As the name infers, main dish menu items are the major focus of the meal, and usually contain the primary protein. Cheese is a natural here, as its flavor and additional protein contribute to the overall ability of the dish to satiate diners. Melted on favorite meats, incorporated in baked dishes, or as a pasta sauce flavor addition, cheese is the ingredient that can make a dish special. Vegetarian entrées also benefit, as cheeses provide taste, texture, nutritional punch and visual appeal.
For every chef's creative vision, there is a perfect U.S. cheese. Dairy products made in the United States can help chefs keep on trends and introduce innovative entrées on their menus that meet ever-evolving consumer taste. Learn more about U.S. dairy products by browsing the Product Section.
Main Dish & Entrée Trends
Shifts in the use of cheeses in main dishes respond to health and wellness trends. To satisfy customers' twin demands for fuller flavors and healthier dishes, chefs turn to intensely-flavored cheeses to provide zest without excess added calories. Chefs also meet demand for flavorful foods with adaptations of dishes and ingredients from the cuisines of Asia and Latin America. Meanwhile, blends of different cuisines create trendy food fusions in fine dining applications as well as quick service restaurant (QSR), full service restaurants (FSR) and family-style restaurants.
Blue and beef
In response to customers' newfound desire for more robust flavors, cheeses like asiago, aged cheddar, gruyere and the whole range of washed-rind cheeses are showcase items for upscale menu creations from fine dining establishments to limited-time offerings at QSRs. Of these more intense cheeses, blue and Gorgonzola are stand-out favorites to pair with beef. Stuffed in burgers, crumbled over cold grilled skirt steak salad, or melted on a perfect filet mignon, the blue cheese and beef combination is a new feature on menus everywhere. The two create what is known as umami, or the "fifth flavor." The four basic flavor profiles are sweet, sour, salty and bitter; umami is best described as "savory or meaty" and is strongly present in beef and blue cheese pairings. This trend is poised to gain momentum across all U.S. restaurant segments.
Latin American cuisine
Virtually all Hispanic cuisine is rich with cheese use. Influences from Spain, France and Germany as well as native Maya, Inca and Aztec cultures create the complex wonders of Latin American cuisine. Initially available only at Mexican-themed restaurants, entrées with Hispanic flair now appear on all types of fine dining, QSR, FSR and family-style restaurant menus. The fiery peppers, strong herbs and sizzling spices build flavor without additional calories.
Formulas & Recipes
Easy-to-prepare comfort food gets upgraded with this fresh take on a popular dish.
East meets West in a savory hybrid of a samosa and empanada
This dish is a creamy, satisfying meal in itself.