Cheese Zombies are pillowy soft, buttery bread rolls filled with gooey, cheesy goodness. Fresh and warm out of the oven, they are completely irresistible!
Once I got over my fear of making yeast bread, these Cheese Zombies became a regular fixture in our house. Thank goodness for both of those things.
Cheese Zombies were a thing – a huge thing – in Concord, CA and throughout the Mt. Diablo school district, when I was in high school a million years ago. They were .50 at the time and I used to buy one every single day at first break. (Now, they’re probably $3.00.)
Cheese Zombies are not on a national level – although they should be! – so, search results for a proper recipe are very lean. But if you’re a fellow alum, I’ve got you. And if not, I’m about to introduce you to the best cheesy stuffed rolls you didn’t know you needed until now.
Cheese Zombie Recipe
Ingredients needed to make them:
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)
- Dry yeast: Either active or instant dry yeast works. When using instant, I still always allow it to bloom.
- Warm water: To properly activate the yeast, the water needs to be around 110°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, feel it with your fingertip. It should be warm, but not hot to the touch.
- Flour: All-purpose flour that’s been spooned and leveled.
- Sugar: This adds just a bit of sweetness to the rolls.
- Whole milk: Milk creates breads which are richer, with a softer texture.
- Egg: This add richness and also helps bind the dough together.
- Unsalted butter: I prefer baking with unsalted butter and adding a bit of salt separately, so I can control the saltiness. If all you have is salted butter, you can use it, but the rolls will have a saltier taste.
- Salt: Since we’re using unsalted butter, we add in a touch of salt, which adds flavor and also heightens the flavors of the other ingredients. If using salted butter, omit this.
- Velveeta cheese: Yep, the processed stuff. Do not substitute. (See note below.)
Recipe Tips for Success
- The temperature of the water matters: Water needs to be around 110°F to properly activate the yeast. If it’s too hot, it can kill the yeast and alternatively, if if it’s not warm enough, the yeast won’t proof. To be precise, we recommend using a thermometer.
- Use fresh yeast: If the yeast doesn’t foam after 5 minutes, it’s likely not good anymore and you’ll need to toss it and start over.
- Measure the flour correctly: Spoon and level the flour, instead of scooping. Too much flour in the dough can lead to dense dry rolls.
- Use Velveeta cheese: This type of cheese is processed to be softer, smoother, evenly textured, and clump-free once melted. Real cheddar cheese doesn’t melt properly, ends up a little greasy, and just doesn’t work for this recipe. Real Cheese Zombies are made with Velveeta and they’re awesome. It’s ok. The cheese police aren’t going to arrest you and your arteries won’t clog by eating a couple.
- Storing: Like most freshly baked bread, these stuffed cheesy bread rolls are best enjoyed after coming out of the oven. And since these are filled with melted cheese, fresh is best. If you have any leftover, allow them to cool to room temperature before storing (the residual heat from covering them can make the rolls soggy.) We also don’t recommend refrigerating them or they will dry out. Instead, store them in an airtight container at room temperature and eat within a few days.
- Reheating: Wrap each leftover roll in a single sheet of aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for about 10-15 minutes or until warmed through.
How to Make Cheese Zombies Video
Every time I make these, it’s meant as a side with dinner…but they always seem to become dinner, because we each eat 3 or 4! They’re so good.
Now my kids know what a Cheese Zombie is. And so do you. And the world is better off for it.
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar , divided
- 1 cup lukewarm whole milk
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter , softened
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg , lightly beaten
- 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour , spooned and leveled
- 8 ounces Velveeta processed cheese , cut into 16 cubes
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter , melted
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir to dissolve and set aside until foamy, 5-10 minutes.
- Add milk, softened butter, salt, remaining 1/3 cup sugar, egg, and 2 cups of the flour. Mix until well combined, and then add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough just starts to clear the sides of the bowl (you may not need it all.)
- Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead until a soft, elastic dough forms.
- Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for about 15 minutes.
- Turn the dough out into a rectangle and divide into 16 equal pieces. Shape pieces into rounds, then flatten slightly. Tuck a cube of cheese into the center of each round and pinch the dough around the cheese, tightly together at the bottom, working to shape each one into a round, tight ball.
- Place rolls, pinched-side down on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise again in a warm place for about 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375° F.
- Brush the tops of the rolls with melted butter. Bake for 15 minutes, switching baking sheets halfway through baking time. Brush the tops with remaining butter and bake for 5 more minutes or until golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and cool slightly before serving, but still hot enough that you get that awesome gooey cheese when you break them open!
- NOTE: Do not substitute the Velveeta for real cheddar cheese. It won't melt properly and will make them greasy. For helpful tips refer to the full article and be sure to watch the video for visual help.