I pretty much always have an idea of what to make for lunch and dinner on any given day. All it takes is a glance at my fridge and the ingredients I have and I immediately feel inspired to create something. There's one exception though. One little guy I always forget about, which also happens to be one of the most fun, versatile and delicious things you can eat: the sandwich.
It's so strange that I often think about these bad boys last since I grew up on sandwiches. On our trips to the beach while I was growing up, my mom would pack tuna fish sandwiches, egg salad sandwiches (my personal favorite), ham and cheese, all pretty basic and standard. When it came to sandwiches though, my mother was not the queen.
She had a rival.
Her sandwich nemesis was her brother Aly, who in spite of his degree in film directing from Wesleyan, had all the jobs known to man as he started his life in New York City. He was a cabby, he played at CBGBs with his band, ended up as a journalist for Reuters and several New York newspapers, he became a writer, but for a while, he had the job I still consider my favorite of his to this day. He was a counter boy at the famous New York City sandwich shop E.A.T. Yes, he could make the meanest of mean sandwiches, and he was so quick you'd go from fridge staring to post eating belly rubbing in minutes, not knowing what just hit you.
Although he could make my mom's classics too, not to mention award winning goodies on a bagel, his sandwiches were savory pieces of gourmet goodness. The perfect balance of sweet, salty, tart, crunchy, crisp, soft, toasted, melted, exactly where you wanted it and how you wanted it. You've heard me talk about him many times before since he is partly responsible for my culinary knowledge, and this website is dedicated to him here, but today, I'm going to steal all his tricks, and teach them to you!
We're having a massive vegan sandwich party, a go-to guide to the perfect sandwich, from the bread to the fillings, the spreads and the sauces. You'll never see a sandwich the same way again! Are you ready?
The perfect architecture starts with the bread
Here's a little list of my favorites, and remember, the key in variety comes from not only switching up your breads according to the fillings and textures you want, but to also vary up how you put the bread on the sandwich. Crusts on or off, toasted or un-toasted, placed on a grill or warmed through. Don't be afraid to use a sweet bread with very savory fillings, or unusual breads for old time favorites. It's all about mixing things up:
- Good old sandwich bread
- Vegan brioche
- Vegan croissant
- Whole grain artisanal bread
- Gluten free bread
- Burger buns
- Corn tortillas
- Wheat or whole wheat tortillas
- English muffin
When it comes to spreads, finding balance in the tastes and textures between the spread and the fillings is key. Here are some of my favorite spreads, and I'll be giving you so many ideas with the sandwich combos I'm giving at the end of this post.
- Dairy-free pesto (like our oil free spinach basil pesto).
- Go crazy with the varieties! Make some lentil hummus, classic chickpea, beet hummus, sun-dried tomato hummus, red pepper hummus.
- Babaganoush (a Middle Eastern eggplant dip).
- Cashew cream cheese or store-bought vegan cream cheese.
- Add these additions to give it a twist depending on your fillings: cranberries, blueberries, chives, onion powder, roasted garlic, finely chopped pineapple, dill, fresh basil and chopped sun-dried tomato, chopped figs, sesame seeds and soy sauce, and many others.
- Mashed avocado.
- Olive tapenade.
- Our homemade mayonnaise, tartar sauce or garlic aioli which I teach you how to make here.
- Our creamy cashew sour cream.
- Your favorite bean dip.
- Sun-dried tomato spread.
- Peanut butter.
- Jams and jellies.
- Non-dairy butter.
- Vegan queso.
- Vegan nutella.
- Any leftover creamy dressing.
- Leftover gravy.
- Cranberry sauce.
Cheese is often times what people find hardest about going vegan. I can tell you that when I went vegan the vegan cheeses that were out there were terrible to say the least. Thank goodness that isn't the case anymore! There are so many great vegan cheeses out there these days, and so many recipes to make you're own that all it takes is a bit of experimenting until you find the ones you love. You can now find everything from vegan blue cheese, to cheddar, manchego, swiss, mozzarella, cream cheese, pepper jack, and countless others. Artisanal companies are even making cheeses like brie! Imagine where we'll be in the vegan cheese department 2, 3, 5 or 10 years from now. Yowza!
Just in case you're new to the world of vegan cheeses, here are some well-known brands that have made quite a buzz. Try different ones until you find the ones you like.:
- Follow your Heart.
- Miyoko's Creamery.
- Tofutti cream cheese and sour cream.
- Chao Cheese.
- Daiya Cheese.
- Dr. Cow cheese.
- Vegusto (award-winning and for good reason. Their piquant flavor is just like a Spanish manchego and out of this world!).
- Jeezo (their alpine and swiss are my favorites).
- Tofutti cream cheese and sour cream.
- Violife (mozzarella and original are our favorites).
- Wilmersburger (pizza shreds and original).
- Mozzarella Risella (if you're looking for a fresh mozzarella, the kind you'd use in a caprese salad).
There are so many options when it comes to meaty fillings for sandwiches, from homemade goodies to store-bought deli slices. Here are some of our favorites:
- Making our yummy tempeh bacon for some delicious BLTs.
- Tofu bacon or grilled barbecue tofu.
- Braised or grilled seitan strips.
- Breaded seitan scaloppine.
- Our Asian seitan strips.
- Barbecue jackfruit.
- Vegan sausages, hotdogs or chorizo.
- Vegan deli slices.
- Vegan meats.
- Grilled portobello or shiitake mushrooms.
- Veggie burgers (whole or crumbled to make a filling, like our black bean portobello mushroom burgers or our tempeh tortilla burgers).
Lentil meatloaf slices,
- Vegan meatballs for a meatball sub.
- Our tempeh no chicken salad.
- Mashed chickpeas with some mayo, onion and celery for a no-tuna salad.
- Now you can even find vegan smoked no-salmon!
In case you're new to the world vegan meats, some of our favorite brands both in the US and in Europe are: Field Roast, Tofurky, Wheaty, Gardein, Vegusto, Vegin, Redwood, VeGourmet, Biogra and Taifun.
Pile on the veg
I always love some veggies in my sandwiches. They add variety, nutrition, a lovely fresh taste and often some crunch! Here are some of our favorites:
- Very thinly sliced tomatoes.
- Pickled or fresh red onions.
- Crispy fried onions
- Arugula, or your favorite greens.
- Fresh basil.
- Grilled onions and peppers.
- Alfalfa sprouts.
- Grated carrot.
- Grilled veggies like zucchini, eggplant and peppers.
- Grilled or sautéed mushrooms.
- Thinly sliced red cabbage.
- Fresh cilantro.
- Thinly sliced radishes.
- Some coleslaw (avoid adding too much of the dressing so the sandwich doesn't become mushy).
- Roasted red pepper strips.
- Smoky eggplant bacon!
Add a gourmet twist
Adding something unexpected, like a fancy ingredient or a sweet taste when you're expecting savory will make your sandwich stand out and it will add tons of variety:
- Some dried cranberries or raisins
- Thinly sliced figs drizzled with balsamic vinegar.
- A drizzle of truffle oil or another aromatic oil like rosemary or cayenne infused oil.
- Fried sweet plantains.
- Potato chips.
- A drizzle of a balsamic vinegar reduction.
- Pico de gallo salsa.
- Regular salsa.
- Roasted corn salsa.
- Asian sauces such as sriracha, sweet chili sauce or hosin.
- Crispy tempura (done with thin slices of veggies instead of pieces).
- Wasabi guacamole (like the one we made in this video!).
- Baked apples or pears, especially with something smoky like barbecue tempeh or tofu, or bbq pulled jackfruit.
- Crunchy kale chips.
- Hash browns (yes! In the sandwich!)
- Chopped grapes.
- Coconut bacon.
Yummy Vegan Sandwich Ideas
Just in case you found the lists above a bit overwhelming, here are some ideas for pairings that go really well together so that you can get started with making out-of-this-world sandwiches. You may have heard about some of these before in the blog and our podcast:
The Classic BLT
Tempeh bacon BLT's (you can find our recipe for the tempeh bacon here).
Baguettes or whole wheat artisanal bread with vegan cheese, thinly sliced tomato, fresh basil leaves, a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt and pepper.
The French Just Know
Baguettes with melted vegan cheese, tofurky slices or other vegan deli slices, some caramelized onions and grainy mustard. For this one you can also make your own no-honey mustard by combining your favorite dijon or spicy brown mustard with a little bit of agave.
This Ain't No Figgy Pudding
Cashew cream cheese mixed with chives, spread on focaccia or ciabatta, sliced figs on top, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar or a balsamic vinegar reduction.
The Great "Choripan!"
A classic at our house and the official sandwich for when we go to the lake in the summer. It simply consists of grilled vegan chorizo sausages (or any type of vegan sausage you like) in a baguette with a little bit of mustard, melted vegan cheese, thinly sliced tomato, fresh basil leaves, salt, pepper, and guacamole on the side for adding to the sandwich as you eat it.
BBQ seitan sandwich with some pickles, sauerkraut and dijon mustard. If you're a member of our online program you can find the recipe in our quick fix section!
Let us not forget about the classic hotdog y'all! We love ours with vegan sausages, relish, onion, sauerkraut, crispy fried onions, ketchup, mustard and our homemade mayonnaise.
The Mediterranean Feast
Grilled veggie sub: Your favorite grilled vegetables like zucchini, eggplant, red bell peppers, portobello mushrooms and onions, on focaccia or your favorite bread and some hummus or babaganoush (a Middle Eastern eggplant dip).
The Classic Meatball Sub
Melted vegan cheese, vegan meatballs and marinara sauce on your favorite bread.
The Grand Canyon
Barbecue pulled jackfruit, some pineapple salsa, and crispy onions on top.
Vegan cream cheese mixed with plumped up boozy dried cranberries. Let the dried cranberries hydrate in a bit of rum or bourbon, drain them and fold them into the cream cheese with some chives. Top with our tempeh bacon.
Barbecue tofu marinated with some jerk seasoning, your favorite barbecue sauce, a drizzle of oil, maple syrup and soy sauce, then grilled or baked, topped with fried sweet plantains and grilled onions and peppers, some arugula to top.
I could go on and on forever, but I'm going to let you go now so you go make yourself one of the greatest culinary masterpieces of our time, bread perfection with lots of goodness inside. What could be better than a sandwich?
Do you have a go-to sandwich you love? Let us know what it is in the comments below!