A Patty Melt is the perfect cross between a hamburger and a grilled cheese sandwich! Add caramelized onions and a special sauce, and this retro classic becomes a delicious, flavorful meal that you can easily prepare at home. The griddled sandwich with gooey melted cheese and a burger patty makes everyone at the table smile!
Patty Melt Recipe
A homemade patty melt makes you feel like you're indulging at the local drive-in or diner -- from the comfort of your own kitchen! This classic recipe is made with a ground beef patty, melted cheese, and caramelized onions, which are sandwiched between two pieces of griddled bread. It is unclear when the patty melt was invented, but records exist of them having been commercially served as early as the 1940s. With one bite, you'll soon understand why this sandwich has been well-loved for decades!
What's the Difference Between a Patty Melt and a Hamburger or Cheeseburger?
A patty melt sandwich is a variant of the classic American cheeseburger. While both of these dishes include ground beef patties and cheese, the hamburger or cheeseburger is served on a soft bun, while a patty melt is prepared with griddled sandwich bread. The main difference, however, is in the cooking process. The key to a patty melt is the way its gets crisped in a pan (like a grilled cheese), bringing together all of the flavors in one warm, gooey, melty bite.
Ingredients -- What's on a Patty Melt Sandwich
- The Patty: made with a simple blend of ground beef, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper
- Caramelized Onions: sweet, tender, and buttery flavor. I like sweet onions, but yellow onions are also great.
- Patty Melt Sauce: a homemade Thousand Island or Russian dressing, this sauce recipe is a basic combination of ketchup, mayonnaise and pickle relish. It's the perfect sweet, creamy contrast to the savory meat and cheese. Add a little bit of horseradish if you prefer some more zip!
- Cheese: Swiss cheese is a traditional choice for a patty melt, but American cheese or cheddar cheese are also great options. I've used sharp cheddar here, but you can substitute with your family's favorite.
- Bread: a sturdy bread is key. I prefer rye bread, but sliced sourdough bread also works well.
How to Make a Patty Melt
Skip the fast-food diner and make a homemade patty melt instead! You can customize your sandwiches to suit your family's taste preferences, making everyone at the table happy.
- Caramelize onions in a skillet with a couple tablespoons butter. This will take about 25-30 minutes, so you can prep the rest of your ingredients while occasionally reaching over to give the onions a stir.
- Divide meat mixture into 4 equal portions. Shape into thin, oval ground beef patties.
- Cook each hamburger patty in a skillet for about 2 minutes per side, or until nicely browned.
- Stir together the mayonnaise, ketchup and relish to make the sauce.
- Assemble sandwiches with bread, sauce, cheese, patties and onions.
- Griddle the sandwiches in a skillet until the cheese melts and the bread is a deep golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side. If the sandwiches start to brown too quickly, reduce the heat to medium or medium-low heat.
Classic patty melts are typically served with either potato chips or French fries. Don't forget the fountain drink, sweet tea, or fresh-squeezed lemonade, too! It's dinnertime perfection! Here are some other easy sides that go well with the sandwiches:
- Baked Beans
- Three Bean Salad
- Broccoli Cauliflower Salad
- Wedge Salad with Buttermilk Ranch Dressing or Caesar Salad
- Baked Potato Wedges
- Potato Salad
- Macaroni Salad
- Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese or Baked Mac and Cheese
- Corn on the Cob
If you'd like to prep the ingredients in advance, you can caramelize the onions up to 2 days ahead of time. Store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use, then just microwave or warm in a skillet to heat through before assembling the sandwiches.
You can also shape the patties up to 1 day in advance and keep them loosely covered in the fridge until ready to cook in the skillet. If you'd like to cook the patties ahead of time, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Then reheat the patties on the stovetop or in the microwave so that they're warm before you assemble the sandwiches.
Finally, you can stir together the sauce a few days in advance, too. Prepping all of the ingredients ahead of time can help to make the patty melts a quick, last-minute weeknight dinner that you simply assemble and griddle!
- Use Swiss cheese, Colby cheese, American cheese or Pepper Jack cheese in lieu of the sharp cheddar.
- I use very large, rectangular slices of cheese that are about the same size as the bread. If you have smaller slices of cheese, you may need more than one slice per sandwich to cover your bread.
- For an extra-cheesy, melty, gooey sandwich, use two slices of cheese per sandwich -- one on the top and one on the bottom!
- Omit the sauce and use plain mayonnaise, just ketchup, mustard, honey mustard, or no sauce at all.
- Add sliced pickles or relish to your patty melt.
- I used rye bread here, but sourdough or Texas Toast are also classic choices.
Tips for the Best Patty Melt Recipe
- For quicker prep, start caramelizing your onions while you assemble the other ingredients for your sandwiches. You can occasionally reach over to stir the onions while you shape and cook the patties and stir together the sauce. Multi-tasking is key!
- Shape your patties into very thin, long ovals -- about 6 inches by 4 inches each. They will look very big, but they will shrink a bit when cooked. You want them thinner than a traditional hamburger to fit nicely in your sandwich.
- Spread extra butter (or even mayonnaise) on the outside of your bread slices for more flavor and an added crispy exterior.
- Use a sturdy bread that can stand up to a hearty grilled sandwich. Rye and sourdough are great options. I don't recommend a simple white sandwich bread in this case.
- Cook the patties and sandwiches in a cast iron skillet or on a larger cast iron griddle. These heavy skillets conduct heat really well and yield the crispiest bread and the best sear on your meat.
More Delicious Sandwich Recipes to Try
- Classic Tuna Melt
- Homemade Sloppy Joes
- Crispy Fried Fish Sandwiches
- Tomato Sandwich
- French Dip Sandwiches
Classic Patty Melt
- 6 tablespoons salted butter, divided
- 2 onions, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 ½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
- 8 slices rye bread (or sub with sourdough)
- 4 large slices sharp cheddar cheese (or sub with Swiss cheese)
- In a medium skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- While the onions are cooking in the skillet, prepare the rest of the sandwich ingredients.
- In a large bowl, combine ground beef, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Shape mixture into 4 long, thin, oval patties (about 6-inches by 4-inches each).
- Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large cast iron skillet (or other heavy skillet) over medium-high heat. Cook 2 patties until well browned on both sides and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Set aside on a plate. Repeat with another tablespoon of butter and the remaining 2 patties. Remove from heat. Transfer patties to plate. Wipe skillet clean.
- While the patties and the onions are cooking, prepare the sauce. In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, ketchup and relish. Set aside.
- Layer one slice of bread with 1 tablespoon of sauce, a slice of cheese, a beef patty, a couple tablespoons of caramelized onions, and another tablespoon of sauce. Top with another slice of bread. Repeat with remaining bread, sauce, cheese, patties and onions to create a total of 4 sandwiches.
- Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the large skillet over medium heat. Cook 2 sandwiches until golden brown and cheese is melted, about 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and keep warm in a 200 degree F oven. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in the skillet and repeat with remaining two sandwiches. Serve.