The Original Cheese Zombie

Filled with molten plastic cheese which oozed out of a white bun, I never cared for cheese zombies in high school, but it seemed like everyone else did! They were, I suppose, good as hand warmers for kids outside on the quad on a cold day, and it was certainly hard to beat the $1.35 price tag. Besides, American cheese screams “this is familiar and safe!”

Now I grew up in Northern California and these were a recurring staple at my high school. I’ve heard that they originated in Washington State’s Yakima Valley when, sometime in the late 1950s, a school district there received a little too much subsidized cheese from the government.

Having to deal with this sudden cheese windfall, an enterprising cafeteria worker invented a new “sandwich” that soon began showing up on kids’ plastic trays. You can read all about its origins here, on Atlas Obscura.

Now the beauty of American Cheese, and Velveeta cheese in particular, is that when melted, it “keeps a fully integrated and evenly clump-free liquid texture.” (Thanks, Wikipedia. 😉)

How Do Cheese Zombies Taste?

Taste-wise? Meh. For me, melted American cheese belongs in one place only — on a grilled burger. (Though I have made a not-bad Velveeta cheesecake, as well as some Velveeta fudge.)

So, I’m not really sure why I want to recreate them. A little memory about something else got me thinking of them the other day, so here we are.

And while I don’t miss much about high school or cheese zombies, freshly baked bread is always welcome! So I’ll reserve some of the dough for a batch with “no cheese.” 

But they are easy to make, and your kids just might like them. So here’s the recipe (adapted from No Bones Life):

4 cheese zombie rolls on a baking sheet, freshly baked

Cheese Zombies

Gooey, melted American cheese inside a white bread bun.
5 from 6 votes
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 15 minutes
Resting time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Course Bread, Lunch, quick meals, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 12 rolls
Calories 554 kcal


  • Stand mixer with dough hook attachment
  • Kitchen scale (optional)
  • Parchment-lined baking sheet(s)
  • Conventional oven



  • 2 C. warm water
  • 3 tbsp dry-active yeast
  • 6 C. bread flour
  • 1/3 C. sugar
  • 3/4 t. salt
  • 1/4 C. melted butter


  • 12 oz Velveeta cheese cut into 12, 1 oz blocks


Make the Dough

  • Add the yeast to the warm water and stir to dissolve. 
  • Allow the mixture to rest for 5 minutes, at which point you should see bubbles on the surface.
  • Add flour, sugar, and salt into bowl of a stand mixer.
  • Stir to combine.
  • Add the butter to the yeast and water mixture. 
  • Fit the mixer with the dough hook attachment. Turn the mixer on low, slowly adding the yeast and butter mixture. Increase the speed to medium and continue to mix for 3-5 minutes, or until a bowl of dough is formed.
  • Turn out the dough onto a countertop and knead by hand for 8-10 minutes incorporating the remaining flour. The dough will take up ½ to 1 cup of flour. You’ll know when the dough has been kneaded enough when it passes the windowpane test, meaning the dough can be stretched thin enough that light passes through it. The dough should no longer be sticky and the surface should be smooth. 
  • Cover the dough with a dampened towel and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Make the Filling

  • Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. (Use a kitchen scale if you want to be precise.)
  • Take a 1 oz. block of cheese and gently squeeze it into a ball.

Make the Zombies

  • Press and flatten a dough ball out and place a ball of cheese in the middle.
    Open hand holding a round flat of dough with an orange ball of Velveeta cheese on top.
  • Pull up the edges of the dough around the cheese and pinch the dough into a parcel. Make sure to pinch the edges well to seal in the cheese.
    Open palm holding a packet of dough with the edges gathered up and pushed together.
  • Place the filled dough ball seam-side down. Using cupped hands, shape the roll into a tight sphere.
  • Place cheese-filled dough balls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Cover lightly with plastic wrap. Let the rolls rest in a warm spot for 1-1 ½ hours, or until they have doubled in size.
  • Before the rolls have finished resting, preheat your oven to 375˚F.
  • Bake for 15 minutes.
    6 cheese zombies baking in an oven on a baking trey.


Calories: 554kcalCarbohydrates: 96gProtein: 20gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 23mgSodium: 24224240mgPotassium: 5227mgFiber: 3gSugar: 9gVitamin A: 404IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 15183mgIron: 207mg
Keyword American cheese, baking, bread
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

8 thoughts on “The Original Cheese Zombie”

  1. Wait! What?! You grew up in Northern California?! Were you in the MDSD? I went to high school at Clayton Valley! Cheese Zombies were the best brunch cart snack EVER! I think you’re a little younger than me, I remember cheese zombies being .50. I’ve been making these for my kids since the first one was a toddler.

  2. 5 stars
    I also am a huge Cheese Zombie fan! I graduated from MDUSD Ygnacio Valley in ‘88. There’s a cheese zombie shop now in Dana Plaza. Good times!

  3. 5 stars
    I went to Northgate HS, class of 77 and the cheese zombies were one of my favorites as were the pan pizza slices. Yum. I’m going to have to try and make these soon.

  4. Thanks for posting this! Out of the blue a few days ago, I had a memory of eating cheese zombies back in hs popped in my head (neighboring school district tho, Las Lomas class of ‘99). Hadn’t thought about them in years but decided to recreate them. Serious nostalgia 🙂

  5. Concord High ‘80 grad – these were my favorite brunch snack. Happy memories eating them in the quad in the California sunshine. Thanks for sharing!

  6. 5 stars
    MDUSD (Mt Diablo) ’79 Grad! Had one every day for 4 years (unless I was cutting school! 😉

    Making them for years! Love Patty’s Zombies and now herson has one off Hwy 4 (Rob’s). Had one today. At 61, I’m still a huge fan! I’ve used Bridgeford dough with fantastic results. 3 one-pound loaves make 12 zombies! I like the 24 slice American cheese with no wrappers, cutting into 12 squares as well.

  7. Those are definitely California Style. In Washington they were made in a buttered sheet pan with the dough laid out on the bottom and then another on top. Then pinched the sides together and brush with butter on top.

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