Best Provolone Cheese: The 7 Best for Your Next Sandwich

The best provolone cheese is smooth and mild, but it should also taste fatty, slightly salty, buttery, and sometimes smoky. Provolone is perfect for melting on sandwiches like meatball subs and hot Italian hoagies, but it’s a great snacking cheese too. Provolone is versatile in that way—eat it hot or cold, on a sandwich, or on a charcuterie board. Provolone cheese doesn’t let you down—and, hey, not for nothin’, neither do we. 

Of course I love provolone—it’s essential to building the Italian American hoagie of my dreams. People often accuse provolone of being bland, but, nah, it’s just quiet and understated. Provolone is a cow’s milk cheese that’s a close relative to mozzarella. It usually tastes a tad more mild than mozzarella, and it often has an undercurrent of smoky, nutty flavors. Aged provolone, on the other hand, is sharp, funky, and bold. Sharp and unsharp have two totally different flavors, and for this cheesy taste test, we had sampled both. Check out this list of the best provolone cheese we tried.


Best of the Best

Boar’s Head Deli Picante Provolone

Boar’s Head Picante Provolone is around $12 a pound at the grocery store deli and worth every penny. Its texture is thick, floppy, and it’s full of wonderful milk fat. The taste is deliciously funky and sharp—the bite you get on the back end smacks you in the mouth in the most wonderful way. This cheese makes me want a muffuletta so bad. Load me up with deli meats, olive oil, olive tapenade, and a sharp, fatty provolone cheese and watch me go. This is the best provolone cheese to make deli-quality cold sandwiches at home, but it also melts incredibly well. Use it for grilled cheese or melt it over a crock of French onion soup. Sharp provolone just has more flavor, and while other sharp provolones might be a bit too funky, Boar’s Head knows exactly where the line is and doesn’t cross it. This is the best provolone cheese for a variety of reasons.

Credit: Merc/Pavilions

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

Best Bite

Primo Taglio Provolone Cheese

Primo Taglio’s provolone cheese has an elusive smokiness and tang to it that you don’t really get with other provolone cheeses. The primary flavors here are fat, smoke, and a buttermilk-like smack. There’s something almost acidic about the bite this provolone cheese possesses. It’s also deeply fatty and sumptuous, and it straight up made me drool like a cartoon character. It’s up there with Boar’s Head, and at around $10 a pound at the deli counter, it’s a great deal.

Credit: Merc/Pavilions

Rating:

8.5/10

Sporks

Best Smoky

Tillamook Farmstyle Thick Cut Provolone

Folks, Tillamook knows what’s up. Their butter, cheese, and ice creams always rank for us. This pre-sliced provolone cheese has a ton of saturated fat (25% of your daily value per serving!) and a butt-load of salt too. Salt and fat bring flavor, though, so I’m not hating. It’s also so darn smoky, almost like a munster or a gouda. It’s uniquely delicious and thick as hell. Calling it “farmstyle” is good marketing too. You’re thinking of a cow, just like I am.

Credit: Merc/Target

Rating:

8.5/10

Sporks

Best Grocery Store Brand

Kroger Smoke Flavored Provolone

This is another smoky provolone that’s got a high salt content. I kept eating slices of this cheese because it’s just so well balanced (and, you know, because I’m a total glutton). It’s got funk, smoke, salt, and fat in equal measure. That’s four different flavors and not a single one upstages another. Instead, they all work together to provide a singularly delicious taste. I love it when food has good flavor alchemy, and Kroger’s smoke flavored provolone is a great example of good chemistry.

Credit: Merc/Instacart

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

best low-sodium provolone

Best Low Sodium

Boar’s Head 43% Lower Sodium Provolone

I really like this low-sodium provolone because it allows you to taste the milky cheese flavor even more. This tastes like pure dairy—grassy, creamy, and delicious. It also has a great tang and a sharp funk. There’s no real smokiness to speak of, but that’s just fine with me. I so often obliterate my food with salt, but when you go easier on the sodium, you really can taste other flavors better. That’s what’s going on here. If you’re watching sodium but love cheese, pick this one up.

Credit: Merc/Pavilions

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

Best Processed

Happy Farms Non-Smoked Provolone Cheese

Sometimes mozzarella and provolone taste like string cheese. That’s what’s going on with Happy Farms. This is salty and has that processed cheese quality to it, but you know what? Processed cheese rocks. American cheese is delicious and barely tastes like anything. This is squeaky and rubbery and unnatural, but I still dig it. Plus, Happy Farms provolone melts super well, just like a good low-moisture mozzarella. The taste is so simple and straightforward that it works. You couldn’t call this the best provolone cheese, but I put it on this list because sometimes you just want something with a processed flavor.

Credit: Merc/Aldi

Rating:

7.5/10

Sporks

Best Vegan

Violife 100% Vegan Smoked Provolone Slices

I’m a big Violife guy. Their vegan cheese products just do such a great job at recreating the real cheese experience. Violife’s mozzarella cheese shreds hit really well for us, and, likewise, their slices of provolone cheese are salty, fatty, and smoky. And, unlike a lot of other vegan cheese, Violife products melt super well. This would make an excellent vegan grilled cheese, and I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that it would melt really well in some alternative milk to make a great vegan mac and cheese too. Whatever you do with this, you can’t go wrong. It’s the best provolone cheese for plant-based folks, no doubt. 

Credit: Merc/Instacart

Rating:

7.5/10

Sporks

Other products we tried: Sargento, Applegate Organics, Lucerne, Follow Your Heart, BelGioso Sharp, Sargento Ultra Thin, Private Selection, Trader Joe’s.

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About the Author

Danny Palumbo

Danny is a comedian, cook, and food writer living in Los Angeles. He loves gas station eggs, canned sardines, and Easter candy. He also passionately believes that all the best chips come from Pennsylvania (Herr's!). If you can't understand Danny when he talks, it's because he's from Pittsburgh.

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