If a good grilled cheese is a work of art (and trust me friends, it is), then Air Fryer Grilled Cheese is a masterpiece!
The bread must be golden and deeply toasted, but not burned. Sturdy enough to hold up to the cheesy interior but still soft enough to sink your teeth into with delight.
The cheese must be properly melted. It sounds obvious, but if you’ve ever experienced a grilled cheese that’s charred outside with bits of solid, room temperature cheese inside, you know it’s more nuanced than it seems.
It should be buttery but not greasy, ooey-gooey but not soggy.
In short, a grilled cheese should be perfect.
While you can achieve grilled cheese excellence on the stovetop (I share the secrets in my cookbook—also available for order here—which has three creative, delightful Grown-Up Grilled Cheeses), using an air fryer (this is the model I purchased and recommend) to make grilled cheese streamlines the process and is much more handsfree.
An air fryer is essentially a stovetop convection oven.
The air fryer is also phenomenal for toasting sandwiches, like grilled cheese (and even these Air Fryer Hamburgers).
Below, I’m giving you my go-to method to make grilled cheese in the air fryer.
I also have a key air fryer toasted sandwich tip to make sure your grilled cheese doesn’t fall apart in the air fryer.
How to Make Grilled Cheese in an Air Fryer
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.
Every air fryer is cooks food a little differently. I tested air fryer grilled cheese in a Ninja air fryer oven.
Be sure to check your grilled cheese often to gauge its progress.
- Bread. Don’t skimp here. I like to use a good-quality sourdough or whole grain artisan-style bread. While you can make air fryer grilled cheese with standard sandwich bread, picking up a higher-end loaf is 100% worth it here.
- Cheese. 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.
The Best Cheese for Grilled Cheese
The best cheeses for grilled cheese melt easily and have a substantial flavor of their own.
- Sharp cheddar, gruyere, swiss, gouda, 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.
- 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.
- Prepare the yogurt Dijon spread (if using). Spread on one side of each piece of bread. Butter the opposite side of each slice of bread.
- Lay the cheeses on the Dijon side of a slice of bread, then add the other slice of bread on top (butter side up).
- Pierce two opposite corners of the sandwich with toothpicks.
- Cook the air fryer grilled cheese at 360 degrees F for 4 to 6 minutes.
- Flip the sandwich over, and cook for 3 to 4 more minutes. Slice and DIG IN!
To keep your grilled cheese sandwich from falling apart, secure it with toothpicks while toasting on the first side.
- It is safe to put a toothpick in the air fryer at lower temperatures, such as 360 degrees F, the best temperature for cooking air fryer grilled cheese.
- When you are ready to flip, simply remove the toothpicks, turn, and keep cooking.
This trick is especially important if you are using thinner, softer bread, which is more prone to falling apart.
Grilled Cheese Variations
You can toast a variety of sandwiches in the air fryer. Here are a few of my favorite ways to jazz up your grilled cheese.
- Air Fryer Grilled Cheese with Bacon. Add a few slices of crisp, cooked bacon (recommended: easy Oven Baked Bacon or Air Fryer Bacon).
- 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 pesto (my favorite is the Creamy Basil Pesto in my cookbook). Use any combination of fontina, provolone, or gouda.
- To Reheat. Grilled cheese is best enjoyed right away, but it can be re-toasted in the air fryer at 350 degrees F.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Air Fryer. 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.
Warm, toasty air fryer grilled cheese. Wouldn’t that just hit the spot?
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 degrees 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 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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