Air Fryer Grilled Cheese

Making a grilled cheese sandwich in the air fryer is easy and tastes delicious. The sandwiches turn out perfect every time with golden crispy bread outside and gooey melted cheese inside. Whether you’re using a drawer-style or toaster oven air fryer, we’ve got you covered!

Hands pulling apart a split grilled cheese sandwich.

If you’ve been cooking with us for a bit, then you already know that we’re big grilled cheese sandwich fans. From this scalable sheet pan recipe to a toasted Caprese and these make-ahead frozen grilled cheese sandwiches – we love them all.

Today we’re sharing how to make a grilled cheese sandwich using an air fryer. Because one can never have too many ways to make a toasty cheese sandwich!

Cutting board with a variety sliced, grated, and crumbled cheeses.

Which cheese is best for grilled cheese? 

Short answer = the cheese that you have available. But if you’ve got the ability to be choosy go with a melting cheese. Here are a few ideas:

  • Provolone 
  • Havarti 
  • Gruyere
  • Pepper Jack
  • Swiss 
  • American

Drier cheeses like extra-sharp cheddar, crumbled blue cheese, or grated parmesan pack lots of flavors but don’t melt as well. You can still use them though, just pair the drier cheese with a melting cheese. 

One of our favorite combos is a filling of Havarti, crumbled blue cheese, and sliced green onions. Once cooked, serve with Buffalo sauce for dipping – it’s so good! 

Jar of mayonnaise and plate with stick of butter and a small knife.

Is Mayo or Butter better?

Spreading the outside of the bread with either will usually result in nicely toasted bread but there are a few differences between the two.

Butter

  • Gives the sandwich a classic rich buttery flavor. 
  • Needs to soften to room temperature before spreading or it can tear the bread. 
  • A little greasy. 

Mayonnaise

  • Spreadable cold straight from the jar.
  • Not very flavorful. There’s a subtle tanginess but that’s about it. 
  • Toasts and browns evenly. 

Want the best flavor and browning? Trying mixing butter and mayo together! We usually do a 50/50 blend of the two. 

Dining table with plate of stacked grilled cheese sandwiches.

Does the type of bread matter?

To answer this question we made a bunch of sandwiches using a variety of bread. From thick brioche to thin whole wheat slices, only one type of bread gave us any trouble…Sourdough. 

The buttered sourdough bread only lightly browned. While the slices spread with mayo did a bit better. Even though they didn’t have much color, both sandwiches were still crispy and delicious. 

Two lightly golden sourdough sandwiches labeled on a cutting board.

Since all bread is different and our sourdough was previously frozen, you might not run into this issue. 

But if it’s been 8 to 10 minutes and your sandwich still isn’t browned you probably want to stop cooking it. Otherwise, you could end up with a crouton.

Step-By-Step Instructions 

1. Preheat the air fryer to 350°F.  If the air fryer does not have a preheat setting, heat it at 350°F for 4 to 5 minutes on the Air Fry setting while you make the sandwich.

Cutting board with jar of mayo and sliced bread topped with cheese.

2. Spread butter or mayonnaise on one side of each slice of bread. Wherever you put the butter or mayo is where the bread is going to crisp and brown. I try to avoid the edges of the bread as they tend to get really crunchy otherwise. 

Flip one piece of bread over and layer on the cheese. It’s okay if some of the cheese is poking out but you want to have most of it sandwiched inside of the bread. Top with the remaining bread slice, with the mayo/buttered side facing out. 

Assembled sandwiched in drawer of a heated air fryer.

3. Place the sandwich in the air fryer basket. *In a drawer-style air fryer where the basket heats along with the machine, it will be warm so watch your hands. 

Air Fry the sandwich until the top is golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Quick Note: If the filling is not in an even layer (like with shredded cheese) or if the bread is lightweight, the fast-moving convection air may cause the top bread slice to float/slide off of the sandwich.

Sandwich in air fryer with bread sliding and with a round metal trivet on top of the sandwich.

How Do I Stop The Bread From Moving Around?

Secure the bread with toothpicks or place a metal rack on top of the sandwich (we use the trivet from our 3-Quart Instant Pot). You can remove the rack or toothpicks before flipping the sandwich – the melted cheese will keep the bread in place.

Hand lifting toasted sandwich with a large spatula.

Once the first side is browned, carefully flip the sandwich and continue cooking until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown, about 2 to 5 minutes more. 

Let the sandwich cool for a few minutes (so you don’t burn your tongue on the molten hot cheese). Then dig in!

Grilled cheese on a plate, split with cheese melting from the center.

Air Fryer Toaster Oven Tips 

The Second Side May Cook Faster. For most of our tests, the sandwiches only took 2 minutes more to toast and brown after we flipped them. 

Use a Pan To Catch Drips. Cleaning baked-on cheese off the bottom of a toaster oven is no fun. To avoid that scenario, put a pan underneath the basket.

Make Sure There’s Enough Room. If your sandwich is close to the upper heating elements it can be a fire hazard. You can try moving the basket down or just skip the air frying and bake your sandwich on a pan using this toaster oven grilled cheese recipe

Cheesy sandwich in a metal basket inside of an air fryer toaster oven.

Flavor Variations 

The recipe we’re sharing below is for a basic grilled cheese sandwich. Feel free to get creative with the fillings, here are a few quick ideas for changing things up: 

  • Seasonings – Mix garlic powder and Italian seasoning with the mayo/butter.
  • Apple – Thinly sliced and layered with cheddar, Havarti, or really any type of cheese.  
  • Jam – Apricot or raspberry tastes great with pepper jack cheese. Fig jam or balsamic roasted cranberries pair nicely with Brie cheese. 
  • Pesto – Fantastic with provolone or mozzarella. Especially when you dip the sandwich in marinara sauce!
  • The Tim Special – Sharp cheddar cheese with yellow mustard and dill pickle slices. 
Stacked sandwich slices with pesto and melted cheese oozing out.

More Tasty Air Fryer Recipes 

Hands separating two slices of an air fryer grilled cheese sandwich.

Air Fryer Grilled Cheese

Yield: 1 Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Total Time: 13 minutes

Make a crispy gooey grilled cheese sandwich fast using an Air Fryer or the Air Fry setting on your toaster oven. Feel free to get creative with the fillings!

Ingredients

  • 2 Bread Slices
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons Mayonnaise, Softened Butter, or a mix of the two
  • 2 to 3 Cheese Slices (we used a combo of cheddar and Havarti)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the air fryer to 350°F.
  2. Spread a thin layer of butter or mayonnaise on one side of each slice of bread.
  3. Flip one piece of bread over and layer on the cheese. Top with the remaining bread slice (mayo or buttered side facing out).
  4. Carefully place the sandwich in the air fryer basket.
  5. Air Fry for 4 to 5 minutes, then carefully flip the sandwich. Continue cooking until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown, about 2 to 5 minutes more.
  6. Let the sandwich cool for a few minutes, then enjoy warm.

Notes

Air Fryer Toaster Oven Instructions: Keep the temperature the same and use the AIR FRY setting. Most of our sandwiches were ready after 7 minutes (5 minutes on the first side, flipped, then 2 minutes more). For the best results, check on your sandwich early and add more time as needed. 

Preheating: If the air fryer does not have a preheat setting, heat at 350°F for 4 to 5 minutes. 

Bread Moving Around? Try securing the bread with toothpicks or placing a metal rack on top of the sandwich until the cheese melts. Remove the rack or toothpicks before flipping the sandwich. 

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1 Sandwich
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 447Total Fat: 26.4gSaturated Fat: 12.9gCholesterol: 57mgSodium: 680mgCarbohydrates: 38.6gFiber: 9.6gSugar: 6.4gProtein: 21.7g

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