Original Cheese Zombie Sandwiches

Original Cheese Zombie Sandwiches

It might have been the name that drew me in. The Original Cheese Zombie Sandwiches. It was the wholehearted endorsement of those who had grown up on The Original Cheese Zombie Sandwiches that hooked me. A Cheese Zombie is a sheet tray of home-made bread layered with an oozy, gooey American cheese and Cheese Zombies are sooo much better than they sound.

Original Cheese Zombie Sandwiches

The last time I made Original Cheese Zombie Sandwiches, I made 1/3 plain cheese, 1/3 with pickled Jalapenos and 1/3 with ham. The possibilities are endless.

The Original Cheese Zombie Sandwiches are the kind of nostalgic down-home recipe that by all rights should be awful yet somehow is a magical alchemy of oooey, gooey deliciousness. That suspicious orange cheese melds right into the home-made bread…and that homemade bread is just a beautiful thing, all soft, pillowy and warm, and oh my gosh are Cheese Zombies good.

Original Cheese Zombie Sandwiches are ballpark hot dogs good. Theater popcorn good. Fried cheese-curds at the fair good. They’re gas station nachos at 2:00 a.m. after the bar closes good. Hey, I’m not admitting anything and that was way over 25 years ago! 🙂

The Original Cheese Zombie Sandwiches seems to have its origins in hot lunches made from an excess of government cheese available to the school’s hot lunch programs, way back in the day. They’re particular to areas along the west coast. And believe me, the Cheese Zombie is much beloved by those who were privileged enough to be served these sandwiches for hot lunch. Just google it! 🙂

Original Cheese Zombie Sandwiches

The last time I made Original Cheese Zombie Sandwiches, I made 1/3 plain cheese, 1/3 with pickled Jalapenos and 1/3 with ham. The possibilities are endless.

I suspect The Original Cheese Zombie Sandwiches have roots in the Bierock or Runza. The dough and the concept seem quite similar and whatever lunch lady first made these may have taken liberties in making one huge pan rather than individual rolls. (Update: I recently came across some Russian posts with pans of filled bread that looked a lot like these, made with all kinds of fillings, proving again, there’s nothing new in the world, lol!) I think that same lunch lady (see notes at bottom of page) may have taken liberties with the Runza name and morphed it to Zombie to intrigue the hot lunch crowd.

Patty’s Original Cheese Zombie makes individual Zombies that really look a LOT like a home-made Runza or Bierock. Anyhoo, that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it, although we may never know the full truth! The Zombie Sandwich, by the way, is my answer to National Grilled Cheese Day, which was on April 12th. Missed it again, darn it all!! And while we loved the Original Cheese Zombie Sandwiches for lunch, we’ve also started eating variations of the Zombie for breakfast sandwiches. Just freeze slices and once frozen add them to a Ziploc. Come breakfast time, wrap in a napkin or paper towel and then heat in the microwave.

The recipes floating around are obviously cut back from a larger one & have odd measurements. I fiddled a bit & updated the method for the home kitchen. The Cheese Zombie is an ideal medium for all kinds of add-ins and changeups. I’ve used Velveeta which is readily available but the standard “American Cheese” found in delis might be closer to the original. (Some say the Costco Kirkland Cheese is close.) But why not make it your own and add in whatever you’d like? I used some of my leftover Not Your Father’s Root Beer & Bourbon Glazed Ham for some of these!

Original Cheese Zombie Sandwiches

Original Cheese Zombie Sandwiches


Original Cheese Zombie Sandwiches

Original Cheese Zombie Sandwiches
  • Author:
  • Total Time: 2 1/2 hours
  • Yield: a large panful


  • 3 packets of active dry yeast or 2 and 3/4 tablespoons (just guestimate that 3/4 tablespoon)
  • 2 1/4 cup warm (110 degrees) water
  • scant 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • scant 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup instant non-fat powdered milk
  • 6 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 lb American Cheese or Velveeta
  • Other add-ins if desired
  • oil or spray for rising bowls and sheet tray
  • a little butter (brush on after baking – see note)


In a large mixing bowl, mix yeast with water, let sit five minutes. Add the sugar, oil and powdered milk and mix on low with a paddle attachment.

Change to a dough hook and add the flour and salt and knead about 8 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic

Divide into 2 equal parts, form each into a ball. Place each in a bowl sprayed with cooking spray or coated with oil, smooth side down, turning the smooth side back up (so it is covered with a light coating of the oil). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place for an hour or so until doubled in size. When risen, save the plastic wrap to cover the tray of Zombies while it rises.

On a lightly sprayed or oiled half sheet pan (17 x 12 x 1), stretch one ball of dough evenly to the edges and slightly above. Top with sliced cheese and any other filling if using. Take the second ball and stretch it out on a counter next to the tray so it is a rectangle several inches smaller than the tray.

Pick it up (it will hopefully just stretch to about the size of the tray as you do so) and place over the top of the cheese. Gently, trying not to disturb the cheese, stretch and pinch the edges of the top layer to the bottom, sealing well.

Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rest until doubled in size, about 30 minutes to an hour. Bake 18-20 minutes at 400 degrees until the top is golden brown, rotating the tray about 3/4’s way through.

Remove from oven and brush with butter, let cool several minutes, slice and serve.


  • Scant 1/2 cup – just short the measurements by about a tablespoon.
  • Butter – the easiest way to brush with butter is to open a stick of cold butter and rub the end across the top of the hot dough.
  • Yeast  – 2 3/4 tablespoon is slightly more than three packets, but is the measurement I use. If you’re using packets, it isn’t worth opening a 4th packet for the little bit of extra yeast.
  • This seems like a lot of cheese, but don’t skimp or they’re really not as good.
  • All kinds of add-ins or changeups can be made to the original filling. Just be sure to use a good melty cheese.
  • Zombies may be reheated in the microwave. Wrap in a napkin or paper towel, heat on 70 percent power for one minute, then turn and cook on high for 30 seconds.
  • Zombies may be frozen, then wrapped, for later. Reheat from frozen, as above, on 70 percent power for one minute, then turn and cook on high for 45 seconds.

Notes on the Original Cheese Zombie Sandwiches:

Who invented the Cheese Zombie (keeping in mind that sometimes recipes are thought up by more than one person in different areas)? According to one of the Cheese Zombie Facebook pages:

  • When Dorothy Lucille Finch passed away in May of 2012, her obituary stated is was she who invented the Cheese Zombie.
  • Another mentioned that it was not possible, and her Great Grandmother who turns 100 in January and has the certificate from Betty Crocker and is the original seller of the recipe to the MDUSD back in the 1940’s.

MDUSD is Mount Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD), a public school district in Contra Costa County, California.


I’ll be sharing this post at Angie’s Fiesta Friday! I see some truly marvelous posts from other food bloggers there already!!

If you like the Original Cheese Zombie Sandwiches, you might also like:

The Original Cheese Zombies: Baked Cheese Sandwiches full of ooey, gooey deliciousness and an easy home-made dough (use store bought in a pinch) these are fantastic for a crowd and freeze well. The classic is cheese but add what you'd like inside! #CheeseZombies #ZombieSandwiches #OriginalCheeseZombies

38 thoughts on “Original Cheese Zombie Sandwiches

  1. Jessica Sarmiento

    Tried this different bread recipe and mixed it a diff way with all my dry ingredients first then wet. Had to add 1 cup of flour but by far the best ones I’ve ever made. Thanks.

    • Hi Jessica, thanks for stopping by and giving me the feedback! They ARE good, aren’t they?!

      I’m a concerned you had to add a whole cup of flour because that’s a significant difference. I often notice in the winter when I make bread, with the low humidity and the resulting dryer flour, I’ll need to add a little more moisture rather than more flour! I’ll remake these in the next couple weeks to double check my measurements.

      Everyone says baking is a science, but it’s also an art. And when you bake bread you get a feel for when the dough is right. I usually put a note on my bread recipes to watch for the dough climbing up the hook, which is a sign it might need a bit more water, or not forming into a ball which means more flour is needed. I’ll add that to the recipe!

      Thanks so much for your feedback!!


  2. I could totally devour these after a night of too much beer but now that I have kids, I don’t do that anymore or I pay heavily in the morning with screaming toddlers. I love that they are made with homemade bread.! Yum!

  3. Hi Mollie!! So funny. I was thinking of school lunchroom recipe when I was reading down — and then you said that could be where this came from!! And I love your other food comparisons! I think the grand-girls would think this was an awesome dinner! Hope you’re doing well friend– xox

    • Thanks, Rhonda! I think any kid would love these…I was surprised how much we liked them, here! As a matter of fact, I froze some of the last batch and the folks microwaved them for breakfast…which is funny because I thought this recipe could be adapted for a breakfast sandwich. Maybe a little sausage and some egg….well, I’ll have to think about that one!

      • OK, that’s a great idea Mollie! I’m always looking for new breakfast ideas for when kids are here– so much French toast!! nice to have something new… Happy weekend friend! What are you up to??

        • Thanks, Rhonda! We’ve had a very weird week starting with a heart scare on Monday with my Dad. Luckily it turned out to be nothing but we did learn from the doc at the hospital that Easter Brunch sends them a LOT of business! All that fat and salt and over indulging isn’t good for the elders…

  4. kitchenbyte

    It looks tasty! I would not mind trying it. Thanks again for another delicious recipe. My sons always love cheese 🙂
    Hope all is well with you and your loved ones.

  5. Pingback: Original Cheese Zombie Sandwiches | Love Nature

  6. I have never heard of cheese zombies, but you definitely have me intrigued. It seems like something we could fall in love with easily enough!

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