Classic Patty Melt Recipe

What is a patty melt — is it a burger, or a sandwich? To tell the truth, it's really a bit of both. Recipe developer Christina Musgrave describes the patty melt as "a sandwich similar to a cheeseburger," but it does look a bit different from the standard burger in that rye bread takes the place of a bun. There's also a specific set of toppings typically used in a patty melt: The cheese is usually Swiss and sautéed onions may be considered de rigueur. While actually caramelizing onions is a very long, slow process that may take an hour or more of constant stirring over low heat, Musgrave uses a shortcut that gives her onions a caramelized-type flavor in only half the time: She adds brown sugar, explaining that this ingredient "adds sweetness to the onions in this sandwich."

One thing you'll appreciate about the patty melt if you're not a fan of washing the dishes (is anyone?), is that, as Musgrave points out, "The whole sandwich comes together in one skillet." First you use the frying pan to cook the onions, then the burgers, then you toast the bread and melt the cheese right there in the same pan. Pretty convenient, and the sandwich is awfully tasty, too.

Gather the ingredients for this classic patty melt

To make a patty melt, you'll need burger meat, of course, plus Swiss cheese, rye bread, and onions. You'll also need salt and pepper, butter for cooking the onions and bread, and brown sugar to sweeten up the onions. Musgrave says of the onions, "The flavor really comes through in the sandwich" and she feels the sugar helps them contrast nicely with the meaty burger.

Sauté the onions

You'll need to start things off by peeling and slicing the onion. Then, melt a tablespoon of the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions to the melted butter and cook them for 15-20 minutes, until they are soft and brown, but not too brown (turn down the heat if they start to burn). Stir the sugar into the onions and cook them for another 5 minutes, then remove them from the pan.

Cook the burgers

Form the ground beef into 2 patties and season them with salt and pepper. Cook the burgers over medium heat for 4 minutes, then turn them over and cook them for another 4 minutes. You may wish to adjust the time up or down a minute or so, depending on how well-done you like your burgers. Once they are cooked to your satisfaction, remove them from the pan.

Construct the patty melts

Melt the remaining butter in the pan, then add 2 slices of bread. Cover each slice of bread with a slice of Swiss cheese and a burger patty, then add half the onions to each burger. Finish the sandwiches off with another slice of cheese and the remaining bread. Check the bottom slice of bread on each sandwich — if it looks toasted, flip the sandwich over and cook it until the other bread slice is toasted and the cheese is melted. Cut the sandwiches in half to make for less messy eating.

Musgrave feels that "French fries and potato chips are great sides for a patty melt," as indeed they are with any burger. (Or sandwich.) As the patty melt is a retro diner classic, you could also go the full-on nostalgia route with a malted milk to drink and Jell-O or rice pudding for dessert.

Classic Patty Melt Recipe
4.9 from 24 ratings
When you're craving a burger, but also a grilled sandwich, it's time to make this classic patty melt recipe that delivers the best flavor from both camps.
Prep Time
Cook Time
patty melt with towel onion
Total time: 30 minutes
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 8 ounces ground beef
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 slices rye bread
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large frying pan over medium heat.
  2. Cook the onions in the butter for 15-20 minutes until they are brown and wilted.
  3. Add the sugar to the onions, and cook them for another 5 minutes.
  4. Take the onions out of the pan and save them for later.
  5. Form the ground beef into 2 patties.
  6. Season the burgers with salt and pepper.
  7. Cook the burgers for 4 minutes over medium heat, then flip and cook for 4 more minutes.
  8. Remove the burgers from the frying pan.
  9. Melt the remaining butter in the pan.
  10. Put 2 slices of bread in the pan.
  11. Top each slice of bread with a slice of cheese and then a burger patty.
  12. Top each burger with half of the onions, another slice of cheese, and another slice of bread.
  13. Cook the sandwiches, flipping one time, until the cheese is melted and the bread is toasted.
  14. Cut each sandwich in half and serve.
Calories per Serving 734
Total Fat 50.3 g
Saturated Fat 26.0 g
Trans Fat 1.8 g
Cholesterol 162.6 mg
Total Carbohydrates 33.6 g
Dietary Fiber 2.0 g
Total Sugars 21.5 g
Sodium 498.4 mg
Protein 36.6 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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