Rotisserie chicken, prosciutto, and a blend of cheeses sandwiched between two crisply toasted slices of bread make this chicken and prosciutto grilled cheese less of a snack and more of a whole damn meal.
With mayonnaise on the outside of the bread for golden brown crispy grilled cheese perfection and mixed with whole grain mustard on the inside, this grilled cheese sandwich makes the most of every single ingredient.
A traditional Chicken Cordon Bleu is a chicken breast stuffed with ham and cheese then breaded and fried like a schnitzel. Sometimes it's rolled up like a roulade. It's not a lot of work, but it's enough work to make it far from a quick and easy weeknight dinner.
In fact, I've never bothered making a traditional chicken cordon bleu because once I discovered a recipe for a grilled cheese version in an issue of Cooking Light I was like, "Why even bother with the real thing?"
No really. Why would I mess around with raw chicken, when I can just shred rotisserie chicken? Why would I bother with battering, breading, and frying when I can layer the same flavors and ingredients between two slices of bread?
I've updated and tweaked this chicken and prosciutto grilled cheese recipe a bit over the years, adding havarti in addition to the gruyere, and replacing the butter and sour cream with mayo, which can more than handle pulling double-duty here.
While the original recipe calls for multi-grain sandwich bread, I prefer using a hearty artisan sourdough bread or even a slice of my rosemary parmesan bread which adds more flavor and makes bigger sandwiches.
Slathering the outside of the bread with mayo before it hits the pan ensures you get a crispy, brown, perfectly toasted exterior. Yes, you can also use butter, but I find I get better results with mayo. You do you!
The combination of nutty, assertive grated gruyere (a hard cheese) and the buttery sweetness of thinly sliced havarti (a soft cheese) brings that ooey-gooey-ness you expect from a grilled cheese.
It wouldn't be a cordon bleu grilled cheese without ham, and the prosciutto more than steps up to the plate, while the mayo/mustard mixture and a sprinkle of fresh thyme truly tie it all together.
Seriously, don't skip the thyme — it's a small detail but it adds so much flavor to this chicken and prosciutto grilled cheese sandwich.
My husband and I love this grilled cheese with prosciutto and chicken sandwich so much we had the caterer at our wedding create a version of it to serve our guests, along with the Papermoon Cheesesteak. We also included a card with the recipe on it as a party favor for our guests because we knew some of them would fall in love with it just as much as we did. It's that good!
Here are all the ingredients you'll need to make this crispy chicken and prosciutto grilled cheese! See recipe card for quantities.
- Sliced Bread - While you can use any bread you like, I recommend looking for a wide loaf for a hearty grilled cheese! Look for something that doesn't have a lot of large air pockets in it. You can absolutely use my no-knead dutch oven bread (shape it into an oval to get more slices out of it) or my rosemary parmesan bread to make these grilled cheese sandwiches.
- Prosciutto - Thinly sliced! Keep it in the fridge until you're ready to begin assembly — it's a pain trying to peel the slices apart if it's been sitting at room temperature for a bit.
- Rotisserie Chicken - I mostly use breast meat for these grilled cheese sandwiches but you can absolutely use thigh or leg meat too. Shred it into bite sized pieces.
- Gruyere Cheese - Gruyere is a hard Swiss cheese with a relatively mild flavor and a bit of nuttiness. It grates nicely into fine, delicate ribbons making it an excellent melting cheese.
- Havarti Cheese - Havarti is a buttery, melty cheese with a smooth, creamy texture and slightly sweet flavor. For grilled cheese it's best to buy it in slices, rather than trying to grate it.
- Mayonnaise - Whatever type of mayonnaise you like best. I often use Kewpie mayo, which is richer and thicker than regular mayo.
- Whole Grain Mustard - I love the thick, coarse texture and bit of crunch you get from whole grain mustard. It usually comes in a small jar and looks like it has a lot of whole mustard seeds in it.
- Fresh Thyme - DO. NOT. SKIP. I know, a fresh herb you use only a small amount of seems extra and optional but a little bit of thyme really goes a long way here. It adds a nice, bright, fresh herby flavor that balances the richness of the chicken and prosciutto.
Making a grilled cheese is simple, just layer in the fillings and pop it on the stove, right? Right??? Well, you're not wrong.
But the order in which you layer the chicken, prosciutto, and cheeses does make a difference for getting a well balanced grilled cheese sandwich with plenty of cheese and filling throughout.
Strategically layering the cheese and meat layers helps the cheese melt around the meat, providing structure that helps hold the sandwich together as you bite in.
You'll also want to be conscious of your timing, as you assemble the sandwich in the pan, giving the bottom piece of bread plenty of time to toast (but not burn) before you flip it over.
Mix the mayonnaise and whole grain mustard together in a small bowl.
Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on the top side of a slice of bread, all the way to the edges.
Place the sliced bread mayonnaise side down in a bare non-stick pan over medium-low heat. No need to grease the pan first, and you won't hear any sizzling on contact. If you do hear sizzling, lower the temp slightly.
We want to toast the bread at a slow and steady pace to give ourselves time to assemble the chicken and prosciutto grilled cheese layers.
Spread a thin layer of the mayo and mustard mixture on the bread.
Then sprinkle on a generous layer of the finely grated gruyere cheese.
Again, as you put each new layer down, make sure you're bringing it all the way to the edges of the bread. It's okay if a few bits and pieces fall off the edges.
Next up is a layer shredded chicken and fresh thyme leaves. Again, all the way to the edges!
Follow that with a slice of havarti torn into three pieces, spaced out evenly across the chicken layer.
To help the cheese melt between the chicken and prosciutto, we are strategically leaving gaps between the pieces. But don't worry, they'll get filled in later!
Tear up two slices of prosciutto and drape them into a layer across the bread. Tearing the pieces helps prevent them from sliding out when you bite in!
Top them with another slice of havarti, this time torn in two and placed roughly between the spaces left on the previous layer of havarti.
Finish with a bit more of the finely grated gruyere — the blend of cheeses melting will help anchor the top slice of bread onto the grilled cheese sandwich.
Finally, spread the top slice of bread with more of the mayo and mustard mixture.
Place it on top of the grilled cheese, and spread another thin layer of mayo all the way to the edges of the top slice of bread.
Slide a thin fish turner spatula under the grilled cheese and lift it up so you can peek at the bottom slice of bread. If it's still looking a bit pale, turn up the heat slightly and give it another 30-60 seconds to cook.
When the bottom slice is as toasty and golden brown (or dark brown) as you want it, carefully flip the sandwich in the pan, using your hand to brace the top slice of bread so it doesn't slide off.
This time you might hear some slight sizzling noises as the chicken and prosciutto grilled cheese cooks.
Cook the grilled cheese for about 3-4 minutes, or until the cheeses are well melted and the bottom slice of bread is as toasty as you want it. Then remove to a plate, slice and serve!
I've found you don't get a great cheese pull when you slice the sandwich and pull it apart, but don't be disappointed. The real cheese pull action will happen when you bite into the sandwich.
Substitutions & Variations
- Whole Grain Mustard - Dijon mustard also works well here!
- Prosciutto - Spanish Jamon, Salami, Capicola, or thinly sliced deli ham.
- Mayonnaise - You can replace the mayo on the outside of the bread with butter. The mayo for the mustard spread that goes inside the grilled cheese can be replaced with sour cream, plain greek yogurt, or even omitted entirely.
- Fresh Thyme - Dried thyme will work but won't have quite the same fresh flavor. Fresh oregano is a good substitute in a pinch.
- Rotisserie Chicken - Drained canned chicken breast will work. You can also pan-fry and and shred a large chicken breast or two chicken thighs (boneless, skinless) if you'd rather not buy a rotisserie chicken.
Practical Tips & Recipe Notes
- Adjust as needed: Depending on how finely you grate the cheese and how big your bread is, you may find you need more cheese or less chicken, more mayo, etc.
- Grilled cheese assembly: The layering process is crucial to creating a structurally sound grilled cheese. Think of the cheese like the glue — you want it to go down before and after each layer of meat, so that everything between the two slices of bread sticks together. Leave room when you put the meat down so that theres space for the cheese to melt into all the crevices.
- Shopping for cheese: Hit up your grocery store's cheese counter (if it has one) and check the "Extras" bin for small pieces of gruyere or havarti so you don't buy more than you need. Alternately, check the deli counter — since you only need 3-4 slices of havarti, you can ask them to just slice what you need instead of requesting a quarter pound or buying the prepackaged stuff.
- Grating gruyere: Use a fine microplane or the big round holes on a box grater to shred the gruyere. It's a hard cheese which means it's less prone to melting — the finer you shred it, the more easily it will melt. The havarti is a soft, melty cheese so it can be layered into the grilled cheese in slices.
- Use up your leftovers: You will definitely have some leftover prosciutto, leftover chicken, and thyme. We usually make this two nights in a row. If you don't want to eat grilled cheese twice in one week, use the prosciutto in this arugula and prosciutto pizza. Oh, and save the chicken carcass and thyme in your freezer to make stock.
Nope! Prosciutto is cured and is safe to eat without cooking.
Nope! "Cordon bleu" is French for "blue ribbon," or "blue cord" as in, a chef or meal so excellent it's worthy of a blue ribbon. It does not refer to the type of cheese used to make a cordon bleu. Chicken cordon bleu is actually Swiss in origin, so it makes sense that we use a Swiss cheese (gruyere) to make this grilled cheese sandwich!
TL;DR — Grilled Cheese Assembly
Here's a quick summary of the order of the grilled cheese layers from bottom to top for reference.
- Bread, with a thin layer of mayo on the pan side and the mayo-mustard mixture on the other
- Finely grated gruyere, followed by chicken and fresh thyme
- A slice of havarti, torn into three pieces
- Two slices of prosciutto, torn into pieces
- A slice of havarti, torn into two pieces followed by more gruyere
- Another slice of bread with the mayo-mustard mixture on it and a thin layer of mayo on top
Chicken and Prosciutto Grilled Cheese (Chicken Cordon Bleu Grilled Cheese)
- 4 slices sourdough bread (or other large sandwich bread slices)
- 4 slices prosciutto
- 4 slices havarti cheese
- 2 oz gruyere cheese (½ cup, finely grated)
- 1 cup rotisserie chicken (1 cup, shredded)
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (or sour cream or plain greek yogurt)
- 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme (optional)
For Toasting the Bread
- 4 teaspoons mayonnaise (or softened, spreadable butter)
- Mix 2 TBSP mayonnaise and 1 TBSP whole grain mustard together in a small bowl.
- Heat a nonstick skillet over low-medium heat. Spread a small amount of plain mayo on one side of a slice of bread all the way to the edges of the crust and place it mayo-side down in the skillet.
- Spread a quarter of the mayo/mustard mixture on the surface of the bread. Top it with shredded gruyere, then half the shredded chicken and the fresh thyme. Follow the chicken with a slice of havarti torn into three pieces, then the prosciutto. Finally, sprinkle a little more of the grated gruyere and half a slice of havarti torn into two pieces.Make sure you’re creating even layers that go all the way to the edges of the bread while leaving room for the cheese to melt through all the crevices and hold the bread together.
- To close the sandwich, spread a quarter of the mayo/mustard mixture on a second slice of bread and place it face down on top of the assembled sandwich in the pan, and then spread a dollop of plain mayo on the top surface of the bread, all the way to the edges.
- Use a spatula to press down on top of the sandwich as the cheese melts. Lift the bottom of the sandwich up periodically just enough to check that it’s browning, not burning, and adjust the heat if necessary.
- When the cheese has melted and the bottom piece of bread is toasty and golden brown, use a spatula to flip the sandwich over and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes until the bread is toasted and the cheese has melted enough to hold the sandwich together.
- Repeat to make the second sandwich. Enjoy!
- Grating gruyere: Use a fine microplane or the big round holes on a box grater to shred the gruyere. It’s a hard cheese which means it’s less prone to melting — the finer you shred it, the quicker and more easily it will melt. The havarti is a soft, melty cheese so it can be layered into the grilled cheese in slices.
- The right bread: You can really use any kind of bread you want, just make sure if you go the “artisan” route, the bread doesn’t have large air pockets and bubbles in it or the cheese will melt through and burn on the skillet. No one wants that!