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What Is a Cheese Roll?

By Rachael Cullins
Updated Jan 30, 2024
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A cheese roll is a combination of bread or a tortilla topped with cheese and rolled into a tube shape. It is also known as a cheese roll-up. The dish is served at various restaurants and cafeterias and is also easy to assemble for a quick at-home meal. It originated in southern New Zealand. Many variations on the dish exist, combining various spices or vegetables with the cheese.

The dish is served warm and can either be microwaved or toasted in an oven prior to serving. It is a variation on a Welsh rarebit, where melted cheese and other items are served on top of toast. Cheese rolls originally gained popularity in southern New Zealand in the 1930s but are now commonly served in other countries around the world. The first known cheese roll recipe was printed in southern New Zealand in the 1950s. It is one of the few dishes that is native to only one portion of New Zealand rather than the entire country.

Preparing a basic cheese roll is simple and many recipes for the dish can be found online. White or wheat bread or a tortilla can be used as the base of the food. Traditional cheese rolls do not specify a certain type of cheese to be used, though a Welsh rarebit is typically topped with cheddar cheese. The roll is either microwaved and then rolled into a tube shape or rolled into a tube and then toasted in a microwave or oven. The roll could also be grilled in a skillet, with a toothpick used to keep the bread in a roll shape and butter used on the outside of the bread for browning purposes.

Numerous additions can be made to the traditional bread-and-cheese combination in the dish. Sauces, such as Worcestershire, can be added to the mix, as well as any vegetables desired by the diner. Onions, corn, peppers, and pickles are common additions to the cheese roll, and some fast-food Mexican restaurants serve the cheese roll as an inexpensive side dish and use spicy cheeses inside the roll. These Mexican-style rolls are often served with salsa or sour cream on the side. In order to achieve the best melting and flavor in a cheese roll, any additional ingredients, such as vegetables, are often pre-mixed with the cheese instead of simply topping the cheese within the roll.

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