The best vegan grilled cheese sandwich has a gooey, melted cheese filling on buttery bread with a golden exterior and epic crunch. Made in the air fryer (or stove top), this dairy-free version of a childhood classic is incredible served with a bowl of vegan tomato soup for lunch or dinner.
Grilled cheese sandwiches are a beloved classic, but since they're made with dairy cheese and butter, they are typically a no-go for vegans. Luckily, there are plenty of delicious, melty, dairy-free cheese options available these days. So it's easier than ever to create a vegan version of this beloved comfort food.
In this post, I'll walk you through how to make the ultimate vegan grilled cheese sandwich that's sure to satisfy all your cravings. Let's get into the details . . .
Ingredients for Vegan Grilled Cheese
Grilled cheese is simple and quick to make with only a handful of ingredients. Here's what you need:
For the grilled cheese, gather together: vegan cheeses (that taste good and melt), sandwich bread ½" thick slices, Vegenaise (vegan mayo), vegan butter, and garlic powder.
For the spicy ketchup, you'll need: ketchup, BBQ sauce, and sriracha sauce.
Ingredient Substitutions & Variations
- Dairy-free cheese: Experiment with a variety of vegan cheese brands like Violife, Follow Your Heart slices or shreds, any Miyoko's cheese, Chao, and Kite Hill to see which cheeses work best for you. I used Violife cheddar slices for this post to get that signature, oozing, melty cheese magic.
- Bread: Choose any bread from classic white sandwich bread, sourdough sandwich bread (my favorite), whole wheat, multigrain, French bread, baguettes or gluten-free bread. Tip: Great way to use up day old bread too!
- Optional fillings: There's a food truck in my city that makes gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches! Here's just a few fillings they include: jalapeno peppers, caramelized onions and mushrooms, tomato slices, kimchi, plum jam, and sundried tomato pesto.
How to Make Grilled Cheese in an Air Fryer!
Using an air fryer produces a golden brown crust, perfectly melted cheese, and the epic crunch we all love. It's my all-time favorite way to make a fuss free grilled cheese! Let's get started:
- Assemble the sandwich: Mix the soft, vegan butter/margarine together with the vegenaise. Spread it over the whole surface of one side of each slice of bread. Sprinkle a pinch of garlic over top.
- Add vegan cheese slices: Place butter side down on a slice of parchment paper. Add the cheese (slices or grated) on top. Top with the other slice of bread (butter side up).
- Time to cook: Place the sandwich including the parchment paper into the basket of the preheated air fryer. Cook for a total of 8 minutes* - carefully flip at the 4 minute mark.
- Ready to enjoy!: Slice diagonally and serve with spicy ketchup, fried pickles or tomato soup!
Here's a few secrets for making the perfect dairy-free grilled cheese sandwich at home:
- Melting Vegan Cheese: Vegan cheese can be tricky - some don't melt as easily as dairy cheese. Here's two tips to help. For the stove top method: If the cheese isn't melting, add a lid to trap the heat in the skillet (a few minutes should do it). Remove the lid for the last couple of minutes to ensure a crispy exterior. For both methods: It's okay to pop the sandwich into the microwave for 10-15 seconds to give the cheese a helping hand.
- Million Dollar Flavor Tip: Although dairy-free cheese has come a long way, some can use a boost of flavor. To add extra flavor and create a crunchy golden exterior, I use Vegenaise (and garlic powder) to get the job done.
- Flipping Tip: Use a spatula and oven mitt to flip the sandwich in the air fryer.
- Air Fryers: Each air fryer brand will produce slightly different results so be sure to adjust the time/temp at the 4 minute mark as needed. The sandwich should be golden before flipping (see photo).
- Air Fryer v. Pan Fry: If you don't have an air fryer, the classic stove top method works like a dream (see photo above). The only reason I prefer the air fryer method is it's less hands on time for me. Full stove top cooking method in recipe card below.
Ways to Serve Vegan Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
- with soup!: The perfect pairing with creamy vegan tomato soup.
- side dishes: Fried Pickles, vegan coleslaw, and spicy ketchup for dipping.
- diner style: Serve with an order of French fries, onion rings or sweet potato fries.
More Vegan Lunch Ideas
If you're stuck for healthy lunch ideas, here's a few of our favorite healthy lunches:
- Chickpea Egg Salad Sandwich
- Vegan Tofu Scramble
- Salad in a Jar
- California Veggie Sandwich
- Collard Wraps with spicy peanut dipping sauce
Did you make this vegan grilled cheese recipe? I'd love to see it!
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Easy Vegan Grilled Cheese (2 ways!)
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- air fryer
- 1 cup vegan cheese, grated (or 4-5 slices)
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 4 slices bread
- 2 tablespoons vegan butter/margarine
- 2 tablespoons Vegenaise (vegan mayo)
Spicy Ketchup Recipe
- ½ cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoons sriracha sauce
- 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
Vegan Grilled Cheese (air fryer method)
- Preheat the air fryer to 390º F for 2 or 3 minutes.
- Stir the soft vegan butter and vegan mayonnaise together. Spread over the entire surface of all slices of bread. Add a sprinkle of garlic on top.
- Place the the bread (butter side down) on a piece of parchment paper, top with 2 cheese slices and the other slice of bread (butter side up). Move the whole thing including the parchment paper into the preheated air fryer. Cook for ~8 minutes* total. Stopping to flip the sandwich after 4 minutes.
- Remove from the air fryer when golden brown on both sides. Slice diagonally and serve with spicy ketchup.
Vegan Grilled Cheese (stove top method)
- Prepare the bread as above. Place one slice (butter side down) onto a warm non-stick pan over medium-low heat. Add the cheese and top with the other slice of bread (butter side up).
- Cook over medium-low until golden brown and the cheese is melted through (around 4 minutes on each side). Using a fork or spatula, periodically lift the edge of the bread to check the bottom color. Adjust the temperature as needed.
- Gently press down on the sandwich using a spatula or oven mitt before flipping to help the two pieces stick together.
- Pro Tip: If the cheese isn't melting through, add a lid to trap the heat for a few minutes or try the microwave tip above (vegan cheese is tricky). Remove the lid for the last couple of minutes to ensure a crispy exterior.
Spicy Ketchup Recipe
- Combine the ketchup, sriracha, and BBQ sauce in a small bowl and set aside.
- Refrigerate the sauce for up to 2 weeks.
- Cut the grilled cheese diagonally, in half or into strips and serve with spicy ketchup for dipping.
- Serve with a side of crispy fried pickles.
This recipe is from simplyceecee.co food blog. All images and content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images or republish this recipe without prior permission. Thank you.