Monterey Jack vs Pepper Jack: Same Cheese? (Explained!)

Cheese is an extremely popular dairy product that plays a crucial role in nearly every cuisine around the globe. Cheese is praised even by vegetarians, and it is simply a challenging task to find someone who wouldn’t love it.

Not every cheese is enjoyed by everyone, though, since there are countless cheese types. Two of the most popular of these are Monterey Jack and Pepper Jack. 

Because those two kinds of cheese not only look sort of similar but also share half of their names, many people think they’re the same. But that’s not true. Well, at least not entirely.

So what is the difference between Monterey Jack and Pepper Jack? The difference between Monterey Jack and Pepper Jack is that the latter is made by by adding sweet peppers and some other ingredients to the former.

But what are those ingredients? And what does that mean for your cooking? Don’t worry; the answers to your questions are coming soon. So what are we waiting for? Let’s jump right into it!

Monterey Jack vs Pepper JackPin

What is Monterey Jack cheese?

To understand the difference between Monterey Jack and Pepper Jack, we first have to know something about the first one. So what is Monterey Jack cheese?

Monterey Jack is a semi-hard cheese with a mild, buttery taste. Its origins can be traced to the 1700s, when a group of Spanish missionaries started to make this cheese in what is now San Diego.

But the modern history of this cheese starts in a place, where now lies another California city – Monterey. At the end of the 19th century, a businessman named David Jack adopted this recipe and started to sell this cheese there, becoming the first person to do so.

As you have probably guessed by now, this story is what gave Monterey Jack its name. But how has the Jack part of that name gotten into so many other cheese kinds?

What is Pepper Jack cheese?

Well, that’s because they are actually nothing more but modified version, or derivatives, if you will, of the OG Monterey Jack. And yes, this applies to Pepper Jack as well.

So Pepper Jack cheese is simply just a Monterey Jack to which some new ingredients were added. That, as the name suggests, means mainly sweet peppers. 

Fresh herbs, garlic, jalapeños, and habañero chilies are a common choice for making Pepper Jack as well. These additional ingredients make Pepper Jack spicy.

What is the difference between Monterey Jack and Pepper Jack cheese?

That means the difference between Monterey Jack and Pepper Jack is in their taste. While Monterey Jack tastes mild, with a slight buttery touch, Pepper Jack’s flavor is defined by the other ingredients in it.

Can I use Pepper Jack instead of Monterey Jack?

That means the choice between those two kinds of cheese is only up to your tastebuds. Since both Pepper Jack and Monterey Jack act the same while being melted (and by the way, they melt excellently!), you can replace one with the other in every recipe to suit you the best.

Is Monterey Jack and Pepper Jack the same cheese?

However, Monterey Jack and Pepper Jack are not the same cheese. The reason for that is that even though they share the same basis, Monterey Jack is simply just that, just the plain cheese with nothing added.

On the other hand, Pepper Jack is made by mixing the original Monterey Jack with some additional flavors – usually sweet peppers, some herbs, garlic, and jalapeñso. Every Pepper Jack recipe is a little bit different, though, so this may vary a bit.


As their names suggest, Monterey Jack and Pepper Jack have a lot in common. To put it simply, Monterey Jack is a cheese with a mild taste that is often used as the basis to make other, richer flavored kinds of cheese.

And Pepper Jack is one of those – it is made by adding sweet pepper, jalapeñso, garlic, and some other ingredients to the plain Monterey Jack. Therefore, it’s got a spicy flavor.



Image credits – Canva

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