From the perfectly crispy, golden bread on the outside to the ooey-gooey cheese in the middle, this Air Fryer Grilled Cheese is a masterpiece of simplicity! It’s ready in just 10 minutes and is easy to prepare.
Why You’ll Love This Melty Air Fryer Cheese Sandwich
- It’s Absolutely Outstanding! The bread is golden, deeply toasted, and sturdy enough to hold up to the cheesy interior but still soft enough to sink your teeth into with delight. The cheese is properly melted. It’s buttery but not greasy, and the cheese is ooey-gooey but not soggy. In short, this grilled cheese is flawless.
- Kids and Adults Will Approve. Very few meals can provide universal satisfaction to everyone at your table, but a well-executed grilled cheese sandwich is one of them. It’s comforting, nostalgic, customizable, and ready in a flash (just 10 minutes is how long to air fry grilled cheese).
- Goes Great with Veggies. It can easily become part of a nutritious meal by pairing it with a healthy side (like Roasted Carrots) or even sneaking some veggies into the sandwich itself (like spinach).
- The Air Fryer Makes it Simple. While a stovetop grilled cheese is fantastic (I share my secrets in my cookbook), using an air fryer to make grilled cheese streamlines the process and is much more hands-free (same with these Air Fryer Hamburgers). It’s ideal for making your favorite foods crispy with very little added oil or fat, like these Air Fryer French Fries and Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts.
How to Make Crispy Grilled Cheese in an Air Fryer
- Bread. Don’t skimp here, the type of bread matters! I like to use good-quality sourdough bread or whole-grain artisan-style bread. While you can make air fryer grilled cheese with standard sandwich bread (wheat bread or white bread), picking up a higher-end loaf is 100% worth it here.
- Cheese. Yes, it is OK to put cheese in an air fryer! Grate it yourself right from the block or use deli slices. I do not recommend bagged, pre-shredded cheeses. They are usually coated with a powder to keep them from clumping together, and thus won’t melt properly.
- Butter. A light swipe of softened butter (or a buttery spread) is necessary to make sure your grilled cheese crisps nicely and doesn’t taste dry.
- Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sauce. While optional, I adore spreading the inside of my grilled cheese sandwiches with a combo of Greek yogurt and Dijon mustard. It makes the sandwich taste extra lush.
- Butter the Bread. Prepare the yogurt Dijon spread (or use mayo).
- Add the Cheese. Shred it for the best melting.
- Add toothpicks. Pierce two opposite corners of the sandwich. Toothpicks keep grilled cheese from falling apart in the air fryer.
- Air Fry. Air fry the grilled cheese at 360 degrees F for 4 to 6 minutes in the air fryer basket.
- Flip. Cook for 3 to 4 more minutes until golden brown. Slice and DIG IN!
- Air Fryer Grilled Cheese with Bacon. Add a few slices of crisp, cooked bacon (recommended: easy Oven Baked Bacon or Air Fryer Bacon). You’ll love this BLT Sandwich too.
- Air Fryer Grilled Cheese and Ham. Make your own spin on croque monsieur by layering on thinly sliced ham (extra delicious served with a fried egg on top!).
- Air Fryer Grilled Cheese and Tomato. Thinly slice tomatoes, or use these Roasted Tomatoes, then lay them on a paper towel and pat dry (this will keep the grilled cheese from becoming watery). Add to the grilled cheese and air fry as directed.
- Pesto Air Fryer Grilled Cheese. Instead of the grilled cheese “sauce”, spread the insides of your bread with Basil Pesto. Use any combination of fontina, provolone, or gouda.
- Buffalo Air Fryer Grilled Cheese. Add a delicious kick to your grilled cheese by drizzling Buffalo sauce over the cheese before cooking. You could sneak in a few blue cheese crumbles too. (Add shredded chicken for a Buffalo chicken grilled cheese.)
- Vegan Air Fryer Grilled Cheese. I haven’t tested this method myself, but I think you could experiment with it. Use the dairy-free cheeses of your choice, and choose a dairy-free butter. Note that dairy-free cheese may not melt as smoothly.
- To Store. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight storage container for up to 2 days.
- To Reheat. Grilled cheese is best enjoyed right away, but it can be re-toasted in the air fryer at 350 degrees F.
What to Serve With Air Fryer Grilled Cheese
- Fries. Sweet Potato Fries and Homemade Fries would both be delicious with this grilled cheese.
- Salad. For a light, refreshing side, try Creamy Cucumber Salad, Arugula Salad, or Healthy Coleslaw.
- Soup. Enjoy the ultimate comfort food combo, and serve Instant Pot Tomato Soup with grilled cheese. Tomato Bisque is another wonderful option.
- Pickles. Whether you add some Refrigerator Pickles to your sandwich or add a side dish of Air Fryer Pickles, this is a winning combo!
- Chips. You can’t beat a toasted cheese sandwich and chips! Try these Air Fryer Potato Chips or Brussels Sprouts Chips.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Air Fryer. I made this as an air fryer grilled cheese Ninja, which is the air fryer I own and love! It’s ideal for this recipe and these Air Fryer Pork Chops.
- Mixing Bowls. This set is a perfect addition to any kitchen.
- Non-Slip Cutting Board. This cutting board won’t slip away from you while you’re chopping.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- No Pre-Shredded Cheese! I can’t overstate the importance of shredding your own cheese. The pre-shredded kind is convenient, but it won’t melt as nicely. Freshly grated cheese typically has a richer flavor too.
- Keep Watch. Every air fryer cooks food a little differently, so it’s important to keep an eye on your sandwich while it cooks. Be sure to check your grilled cheese often to gauge its progress so that it doesn’t burn.
- Use Toothpicks. To keep your grilled cheese sandwich from falling apart, secure it with toothpicks. It is safe to put a toothpick in the air fryer at 360 degrees F (our air fryer grilled cheese temperature). This trick is especially important if you are using thinner, softer bread, which is more prone to falling apart.
Air Fryer Grilled Cheese
FOR THE SANDWICH:
- 2 teaspoons unsalted butter softened (or butter spread)
- 2 slices good quality whole grain bread
- 1 ounce shredded sharp cheddar cheese about 1 heaping tablespoon or 1 deli slice
- 1 ounce shredded gruyere fontina, gouda or similar melty, nutty white cheese (about 1 heaping tablespoon) or 1 deli slice
- Preheat the air fryer to 360°F.
- In a small bowl, stir together the spread ingredients: Greek yogurt, Dijon, and salt. Spread a thin layer over one side of each of the two pieces of bread.
- Place the bread on a plate, and butter the opposite side of each slice, making sure the butter reaches all the way to the edges.
- Assemble the sandwiches: Place the cheeses in an even layer on top of the Dijon side of the bread slice (it will look like a lot of cheese, but go with it). Place the second slice of the bread on top of the cheese, Dijon-side down. If you are using cheese slices (vs. shredded cheese) and any of the cheese pokes out around the outsides of the bread, trim the extra cheese away (to avoid waste, stack the trimmings in the center of the sandwich).
- Secure the sandwich by sticking a toothpick into two of the opposite corners of the bread.
- Slide out the basket and place it on a steady, heat-proof surface. Carefully lower the sandwich into it, then slide the basket back into the air fryer.
- Place in the air fryer and cook on the first side for 4 to 6 minutes, until toasted and deep golden on top (the amount of time you need will vary based on your air fryer model).
- Slide out the basket and place it on a steady surface once more. Remove the toothpicks and with a spatula or tongs, carefully flip the sandwich over. Return the basket to the air fryer and continue cooking for 3 to 4 additional minutes, until the bread is toasted and the cheese is hot and melted.
- Transfer to a plate or cutting board. Let cool a few minutes, then slice and enjoy.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight storage container for up to 2 days.
- TO REHEAT: Grilled cheese is best enjoyed right away, but it can be re-toasted in the air fryer at 350 degrees F.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! Spreading the outside of grilled cheese with mayo is an old-fashioned trick. Many swear it does a better job of toasting. To give it a try, combine 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise with 1 tablespoon of unsoftened butter. Spread it on the outside of the bread.
Like all seemingly simple recipes, you need to pay careful attention to the ingredients in your grilled cheese. Since there are few, each has a big impact on results. The best types of cheeses for grilled cheese melt easily and have a substantial flavor of their own.
– Sharp cheddar, gruyere, swiss, gouda, mozzarella, and fontina are all excellent choices for grilled cheese.
– Avoid pre-shredded cheeses, which do not melt well, or hard, aged cheeses that don’t melt as easily (such as Parmesan), unless you are combining an aged with a different, melty cheese.
– Create a combo. For a unique twist, try a combination of two or more cheeses. My favorite is to use a nutty cheese like gruyere and a classic sharp cheddar.
That’s up to you! We find enjoyment and purpose in both preparations. I recommend giving both a try (in the name of science, of course) and seeing which you prefer.
If your cheese isn’t melting properly, your sandwich likely needs to be cooked longer. Make sure the bread isn’t burning first, then add a couple of extra minutes to the cook time. Pre-shredded cheeses can also take longer to melt and often do not melt completely.