The chef's favorite childhood snack is about to become your new favorite savory treat.
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Padma Lakshmi on a designed background
Credit: Getty Images / Michael Cohen

While there's nothing wrong with whipping up a classic grilled cheese now and again, it's nice to have a few elevated versions in your arsenal to make the sandwich feel extra-special. Enter Padma Lakshmi's chile cheese toast recipe. The chef recently took to Instagram to share a video of this super-simple recipe that was a childhood favorite of hers—and remains a go-to in her adult life. This three-step recipe is the perfect way to give your grilled cheese an upgrade while keeping things simple.

First, you need to make the chile relish. While that might sound time-consuming, it just requires blitzing either serrano or other hot green chiles, lemon, salt and fresh cilantro in a food processor. You can also try doing it Padma's way by breaking everything down with a mortar and pestle to really bring out the aromatics (we like this one from Crate and Barrel; buy it: $40).

From there, butter a slice of bread (it looks like Padma used some hearty sourdough) and top with a spoonful of the chile relish mixture. If you're a bit spice-averse, start with a smaller amount to make sure you can take the heat. Finally, layer on a generous slice of a mild cheese like Monterey Jack or Muenster and pop it toppings-side up onto a buttered skillet. Once the cheese has melted, it's time to eat!

If you're the kind of person who thinks black pepper is spicy, this may not be the recipe for you, but you can zhush up cheese toast with a layer of homemade chimichurri or pesto on the bottom instead of the chile relish. That way, you still get some herbaceous, bright flavors without all the heat.

While this toast makes for a delicious snack to power you through the end of a workday, it's probably not enough to serve as lunch alone. Give the sandwich a protein boost by adding some slices of turkey or roast chicken breast before placing in the skillet, or for a meat-free spin, try a layer of smoky mushroom "bacon" or a fried egg on top. Of course, pairing your grilled cheese with a cozy bowl of tomato soup is always a great idea and will warm you up from the inside out.