These Air Fryer Meatball Subs are a great kid-friendly dinner on a busy weeknight! Frozen meatballs make this a quick meal easy enough for beginners.
Easy Meatball Subs
Meatball sub sandwiches are SO satisfying. Meaty, saucy, cheesy, all in a toasty, warm bun…It’s comfort food in a sandwich! It’s a kid-friendly meal that comes together in just 20 minutes with the help of frozen meatballs. If you’re looking to make yours from scratch, here’s a great Classic Meatball recipe you’ll love!
Air Fryer Meatball Sub Ingredients
Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll need to have for this recipe. For exact measurements, keep scrolling down to the printable recipe card below.
- Frozen Meatballs – I used the 1-ounce meatball size, but I’m including cooking times for the smaller, 1/2-ounce meatball size as well. You can make meatballs from scratch if you prefer (we LOVE these), and they’ll cook faster than the frozen ones.
- Hoagie Sub Buns – Pick a sub that will stay together and will fit the size of meatballs you chose. Hot dog buns, brioche rolls, butter buns, gluten-free or low-carb hoagies… Any of your favorites will work as long as they’re sturdy.
- Mozzarella Cheese Slices & Grated Parmesan Cheese – Freshly grated parmesan melts nicely and would work great, but I used the dried grated parmesan for convenience and the crust edges it would provide. You can replace the mozzarella slices with shredded if you prefer, but sometimes it has a habit of flying off in the air fryer.
- Marinara Sauce – Feel free to use homemade or store-bought. A low-carb marinara like Rao’s can reduce your carbs.
- Fresh Basil – These add great fresh flavor and complement the flavors in both the sauce and meatballs. I highly recommend not skipping this if possible!
You’ll need an air fryer for this recipe. You might find these trays help reduce mess in the final step (when we’re melting the cheese), but make sure to leave it out when cooking the meatballs… They need the air circulation.
How to Make Meatball Subs in the Air Fryer
This easy recipe comes together in no time! Here’s a step-by-step guide for these delicious sub sandwiches.
First, preheat the air fryer to 375 degrees for 3 minutes. Pour in the meatballs, keeping them in a single layer and making sure to leave space for air to circulate. Cook for 12-15 minutes, shaking the basket every 5 minutes our so for even cooking.
Don’t overcrowd the basket! The air circulation part is the key in an air fryer, so cook in batches if you can’t fit them all in one layer. Otherwise your meatballs will take longer, have uneven cooking, and they won’t crisp up.
Broil (or air fry) cheesy buns
While the meatballs are cooking, open up the buns to expose the inside. Sprinkle parmesan on the “inside” of the bun, making sure to cover both the top and bottom buns. Once the meatballs are finished cooking, remove them from the air fryer.
Carefully plate the parmesan-covered buns into the air fryer and allow it to broil at 375 degrees F for 1-3 minutes or until golden brown. Work in batches if you can’t fit them all in the air fryer at once. If your air fryer doesn’t have a broil function, you can simply air fry it–This just might blow around a bit more cheese. Remove from oven and place on a plate.
Technically, this step is optional. You could skip the parmesan (or not) and just use the cold bun. It’ll still be delicious, but your sandwich is more likely to fall apart. The broiled cheese creates a barrier between the bun and sauce that prevents it from becoming too soggy. I don’t recommend skipping this step, but you can if you’re in a rush!
Now that the buns are toasted, brush the bottom pieces with marinara sauce. Cover with basil leaves, then top with cooked meatballs. Divide the remaining marinara sauce between the sandwiches, spooning it on top of the meatballs. Finally, top with mozzarella cheese slices.
Air fry sandwiches
Place meatball sandwiches in the air fryer (gently) in a single layer, cooking for 1-3 minutes. Once the marinara is warm and the cheese is melty, remove from air fryer and serve immediately.
What to serve with meatball sub sandwiches
We love adding a little garnish of chopped fresh herbs (basil, parsley, thyme, oregano, etc.) and additional parmesan. For marinara lovers, provide a bit extra on the side! Start with an Air Fryer Ravioli appetizer, add some Zucchini Fries and Jalapeno Ranch, then wash it all down with a Rosemary Gin Fizz.
More sides that go with meatball subs:
- Potato Wedges
- Grilled Zucchini Mozzarella Wraps
- Smashed Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Aioli
- Cheesy Roasted Asparagus
The longer the sauce is on the bun, the soggier it’s going to get. It’s best to store the buns in a plastic bag while storing the meatballs, sauce, and cheese in the fridge in airtight containers up to 4 days. When ready to eat, just assemble and reheat.
Can you freeze meatball subs?
No, meatball subs don’t freeze well because the sauce makes the bun too soggy and the melted cheese changes texture. Instead, you can freeze components separately (or freeze the meatballs in sauce if you’d like).
It’s best to assemble and heat sandwiches fresh. Heat the meatballs in the air fryer (375 for 4-5 minutes) or microwave (30-60 seconds). Assemble sandwiches and air fry 1-3 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.
If you like this air fryer lunch, you’ll love these easy recipes:
- Air Fryer Hot Dogs and Hamburgers – Don’t stress if your planned cookout gets called out for rain! Easily cook super juicy hot dogs and burgers inside in the air fryer!
- Fish & Chips or Fish Tacos – Frozen fish filets make these quick meals easy. They taste better than fast food, and there’s not anywhere near as much oil involved!
- Air Fryer Nachos or Keto Nachos – Have any leftover shredded chicken, ground beef, or sautéed mushrooms? Make tasty nachos in 10 minutes!
- Cajun Chicken Thighs or Air Fryer Salmon – These impressive, delicious main courses are ready super quickly and barely require any work at all.
- 1 26-ounce bag frozen meatballs (1-ounce meatball size)
- 6 hoagie subs (gluten-free or low-carb bread works fine)
- 6 slices mozzarella cheese
- 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup marinara sauce (+ more for dipping or if you like it extra saucy)
- 1-2 handfuls basil leaves
- Preheat the air fryer to 375 degrees for 3 minutes.
- Pour in the meatballs, keeping them in a single layer and allowing as much room as possible for air to circulate (cook in batches if necessary). Cook for 12-15 minutes, shaking the basket every 3-5 minutes for even cooking.
- Open up hoagie buns. Sprinkle parmesan on the inside of the top and bottom.
- Once meatballs are finished cooking, remove and set aside on a plate. Carefully place the parmesan-covered buns into the air fryer and allow it to cook at 375 degrees F for 1-3 minutes or until golden brown. This creates a nice barrier, preventing the sauce from making the buns soggy later.
- Place toasted buns on a plate, brushing the bottom pieces with marinara sauce. Cover with basil leaves, then top with meatballs. Spoon additional marinara sauce over the meatballs, top with cheese.
- Return assembled sandwiches to the air fryer, toasting on 375 degrees for another 1-3 minutes or until cheese has melted. Serve immediately.
I used 1-ounce frozen meatballs. If you use smaller, 1/2-ounce meatballs, only cook for 10-12 minutes in Step #2.
Serving Size:1 sandwich
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 668Total Fat: 39.7gCholesterol: 101.2mgSodium: 1546mgCarbohydrates: 49.1gFiber: 6.8gSugar: 10gProtein: 26.8g