking Notes


For a shortcut, if you are near a Trader Joe's they have a perfectly serviceable toum on the refrigerated section called Garlic Spread and Dip with the same ingredients.

Mark Mitchell

This, like many NYT recipes I've made verbatim, has problems. Too many times I've had to go back a second time and make significant adjustments to amounts and cooking times to get the proper result. In this case with the toum, DO NOT simply "dump the neutral oil on top." The recipe calls for far too much oil and you will get a watery result that never fully emulsifies. Drizzle the oil a little at a time until you get the proper aioli emulsification. Made this way, it's quite delightful.

Susan Ford, New Orleans (Happy Mardi Gras!)

Olive oil can get bitter when processed in a blender or food processor. I process the garlic with coarse kosher salt and a little lemon juice first, to tame the bite a bit, then alternate with vegetable oil, lemon juice, and ice water. Nice and fluffy.


Trader Joe's sells a truly excellent toum (just labeled "Garlic Spread Dip" and stocked with the other refrigerated dips) that tastes fresh and homemade, if you want to skip to Step 4. I've relied on it for years.


I used olive oil, but probably only needed 3/ get the right consistency; at 1.5c this turned into garlic oil, not toum. Still delicious though. Next time I will add the oil slowly as I go until getting the desired aioli-like texture of toum.


I’m crazy about grilled cheesies, but toum puts it over the top. I’m definitely on this.


Would be more clarity if the recipe specified to spread the toum lon the outside” of one slice of bread.My Lebanese friend instructed me to make this in a mortar and pestle and no the water. Also insists that it only be stirred in one direction with repeated addition of oil until it stops absorbing it. I was told a chopper/blender would make it bitter.This is a wonderful accompaniment to flank steak and as a base for vinaigrette made with lemon and olive oil and mint.


I bought Trader Joe’s Garlic Spread Dip & Sourdough Bread. Let cheese get to room temp. I add fresh tomato slices, pickles between thinly sliced Cheddar Cheese, Dijon inside of one bread slice, Garlic Spread on inside of other slice1st sandwich toasted very dark on first side down, flip side shortened time. Next sandwiches I lowered electric stove temp. Toasted beautifully on both sides. Cheese was perfectly melted onto tomato/pickles. Served with scratch tomato soup. Delicious!


I have made grilled cheeses with toum at my cheese shop and can confirm it definitely takes them to the next level.

Don Hogle

As some suggested, I made this with 3/4 cup oil, adding a little bit at a time. I ended up with a nice frothy toum. Next time, I might reduce the salt to 1 tspn; for my taste -- I salt things only lightly -- it was a bit too much. I've used this not only for grilled cheese, but also as a spread for a turkey and swiss sandwich and in a spaghetti sauce. If you like garlic, it's a great, versatile condiment.


So when I was taught to make toum, we would alternate a tiny bit of oil (think like with making mayo) with a spoonful of lemon juice. I'm really intrigued by the immersion blender method, though. I want to try it.


What you’re aiming for is a fluffy kinda mayonnaise like consistency. Anything that will help you get that consistency will work. The immersion blender here is a quicker way. A mini-processor probably won’t do the trick, well, I wouldn’t go that route.

Match W.

This may have already been said but it is much easier to spread the toum on one side of each of the 2 slices of bread. Have your cheese and pickles ready. Place one piece of bread toum side down and immediately put the cheese and pickles on top. Then top with the second slice of bread make sure the toum side is up.

Lil Sal

Unlike everywhere else on the Internet, you should ALWAYS read the comments on a NYT recipe.Unfortunately...I didn't do that. I made the toum according to the directions and ended up with sad oily garlic.If you made the same mistake, here's what I recommend:1) grab another lemon, and another head of garlic2) start over, blending the garlic into a paste then alternating adding the juice of the other lemon and the garlic-oil a bit at a time (I did not add additional water or salt)3) profit


I added some hot honey, and it was very good


I got the Trader Joe’s replicant. Was not impressed with the sandwich. I’ll have to find something else to do with the rest of it.


I made this with my daughter and she and I had so much fun cooking this super simple recipe that tastes sooooooooooo good! My whole family loved this, even my very picky 8 year old! This is for sure a home run! It is also very easy to make the toum and grilled cheese. The toum adds a great touch of flavor!


I have tried to make toum twice in the past and had mostly given up. But when I saw this immersion blender technique, I gave it another go. Followed the blending instructions to the letter, even the part about dumping the oil right on top, all at one time. Nailed it! For the recipe itself, I chose canola oil and used much less than recipe called for. Next time I’ll reduce the salt, too. NYT Cooking to the rescue again!

Steven F. (New England)

There are many more exciting cheeses for this than Muenster.

blaine bentsen

perfect drunk food 10/10

Mary Beth

My son in law regularly makes toum just because he likes to demonstrate emulsification. I will send him this recipe. I love reading that someone actually grew up in Qatar.


Has anyone made this sandwich with a panini maker?


Arrived in my inbox, read it, made it. SO GOOD! Although I only needed half the amount of oil to get me to the consistency of the toum in the picture. And a bag of pre-peeled garlic cloves from whole foods helped for a speedy lunch. The "tall, narrow container" that worked for me was the one that came with my immersion blender for whipping stuff...


How important are the cornichons? Wondering if I should just put on the side for my picky grilled cheese purist husband.

Dean Weiss

Nope. Toum requires the magic of emulsification to get the wondrous fluffly texture. You have to add the oil slowly and be really patient. It'll happen, emulsification is a magical sort of food alchemy when the oil and water molecules combine just so. I've also never heard of using anything other than olive oil in a formal recipe, no doubt restaurants substitute the cheaper ones. If an Arabic restaurant doesn't have fluffy toum, it's not a proper Arabic joint.

John Viste

I had a jar of Toum that I had made for use with Grilled Chicken (just about the best way to eat Grilled Chicken). So, it made the construction of this excellent sandwich very easy. I added a good sprinkle of Aleppo Pepper to the sandwich to make it even more delicious.I note below that one individual used olive oil. Even thought the olive oil tastes good, it doesn't seem to work. I've made Toum many times and for some reason the olive oil doesn't fluff up like another neutral oil does.


Don't use olive oil to make toum. Stick to neutral oils, per the recipe.


Toum is one of my new favorite things . Just traded up to a great immersion blender so this recipe is perfect. Add a swirl of hot honey for the perfect sandwich or salad garnish.


What a lot of bother to make a grilled cheese snadwich!! We're not talking DB Bistro here. Just slather the bottom sides of dood snadwich bread with Duke's mayonnaise, insert a slice of A,erocam cheese and sautee in a cast-iron skillet.Flip when golden. Ninety0second perfection.

Kevan Jenson

why can't you shortcut this with a mayo base? I already use mayo to crispy up grilled cheese, next time I will add lemon, garlic and salt to see it it gets a boost ala this recipe.

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Toum Grilled Cheese  Recipe (2024)


What is the secret to the best grilled cheese? ›

Low and slow is the way to go.

Cook your sandwiches at medium-low heat. Try to speed up the process and you'll end up with a sandwich that's hot on the outside, but still cool and unmelted in the middle. It'll also be harder to get it to brown properly.

Why is toum so good? ›

It looks and tastes a lot like mayo or aioli, but it's completely vegan! It's made of four ingredients: garlic, oil, salt and lemon juice, much like a mayo would be, but here, it's the garlic that stabilizes the sauce instead of egg yolks.

How to use toum? ›

Use in salad dressings, as a rub on roasted meats, as a sandwich condiment, or even as a dip for crudités.

What are the top 3 cheeses for grilled cheese? ›

The 9 Best Cheeses for Grilled Cheese
  1. Cheddar. For most of us, our first grilled cheese sandwich was made with American cheese. ...
  2. Mozzarella and Pepper Jack. Every now and then, it's nice to change things up a bit. ...
  3. Gouda. ...
  4. Fontina. ...
  5. Gruyère. ...
  6. Havarti. ...
  7. Provolone. ...
  8. Swiss.
Feb 21, 2024

Why is my toum not fluffy? ›

If your toum is not emulsifying, you can try the following: While making it in the food processor, process it in 1 cold pasteurized egg to act as the liaison to help make it fluffy. You may need more oil and more high-speed processing to emulsify. Try adding 1 tablespoon of cold water at a time while processing.

Do you refrigerate toum? ›

Toum may be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

Why did my toum turn green? ›

' If it's young garlic, the germ is a pale yellow, but as the garlic ages, the germ turns green. It's important to remove this little sprout before making toum because it may cause the sauce to have a bitter taste. Over time, it will give homemade toum a green hue as well.

Why is my toum so runny? ›

One of the big reasons that your toum is thin is because your ingredients got too warm while processing. All you need to do is take a tablespoon of ice cold water and drizzle it into the processor while it is on. Let it process and watch it thicken up. If it is still not thick enough, add another tablespoon of water.

Why is my toum so spicy? ›

Do be sure to use the freshest garlic you can find: Older garlic tends to result is a very spicy toum.

Why is my toum bitter? ›

Make sure to cut the garlic cloves in half and remove the germ, especially if its green. The germ will add bitterness to the toum.

What was grilled cheese called during the Great Depression? ›

The cheese dream, an open-faced grilled cheese sandwich, became popular in the U.S. during the Great Depression. U.S. government cookbooks describe Navy cooks broiling "American cheese filling sandwiches" during World War II.

What cheese melts the best for grilled cheese? ›

With both meltability and flavor in mind, here are the five best cheeses to use for your next grilled cheese.
  • Mozzarella. From pizza to mozzarella sticks, we already know what mozzarella is capable of when it comes to epic cheese pulls. ...
  • Brie/Bloomy Rind. ...
  • Comté/Raclette/Gruyère. ...
  • Young Gouda. ...
  • American Cheese.
Sep 1, 2023

What is the world's most expensive grilled cheese? ›

The $214 grilled cheese is made with rare Italian dairy and served on champagne bread. Perhaps you've seen Serendipity brand ice cream pints in your grocery store's freezer—maybe even the ones made in partnership with Selena Gomez.

What cheese do most restaurants use for grilled cheese? ›

Chefs have a huge choice of cheeses that melt well. These include provolone, a tangy cheddar, nutty Swiss cheese, and soft cheeses. Fontina melts well, and so does raclette and the stronger-tasting taleggio. Gouda is ideal too, and asiago, but cheese that doesn't melt well can also be added in with a good melting one.

Should I toast my bread before making grilled cheese? ›

For the best results, toast your bread first. A quick toast will help your bread develop the golden edges and luscious crisp that you're after. It'll also help prevent the bread from getting soggy, no matter how many fillings you add.

Is it better to make grilled cheese with butter or oil? ›

Ina encourages using a mix of butter and olive oil because butter adds a rich flavor to dishes while the olive oil helps prevent the butter from burning.


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