Simple but flavorful and filling, loose meat sandwiches are a classic Midwestern staple.

Once you make them, they’ll be a favorite recipe at your house, too! Just a few ingredients turn ordinary ground beef into a tangy, savory, and oh-so-satisfying sandwich. Cook them in the air fryer and lunch is served in only minutes!

meat on a sesame seed bun with pickles

What is a Loose Meat Sandwich?

  • Loose meat sandwiches, AKA tavern sandwiches, or ‘working man sandwiches,’ are made with ground hamburger, onions, garlic, Worcestershire, and mustard, topped with dill pickles, and served between toasted bread or buns.
  • Similar to Sloppy Joe’s, loose meat sandwiches have no sauce added to them, but they are just as delicious!
  • The air fryer makes cooking ground beef so easy and clean! Loose meat sandwiches are basic Midwestern comfort food, and best served with a few ingredients and the air fryer makes them even easier!
  • Game day? We got you! Make a DIY burger bar and serve loose meat sandwiches with a selection of bread and toppings and watch them disappear!

a loose meat sandwich with pickles

Ingredients & Variations

BEEF MIXTURE: Just your basic ground beef, onion, garlic, and some savory seasonings are all you need. Add some ground Italian sausage, if desired.

TOPPINGS: Dill pickles give a tangy taste to the savory ground beef filling. Other toppings to offer are a swipe of sweet relish, sliced jalapenos, sliced American cheese, thick slices of yellow onion, or sliced tomatoes.

BREAD: Toasted sandwich bread, onion rolls, kaiser rolls, ciabatta buns, or even dinner rolls for sliders are perfect for soaking up the savory juices!

How to Make a Loose Meat Sandwich

Follow these simple steps and lunch will be ready in no time!

  1. Cook ground beef in an air fryer-safe dish, breaking up the meat as necessary (as per recipe below).
  2. Add remaining ingredients and cook until meat is no longer pink. Remove the meat and set aside.
  3. Toast the bread on both sides in the air fryer.
  4. Sandwich beef, pickles, and mustard between the two slices of bread or bun, and serve.

a loose meat sandwich on a plate

Tips for the Best Homemade Sandwich

  • Unlike most ground beef recipes, avoid the urge to drain the meat! That deliciously seasoned beef fat adds all that tender, juicy, flavor!
  • Once the bread is toasted, rub a clove of raw garlic over it for extra flavor.

Serve With…

a loose meat sandwich on a plate
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Air Fryer Loose Meat Sandwiches

Air Fryer loose meat sandwiches are simple to make and are a flavorful and easy weeknight dinner.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 6 Sandwiches



  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ½ yellow onion diced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup yellow mustard
  • cup Kosher dill pickles sliced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Bread or rolls - your choice!


  • Preheat the Air Fryer 375°F.
  • Add onion and ground beef to a glass dish that will fit in your Air Fryer. Put in the Air Fryer.
  • Cook for 5 minutes and then carefully pull out the rack and use a spatula to break up the ground beef. Add garlic, Worcestershire, and mustard. Stir until combined, and cook for another 5 minutes or until the meat is no longer pink. Remove and set aside.
  • Add two pieces of toast to the Air Fryer and toast for 3 minutes - flip halfway through.
  • Pile meat onto the roll or bread, top with pickles, and cover. Repeat until you have four sandwiches.
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Nutrition Information

Calories: 214kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 54mg | Sodium: 211mg | Potassium: 271mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.

Course Sandwiches
Cuisine American

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About the author

Holly is a mom of 4 with a love for all things air fryer! Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making recipes for the everyday home cook!
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