In search of an appetizer for easy entertaining? Pairing jam and cheese offers endless possibilities.

By Mandy Makinen,

In the tradition of foods that hit that harmonious spot between sweet and salty, comes an idea so easy, so elegant, yet based on two staples most Americans have on hand: cheese and jam. This may sound like an unlikely duet, but after you sample a few of these pairings, you might just change your tune. These combinations work for an elegant cheese plate, served with crackers or slices of baguette, but some pairings are also nice for a jazzed-up grilled cheese sandwich. While most jams and jellies are made with fruits, savory preserves like pepper jelly, tomato jam and red onion marmalade are also excellent natural pairs for a variety of cheeses. Look for these specialty items in the jams and jellies aisle. A wide selection of vegan cheeses can stand in for the traditional cheese choices for those avoiding dairy.

Go for the goat

Fresh goat cheese, or chevre, seems like it was made for jam — a spreadable, smooth cheese with just enough tang to keep it on the savory side. In a pinch, nearly all jams pair with goat cheese. Here are a few favorites:

  • Goat cheese and fig jam (add caramelized onions and you’ve got the makings of a sandwich)
  • Goat cheese with cranberry sauce or jelly is excellent on a turkey sandwich
  • Goat cheese and marmalade (orange, lemon, or grapefruit)

Cheesy dessert ideas

Mascarpone, a rich and smooth fresh Italian cheese, is delicious with just about any jam. It’s less tangy and more spreadable than cream cheese and has a mild, creamy flavor. Here are some suggestions for pairing this delectable cheese:

  • Mascarpone with blueberry jam and fresh baguette or brioche buns
  • Mascarpone with strawberry jam and shortbread cookies
  • Mascarpone with lemon curd and oat crackers

A strong combination

Generally speaking, strongly flavored cheeses pair well with assertively flavored jams, and the opposite is also true: mild cheeses marry well with delicately flavored jams. If you neglect this rule, you run the risk of one flavor dominating, thus losing some of that magic that happens when good flavors complement each other. Try these assertive combinations:

  • Blue cheese or Gouda with marmalade, black currant, peach, plum, or red onion jam
  • Aged cheddar with apple jelly, apple butter, or huckleberry or tomato jam

Easy, breezy brie

Similar to goat cheese, the mild flavor and luxurious mouthfeel of brie cheese pairs well with nearly any sweet or savory jam. When in doubt,
go with red fruits:

  • Brie and strawberry jam is a perennial favorite with or without a glass of champagne
  • Brie and cherry preserves — try them baked together in puff pastry
  • Brie with red currant jelly is perfect on a fresh baguette

Experiment with new combinations using whatever cheeses and preserves you have on hand at home until you find the combo that hits all the right notes!