Welsh Rarebit vs Cheese On Toast – What’s The Difference?

What's The Difference Between Welsh Rarebit and Cheese on Toast?

Both cheese on toast and Welsh Rarebit are great British delicacies in their own right. 

For those who aren’t aware, these are two classic dishes from the UK with some strong similarities (such as both being cheese-based and loved by virtually all Brits), but they’re actually completely different.

So what is the difference between cheese on toast and Welsh Rarebit?

Well, cheese on toast is simply slices of cheese placed onto toasted bread which is then grilled (broiled) until melted and golden. Whereas, Welsh Rarebit is a cheese-based mixture added as a topping to bread that’s toasted, before also being grilled.

But there’s a tad more to cover when it comes to cheese on toast vs Welsh Rarebit, including different ways to make both dishes, some tasty examples of which we’ll give below.

We’ll also answer some other common questions we face about cheese on toast and Welsh Rarebit, including whether they give you nightmares.

But let’s start at the beginning…

What is Cheese on Toast?

Cheese on toast is sliced cheese added to the top of toasted bread, which is then placed under a grill to melt the cheese. Cheese on toast means melted cheese on toast. And it’s called just that: cheese on toast. 

“And what cheese is used for cheese on toast?” we hear you ask. 

The answer to this entirely valid question is that cheddar cheese is most commonly used for cheese on toast in the UK, but there’s tons of different cheeses that could be used. Other favourites include Red Leicester, Lancashire and Double Gloucester.

What is Welsh Rarebit?

Welsh Rarebit is one of the best and most traditional Welsh dishes there is, made from toasted bread topped with a flavoursome cheese-based mixture, or sauce you might say.

Welsh Rarebit was previously known as ‘caws pobi’, which is Welsh for toasted cheese. It was also known as ‘Welsh Rabbit’ back in the day (despite rabbit never being part of the recipe). And people say British food names are weird.

What is Welsh Rarebit Made Of?

Welsh Rarebit was traditionally made with Glamorgan cheese, but production of this famous Welsh cheese ended when the Glamorgan cattle breed almost died out. These days, Cheddar cheese is often used, but to honour the dish’s Welsh origins, we’d definitely go for Caerphilly cheese if you’re looking to make the best Welsh Rarebit.

In addition to the cheese, the topping mixture of a traditional Welsh Rarebit is usually made of this: 

  • Beaten eggs 
  • Ale
  • Worcestershire sauce 
  • Mustard
  • Salt and pepper 
  • Paprika or cayenne pepper (optional)

Differences Between Cheese on Toast and Welsh Rarebit

So, here’s the main differences between these two popular British foods:

Cheese on toast Welsh Rarebit
Simply sliced cheese added to toast, which is then grilledA cheese based mixture added to toast, then grilled
Can be made with just two ingredientsSeveral ingredients needed to make a real Welsh Rarebit 
Enjoyed across Britain Enjoyed across Britain, but home is Wales

When it comes to the origins of both dishes, you might think cheese on toast actually came before Welsh Rarebit, but it seems that’s not the case.

Welsh Rarebit is understood to have been invented in the 1700s, while it’s not entirely clear when cheese on toast was born. Although, it’s said that it originated in 1912.

Why is Cheese on Toast Sometimes Called Welsh Rarebit? 

We can only imagine that some people call cheese on toast Welsh Rarebit purely because they’re somewhat similar dishes. But there’s no excuse for it, quite frankly.

After all, Welsh Rarebit is one of the most classic dishes from Wales. It’s basically a symbol of the place. Whereas, while many Brits love it, cheese on toast is really just a simplified of Welsh Rarebit.

What Do The Welsh Call Cheese on Toast?

You could say that the Welsh call cheese on toast, Welsh Rarebit. But as we now know, cheese on toast and Welsh Rarebit are really very different, so if they’re doing it ‘right,’ the Welsh will call cheese on toast, cheese on toast, and Welsh Rarebit, Welsh Rarebit, along with the rest of the UK.

Are Cheese on Toast and Welsh Rarebit the Same as ‘Grilled Cheese?’

Our understanding of our American friends’ ‘grilled cheese’ or ‘grilled cheese sandwich’ is that this contains melted cheese within two slices of bread, whereas cheese on toast and Welsh Rarebit are single slices of toast, with a topping of sliced cheese or a cheese-based mix.

What Do The British Call ‘Grilled Cheese?’

In Britain, what the Americans call ‘grilled cheese’ or ‘grilled cheese sandwich’, we British typically call a ‘toasted cheese sandwich,’ or a ‘cheese toastie.’

What Else is Similar to Cheese on Toast and Welsh Rarebit? 

So we’ve already covered the fact that the United States’ grilled cheese could be seen as similar to Welsh Rarebit and cheese on toast, but here’s a few more dishes that might be mentioned alongside both dishes:

  • Cheese sandwiches
  • Croque monsieur
  • Cheese fondue
  • The Hot Brown Sandwich
  • Cheesesteaks
  • Cheese pizza

Naturally, we don’t think anything comes close to competing with our traditional British dishes.

Is Cheese on Toast / Welsh Rarebit Good For You?

Both cheese on toast and Welsh Rarebit, by the very nature of the main ingredient (cheese), they’re not exactly the healthiest choice of meal. Especially if you were to eat them every day. Cheese (and butter) are of course high in fat and calories, so both dishes would be best eaten in moderation.

A good thing is that different breads and cheeses can be used to make Welsh Rarebit and cheese on toast, so there are ways to make them healthier at least.

How Do You Eat Cheese on Toast? 

Cheese on toast can simply be eaten with a knife and fork, or in more informal settings, you’d usually get away with using your hands, if you’re at home for example.

How Do You Eat Welsh Rarebit?

With Welsh Rarebit’s topping being more sauce-like, it’d be more risky to eat it with your hands. Using a knife and fork would be your best bet. 

Visiting a food blog named The Rare Welsh Bit for advice is also a good option.

Do You Butter the Toast for Cheese on Toast and Welsh Rarebit?

It’s really up to you if you butter the toast before you add the sliced cheese to your cheese on toast, or your cheese mixture to your Welsh Rarebit. Personal preference and any intolerances will obviously play a part here (we’re not here to judge).

What Do You Eat with Cheese on Toast and Welsh Rarebit?

Most often, both dishes are eaten as a snack or a light meal, so they’d usually be eaten on their own, or with something like a side salad. But here’s some ways to make cheese on toast even better:

Cheese on Toast Variations

As we mentioned earlier, Cheddar cheese is most often used for cheese on toast, but you can practically use any cheese that’s good for melting. 

You could change the Cheddar up for Double Gloucester, Lancashire, or even something stronger like Stilton, or maybe a smokey flavoured cheese. If you really enjoy living life on the edge, then go ahead, use multiple cheeses.

Really, there’s tons of different ways to experiment with cheese on toast. Besides changing the cheese, you could also add any number of extra ingredients or flavours. 

Particularly good in our view is adding chopped chilli to your cheese, or a splash of Worcestershire sauce. Other common additions are chopped spring onions and of course, the famous Branston pickle. Depending on your preference, such additions could be made before or after the cheese is grilled.

Here’s some more items that might compliment your cheese on toast: 

  • Tomatoes
  • Ham 
  • Bacon 
  • Pickles
  • Chutneys 
  • Gherkins
  • Pickled onions 
  • Beetroot
  • Piccalilli
  • Walnuts 

Clearly though, the ultimate way to pimp up your cheese on toast, is by transforming it into Welsh Rarebit…

Welsh Rarebit Variations

Welsh Rarebit

So, a classic Welsh Rarebit topping usually consists of a sauce made from your cheese (we’d choose Caerphilly), plus ale, mustard, eggs, Worcestershire sauce and seasoned with salt and pepper, to taste. It’s debated as to whether the addition of paprika or cayenne pepper is traditional or not. 

While we love the classic version, there’s no harm in experimenting with different flavours from time to time. So here’s 7 incredible variation ideas of the classic dish that is Welsh Rarebit:

1. Buck Rarebit

As if the standard Welsh Rarebit wasn’t good enough, if you top it with a fried egg, you get the dish known as ‘Buck Rarebit.’ 

2. Blushing Bunny

What’s more, the simple addition of liquid tomato (or tomato soup) to the traditional Welsh Rarebit mixture gives you a dish called ‘Blushing Bunny.’ Seriously. We’re not making this up.

3. Welsh Rarebit with Leeks

Welsh National Food - Leeks

With leeks being the national food of Wales, it’d only be right to try them amongst a Welsh Rarebit sauce. Cooked gently in butter before adding to the sauce would be a winner, as would frying them to a crisp  and adding them as an extra topping before serving.

4. Welsh Rarebit and Laverbread 


Another of Britain’s famous delicacies that just so happens to be from Wales is Laverbread, a type of seaweed found off the Welsh coast that’s commonly served on toasted bread. So why not incorporate two Welsh classics and give yourself Welsh Rarebit with Laverbread.

5. Welsh Rarebit Tart

Then there’s the option of transforming a typical Welsh Rarebit into a giant tart, or maybe individual tartlets. Simply add your cheese-based sauce mixture to a pastry base rather than bread and bake in the oven.

6. Welsh Rarebit and Mushrooms 

Mushrooms on toast is a British breakfast fave, as well as a traditional UK pub food dish. So why not add a Welsh Rarebit topping to crank it up a notch. That really doesn’t leave mush-room for improvement (sorry, couldn’t resist). 

7. Welsh Rarebit with Guinness

So Guinness is from Ireland rather than Wales, but it’s an epic replacement for ale in a Welsh Rarebit sauce mix. Enjoy flavours from two UK nations together in one incredible dish.

Welsh Rarebit vs Cheese on Toast – One Big Nightmare?

You might’ve heard that cheese on toast and Welsh Rarebit give you bad dreams, especially if eaten late at night. But our ‘extensive’ research tells us that there’s no evidence of this.

One thing that’s definitely not a nightmare, is finding great places to eat in Britain with our help (we know, we literally have no shame when it comes to promoting British food).

Anyway, we hope that’s helped you tell the difference between our beloved cheese on toast and Welsh Rarebit, and maybe it’s even given you some extra ideas of how you can enjoy two of Britain’s classic dishes.

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