Cheese Zombies are pillowy soft, buttery bread rolls filled with gooey, cheesy goodness. Fresh and warm out of the oven, they are completely irresistible!
Other must make bread recipes include our Naan, Pizza Dough, and Popovers.
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.
I hope you love this delicious and simple recipe – be sure to give it a review below! Also don’t forget to follow Belly Full on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube!
- 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.
Reader Questions and Reviews
Sounds like you went to the little store they opened next to concord high.. so expensive there. But so good, I would pay for them if I didn’t know how to make them… I went to Clayton valley and cheese zombies were the best. We also had these hotdogs made with the same bread that were available if the zombies were sold out, which happened everyday,…,this was 89-. 92.
I am so glad to have found this! Tiny moments of joy from pillowy cheese buns!!
I went to College Park and remember these! So glad you’ve shared these for the world to enjoy!
OH GOSH! I haven’t had these since elementary in pleasant Hill! And I’ve looked everywhere without knowing the name! I found this page and this is it! I made them and my husband and kids loved them! Thank you for the recipe it’s simple and easy to follow and brought back a good childhood memory!
Honestly I was surprised I pulled this off until I realized it’s actually super easy to use yeast and make dough. Like, unreasonably easy. I cut the recipe in half (smaller family) and I even had to refrigerate the dough overnight because my baby needed help mid-knead. and as I started late in the evening on this project, realized as an after thought I wanted them for the morning (adding sausage) and they still turned out super tasty and fluffy! I’d personally add maybe some more seasonsings but overall I’m at least two pounds heavier. Thanks!
You just made a pregnant girls dreams come true. My high school was in Woodland Ca by Sacramento and our school had these but with ham. Omg these are just like I remember
I went to College Park. Lve Zombies!!
I went to Mt. Diablo High in the 80s loved the cheese zombies but never found a recipe even close thank you
Oddly enough, my grade school in a small Indiana town had these as well. So delicious. I’ve been searching for a recipe for them for years and just stumbled across this. I will definitely make them this week. Thanks so much for this recipe!
Thank you so much for your recipie. I just had a conversation with my husband about zombies, he had no idea what I was talking about…did not realize it was a regional thing. Glad I found your recipie. Miramonte girl.
also did you have the big cookie with half chocolate and half vanilla icing?
I am not a Californian but I moved from Maryland to Dublin, CA and was there for 2 years. I randomly found cheese zombies on yelp and drove to concord for the day. The first time I went I didn’t know how insanely popular they were so I couldn’t try the kind I wanted. But because I drove so far just for them they gave me a few for free lol I was hooked after that and would take that 50 min drive often. I’m back in Maryland now and craving them. So glad I found a recipe, so I can share something I grew to love from the west coast !!!
I attended Mt. Diablo high school 99-2003 I used to buy cheese zombies often on lunch break, and I think sometimes during the morning break too, love em and I have made this recipe a few times. So awesome thanks!
I went to El Dorado Middle School and these were my first break snack as well! I can’t wait to make these for my kids!
I can’t wait to try this recipe. I taught at Alhambra High School in Martinez 1984-94 before moving to Virginia. Ham and cheese zombies with mustard squirted in were a definite favorite.
I got these when i went to valley view & college park CP class of 1976. I’ve dreamed about these yeast rolls, soft. Hot & gooey. Was there one with ground beef as well?
Yay, can’t wait to try these, great cheese zombie memories, YV 81
Hi Amy, my name is Jeni. I love your recipe listed here. I too was a Cheese Zombie-ite. I was going to Pleasant Hill High School when it was closed after my sophomore year. I still have my handwritten recipe of Cheese Zombies that was published in the school newspaper before they closed in 1980. But, my recipe is different and to tell you the truth, lacks something. I am going to try your recipe that includes an egg.
Cal remembers these from his high school days at Mt. Diablo. He suggests adding ham and picked japeno rings. The people who now make these call them Spicy Ham Zombies.
I have told my kids about the infamous Zombies from our YVHS days and they finally were able to experience one that was pretty close from a vendor at the WC Farmers Market. I’m excited to try this recipe…looks spot on!
I attended Mt. Diablo in Junior High and High School and loved getting a zombie every day. (class of 1995), I’ve tried making them but CANNOT seem to get it right. Looking forward to this recipe and to see how it stands up. (I’m afraid of yeast as well)
My mom made theses for me as a kid. She attended Mt. Diablo high school. The person who created this blog is correct. You can’t substitute Velveeta cheese. My family and I add diced ham and caramelized unions.
Can I use oat milk? It has the consistency of whole milk. I haven’t had these in years!!
Hi Stephanie! Without further recipe testing, I couldn’t say, sorry. You could try it!
I grew up in the MDUSD too as always loved these. My step mom became a “cafeteria lady“ when I was in HS. She brought the recipe home, and used to make these for us. You totally nailed it!!! Thank you!!
Omg I haven’t had these since middle school in Napa and randomly googled it. Glad I did because now I know what I’m making tomorrow! Thank you!
Outstanding—Just like I remember from Campolindo High School!
Thank you for sharing your recipe. I was a teacher in Mt. Diablo and was craving Zombies today so I made up my own recipe before I saw yours. I have to bake gluten free and substituted Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Pizza Crust Mix for the dough. They came out pretty good. I’ll follow your baking directions next time. Could you tell me how much cheese you put in each Zombie and if you’ve come up with any tricks to keep the cheese from melting out of the buns?
I too went to Ygnacio Vly, then Mt Diablo. As soon as I saw the photo and name, I was instantly transported back to 1970! Have thought of these often, thank you for the recipe.
In Vancouver, wa. They were made in big sheets and cut in squares. I cook for a large group every month day at chu r h and have been craving g them for some time now. So in 2 wks it’s tomato soup and cheese zombies with salad.
My husband and I are looking forward to making Cheese Zombies. I graduated from Ygnacio Valley in 1969 and him from Mt. Diablo in 1968. Thanks for putting this out there. So cool that lots of folks are from our area.
I have looked for this too. I went to Mount Diablo and would have graduated in 1970 but moved to a Oklahoma after my junior year. Remember the maple bars?
Yaaaaaas. Also amazing!
My husband graduated Mt. Diablo High School in ’62 and I graduated from Pleasant Hill High School in ’63. My Mom worked in the cafeteria and made zombies for the school. Zombies became a favorite way back then, In fact, I’m making them today! So good!
I went to Las Lomas high school and would run to the cafeteria at snack break to make sure i got one of these before they sold out. Thank you so much for figuring out the recipe.
We knew lots of kids from Los Lomas H.S. Steve Bowen was one of them. Long time ago though so maybe no one from our age group will probably comment.
Went to Northgate high school in Walnut Creek sophomore and junior years….Zombies were first introduced to me at this time…coming from Texas we had never heard of these.. i am so glad you wrote this!! Have missed these things!!
Oh my goodness!!! Thank you for posting this recipe. I loved them in high school (Campo Class of ’84) and have missed them ever since. I am going to be making these beauties and add a sausage link to half of them!!! Many, may thanks!!!
I used to eat these in Washington state during middle school our school sold them for $2 and had sausage in with the cheese, ground sausage or the best was little smokies. They were the size of a softball and amazing…
We were acalanes school district. Same wonderful zombies!!! Just the way we remember them tasting. Thank you!!!
We knew people from Acalanes High School. Steve Brudney went there. We met at Junior College and sang in the madrigal group there, My Mom worked at Pleasant Hill H.S. cafeteria and that started our love for Zombies. She made them all the time for all of us. I just looked up this recipe for the first timenin 74 years and discovered all these comments from the area I grew up in from people in the schools we used to play in football season. Just amazing! I really didn’t realize zombies were so popular where I grew up. We are in Washington State now and are spreading the Zombie trend.
Me too! Been looking for a recipe for them for a while. Thank you!
You have made my week. This post could have very easily been written by me. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to cook. I am prett well known in my community for my cooking. But and this is a giant but, but I am terrified of yeast breads. Refuse to try them. I keep store bought frozen bread dough in my freezer. Cheater style. I am planning on making cheese and ham zombies for dinner tonight. Already have the dough out proofing. But after reading your poat, I think I will be brave and try to make your recipe next week. Also, thank you so much for a real cheese zombie recipe. I found very limited when i searc and they were none what I remember from my childhood. This recipe seems to hit it exactly.
Thank you for posting this! I’m so going to make zombies for my other half this weekend… That way he will know what I ate a lot in high school. Now I’m in NY, and I have craved them since I left CA 26 yrs ago. THANK YOU THANK YOU!!
You must go to the Brentwood Farmers Market. There is a vendor there that sells the original, ham and cheese, cheeseburger and a few more varieties of zombies, and they are TO DIE FOR! I’ll be trying your recipe tomorrow, for sure!
OMG these are the best!! Spoon tonic lounge used to have someone there selling some, a variety too, but the original cheeses zombies are the beat ever! Grew up in Martinez and ate these all the time when I went to Alhambra H. S.
I went to El Diablo and Concord High in the 70’s and these were the best!
I’m making them as we speak. Thank you thank you thank you!
THA NK GOODNESS. Making these tonight. I had them as a summer camp counselor at YMCA Camp Collins 20 years ago. We used to tell the kids- one glass of water for every cheese zombie or you’ll sleep through the afternoon. Tomato soup and cheese zombie lunch was always a favorite- I’m 99% sure the head cook was from the NC area- I’ve never seen them anywhere else in Oregon.
Haha! So true. A few of these will send you into a food coma. A blissful food coma, though. Thanks, Karin!
So I’ve been sending this webpage to my coworkers when I discovered that they had never heard of cheese zombies after some random conversation. I was just talking to my daughter who goes to Las Lomas in Walnut Creek about how school food used to to a lot less healthy (and more amazing) when I was a kid, so I pulled this up again so show her was can make some. Then I read through and saw it was specifically written from someone from the Mt Diablo school district! I had no idea that other areas were deprived of these soft, delicious, golden orbs of goodness as children!
Haha! Right? Sad that so many parts of the world have been deprived. There’s just nothing like these. Thanks, Alisa!
Clayton Valley H.S. sold these also. Loved it then. Love them now. Some of my coworkers and I who attended different high schools in the MDUSD talk about those all the time. I have a similar recipe to make these and often share these heavenly snacks at work….and yes, some of us never left the Bay Area! I’m trying your recipe this weekend. THANK YOU for sharing it!
Oh my gosh, I was just thinking about cheese zombies today, and decided to Google it. Pine Hollow Intermediate school, in Concord, 1975-1977, at the snack shack. I am so going to the cheese zombie place when I’m in the Bay Area in August (I’m in Idaho now, and my husband, an Idaho native, nevet had the privilege of feasting on these cheesy bundles of deliciousness ).
I have yet to make it out to t he zombie place. On my bucket list!
It’s an amazing place. Like heaven. Transports you back to CVHS! Make sure you call they are open different hours. I’m going to make these tonight! Thanks for posting
I grew up just outside of Sacramento and went to THOMAS J COLEMAN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL in Orangevale, CA. – must’ve been in the 70’s…..O.U.C.H. I used to LoVe these cheese sandwiches (C’MON my nickname is MOUSE :) but ive been craving these for E.V.E.R. I cant wait to try this recipe and also wanted to say THANKS FOR SHARING THE LOVE !!!!
Wooah wait a sec. There is a location i could have gotten zombies and enlightened my sorority sisters on visits home?! Where is this place? Making these this morning. Thanks for the recipe!
I had no idea zombies have been around so long but as soon as I moved to San Jose I realized other areas definitely missed out.
My friend just tagged me on this! I got a recipe for them years ago, but they weren’t the same! Loved these in school! I have tried the ones at the shop, not like I remembered, but good! I live out of state and get craving once in a while, so going to try it!
P.S. These were zombies before zombies were cool! ?
Remember these from Mt Diablo oh what memories.
I just made these per this recipe and they are absolutely perfect!! They are exactly how I remember them. Thank you so much for this deliciousness in my belly.
I found this recipe because I was craving the cheese zombies from middle school (a million years ago) in concord, ca. I bought one everyday and they were totally $0.50. I can’t believe I found this recipe. I can’t wait to try it out. I’m gonna visit the store in concord next time I head out that way. So amazing!!!
I can feel your excitement, Emily! Sort of how I felt when I first made these. Very nostalgic. Hope they turn out for you!
Terrified of any recipe that calls for YEAST, but if you can do it, so can I. Besides, these look yummy and I think I can smell them just by looking at the picture. Wish me luck .. hee hee
Oh, I know! I totally get it. HA. You got this!
OMG !!!! Those look so delicious and I don’t mind my arteries clogging for these zombies ;)
Thanks for sharing Amy !
Haha! Right??? Some things are just worth it. Thanks, Ruwani!
I was living in California , and just move to Washington state .
Well, now it doesn’t matter as much because you can make them at home!
I hate to say it but my kids love Velveeta cheese. . from their first nachos at a ball game or the movie theater, they were hooked. . I am soooooo making these!!!! and love the name!
Oh god if they’d had these at my HS I would have been so fat and poor. I love them, totally happening!!
Yeeeeesssss these look amazing!! I love that they are called zombies..why, why?? haha. I have many fond memories of getting food from the carts in high school. The classic was 3 cc cookies and chocolate milk for a buck. I wish I had it right now!!
Yay! I have been wondering when you would post this one. I can’t wait to try to make them and yes, I’m intimidated by yeast also. I’m honored our text made the blog. :) Are we old enough to have been BFF’s 35+ years???
Isn’t that sort of crazy? We’re going to be those old ladies that Hallmark makes cards out of.
Just so you know, the MDUSD does still serve cheese zombies, but not the way we had them. No velveeta and no slathered butter on them! BOOO! Anyway, there is a place in Concord that serves many varieties of the old fashioned kind. If you are ever in the neighborhood you can locate them here: http://www.pattysoriginalcheesezombies.com
GAH. Sacrilege. Some things are just not meant to be healthy! Someone on Facebook who went to Claremont was just telling me about Patty’s – I totally want to take the kids there!
Amy! #1 — these are amazing and $2 or 50 cents i could probably break the bank eating them. #2 — your new site is happyyyyyyyyy. love it!
Right? Bread and cheese for life! Thanks, Heather!!
I can’t wait to try this recipe! I had a hankering for a cheese zombie a few weeks ago and no one has ever heard of them (I live in NC). But, I still remember the cheesy deliciousness from high school (Miramonte HS in Orinda, CA). Thank you!
Walnut Creek for me – not too far away! I heard there’s actually a store now in the East Bay who makes and sells these. Bet they’re always busy!
I’m glad I’m far, far away from that store! Thanks again for posting this.
It’s in concord near concord high school. My cousin and her husband opened it about five years ago.