Mango Habanero Grilled Cheese Panini

In the interest of full disclosure, this sandwich is not for those of you who can’t take the heat. Yes Mom, I’m talking to you. :-) This sandwich may look innocent, but looks can be deceiving. In fact, this sandwich is pretty in your face intense. And now you can’t say I didn’t warn you.


This all started with a little brick of cheese I discovered at the commissary a couple months ago. For the life of me I can’t remember what it was called or who made it. But it came in a white paper wrapper. Does anyone know what I’m talking about? I remember reading the description on the label…smoked cheddar with habanero peppers, and added mango flavoring. I also remember my first bite, and then the next thing I knew I was licking an empty wrapper and my mouth was on fi-yah (and yes, I’m saying that in my Chalene Johnson voice)! It was so hot, but so good. Unfortunately, like many great things I discover at the commissary, I haven’t found it again since.

Since cheese-making is not exactly my specialty I decided to try and recreate the same flavors in a form I’m way more familiar with…a sandwich. What I came up with isn’t exactly like the cheese. It’s infinitely better. It’s not nearly as hot, but it’s still hot enough that it might push you out of your comfort zone if heat isn’t your normal thing. And instead of “added mango flavoring” you get real mango salsa. See? Infinitely better.

Speaking of the mango salsa, let’s start with that first. You need mangos, a small red onion, a medium red bell pepper, one or two habanero peppers (depends on how daring you want to be), some cilantro, a lime, and kosher salt. You’ll also need a tablespoon or two of room temperature butter, and your favorite sandwich making bread.

Do me a favor and pretend there’s a picture of all that right here, mmmk? I just survived winter break with the crazies and my brain is still recovering.

Oh, and you need a panini maker! I got one for Christmas and this is how I broke it in. Although I’m sure this would work out fine as a regular grilled cheese if you don’t have a panini maker.

DSC_1437I used jarred mangos. Why? Because it’s January! In these parts mangos aren’t exactly abundant this time of year. I did see some at Safeway that were questionable at best. And the commissary had none. Sometimes you just gotta go with what’s available so jarred mangos it was. I am 100% sure this would be even better with fresh. Since they were packed in syrup I drained them first, and then gave them a good rinse.

DSC_1445 Then I diced them into smallish chunks, and added them to a medium size bowl.

DSC_1460 Then I diced up half of a red bell pepper, and added that to the bowl too.

DSC_1468 I only diced a quarter of my red onion, but it was kinda big. If you have a small one then you can probably do half. You’re shooting for about two tablespoons of diced onion, which also gets added to the bowl with the mangos and peppers.

And P.S. Why do we call these red onions again? They look pretty purple to me. I’m just saying…

DSC_1475 Now the habanero! You can use one or two. If you like things really hot, or you’re just feeling brave, use two.

Not that I don’t trust y’all or anything, but, please wear gloves to cut these if you have them. And wash your hands with plenty of soap and water when you’re done touching them. I mean it…scrub up like you’re prepping for surgery! Seriously, habanero juice in your eye or a cut on your hand is no bueno. Ok, Mom rant over.

DSC_1485 You’ll also want to add about a tablespoon (or a little more, if you’re a cilantro freak like me) of cilantro to the bowl.

DSC_1490 And squeeze in some fresh lime juice. And make sure your hands are still covered in chopped cilantro ’cause it’s super schmexy don’t ya think?

DSC_1505 Lastly add some kosher salt. About 1/2 a teaspoon.

DSC_1508 Toss this all together in the bowl. Now just cover the bowl and let all this yumminess hang out in the refrigerator and get cozy with each other for awhile. It only gets better the longer it sits, so you can make it a couple hours or even a day in advance if you can.

P.S. This salsa is great on it’s own when you’re in the mood for something different then your typical tomato-type salsa. It goes great with tortilla chips or on top of baked fish or chicken. To tone down the heat you could substitute a jalapeño for the habanero.

DSC_1511Start preheating your panini maker and grate some smoked cheddar cheese.

DSC_1515Butter two slices of bread.

DSC_1519Then flip one piece of bread over and make a little mountain of cheese on the unbuttered side. Yes, it gets a little messy with the butter but I have four kids! I’ve handled worse. I guess you could build this right on your panini maker if you want to avoid that.

DSC_1520Next pile on some of your salsa.

DSC_1527And add a little more cheese for good luck. What the what?!

DSC_1537And top it off with the other piece of bread, butter side up.

DSC_1546Now just grill (panini?) until the cheese is melted and both sides are nice and golden. This took about two minutes. Repeat to make a second sandwich.

DSC_1640Take a bite. Be brave. Just do it!

First you get the sweetness from the mango, and if you did it right you have lots of melty cheesy goodness going on too. And then boom. The heat from those habaneros sneaks up on ya! Take a drink. Repeat.


Mango Habanero Grilled Cheese Panini
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 2 cups Mango, diced
  • ½ medium Red Bell Pepper, diced
  • 2 TBS finely diced Red Onion
  • 1-2 Habanero Peppers, seeds removed and finely diced
  • 1 TBS Fresh Cilantro, diced
  • Juice from one whole Lime
  • ½ tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 cup Smoked Cheddar Cheese, shredded
  • 4 slices White Sandwich Bread
  • 1 TBS room temperature butter
  1. In a medium bowl combine mango, red bell pepper, red onion, habanero peppers, cilantro, lime juice, and kosher salt to make mango salsa. Salsa is ready to use right away, but best if refrigerated for at least several hours or overnight.
  2. To make sandwiches butter each slice of bread. Turn two slices upside down so unbuttered side is facing up. Stack cheese, as much salsa as desired, and more cheese on the bread. Top with a second slice of bread, buttered side facing up. Repeat to make a second sandwich.
  3. Place sandwich on a Panini Maker and grill until bread is golden and cheese is melted.




  1. What a brilliant grilled cheese! I love mango and jalapeno and imagine this grilled cheese has a ton of flavor! Can’t wait to try your idea!

    • It was a nice change from the usual cheddar and bread my crazies request all the time lol! I can’t wait to go grocery shopping and grab what I need to try your caramelized pear panini with cranberries. Yum!


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  2. […] Recipe & photo credit to […]

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