Portable, infinitely variable, and just so darn satisfying, the sandwich is, in my opinion, about as close as you'll get to a perfect food. All you need is bread (or some sort of bread equivalent) and a little creativity when it comes to fillings. We presume you're a practiced hand at the basics—your PB&J, your club, your unadorned grilled cheese—but perhaps you've got a special occasion, or special hunger, that requires something really outstanding. In our quest for a better sandwich, we've asked experts for tips and mastered the art of wrapping. With those guidelines at your disposal, you may not need an actual recipe. But if you'd like a straightforward path to success, or if you need some examples to get your imagination rolling, here are 25 sandwiches so beautiful, you'll just have to stop and admire them for a moment before devouring them—grilled cheese with kimchi or Buffalo chicken, vegan tortas, a party-sized chicken parm, and more.
Brussels Sprouts Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
This grilled cheese starts with tangy sharp cheddar, but its magic comes from the addition of caramelized onions and shredded Brussels sprouts. We cook the sprouts over high heat until they just begin to char, leaving them nice and sweet but with a bit of crunch. For the onions, you can use our handy 15-minute recipe for caramelized onions, or speed things up even more by using a moderately hot skillet—you don't need full caramelization here.
Grilled Cheese With Kimchi
Kimchi and cheese might sound like an unnatural combination, but it's actually fairly normal to see a slice of American in a bowl of kimchi jjigae, and it works: The funky, fermented, spicy kimchi cuts through the rich cheese wonderfully. Do be sure to drain the kimchi before chopping it and adding it to the sandwich—nobody wants a soggy grilled kimcheese.
Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwich
My favorite part of roasting a chicken isn't the tender meat or the crispy skin, but the leftovers, which can be put to use in all sorts of tasty ways. One of my standbys is this recipe, which stuffs shredded chicken into the sandwich along with classic Buffalo flavors. You can't beat the combination of spicy Frank's, creamy melted Monterey Jack, and blue cheese on buttery toasted bread.
Cemita Grilled Cheese Sandwich
To give your grilled cheese a little Pueblan flair, hybridize it with a Mexican cemita by adding Oaxacan cheese, creamy mashed avocado spiked with smoky chipotle, and—most importantly—papalo leaves. They can be tricky to find; your best bet is a well-stocked Mexican grocery. You can substitute cilantro, but it won't be quite the same.
Grilled Mozzarella Sandwiches With Mortadella, Pesto, and Artichokes
If you consider yourself a grilled cheese purist, this recipe might not be for you—but then again, seriously, why be a purist? Jamming a bunch of tasty things between melted cheese and bread is rarely a bad idea, and that's the idea behind this sandwich. It starts as a mozzarella grilled cheese, but tops the fresh mozz with some flavorful Italian standards: mortadella, marinated artichokes, pesto, and anchovies. Slice the bread thinly and toast it in olive oil on both sides for the best texture and flavor.
The Grilled Cheese Eggsplosion (Grilled Cheese With Fried Eggs Cooked Into the Bread)
This ultra-messy mashup is part grilled cheese and part egg-in-a-hole. Start by cutting holes in two slices of bread, placing them in a skillet, and cracking an egg into each. Once the eggs start to set, carefully flip the bread and add cheese slices to each half. By the time the bread is toasted brown, the cheese should be melted and the yolks runny enough to gush forth once you bite into the whole drippy wonder.
5-Ingredient Fried Chicken Sandwiches
There are a million ways to make fried chicken, and thus a million possible fried chicken sandwiches, but this version stands out for requiring only five ingredients: a jar of pickles, chicken thighs, buttermilk, self-rising flour, and buns. That's it! A coating of buttermilk and self-rising flour on the meat fries up nice and puffy, and the pickles do double duty—we brine the chicken in pickle juice and add sliced pickles to the finished sandwich.
The Best F&$king Grilled Chicken Sandwich Ever
Grilled chicken breast, despite its reputation as the most humdrum of all protein choices, is surprisingly tasty when done right. But if you want the ultimate in grilled chicken sandwiches, you've got to call in reinforcements. We punch up grilled chicken here with smoky bacon, creamy mayo, jalapeño-avocado sauce, crunchy potato chips, and refreshing lettuce and tomato, all stuffed into a bun.
Party-Sized Chicken Parmesan Sandwiches
The extra-crisp crust on our chicken Parmesan needs a hearty, crusty bread to accentuate it—which is why we use an entire loaf of sturdy ciabatta to turn a full recipe of chicken parm into a party-sized sub. We first toast the ciabatta to soften it, then spoon on some red sauce to soak into the bread, followed by the cutlets, more sauce, and grated mozzarella. The whole thing gets parked under the broiler just long enough for the cheese to start to bubble.
The Turkey Club Shawarma Sandwich With Pork Belly and Enhanced Mayo
The turkey club is a sandwich that somehow manages to be both iconic and underwhelming. All too often, the turkey is dry and bland, and the bacon is pathetically limp. Here, we reimagine the sandwich with tender shawarma made from turkey thighs and pork belly. Instead of bacon slices, we use homemade bacon fat–infused mayo to give the sandwich a rich, smoky flavor.
Easy Oven-Cooked Pulled Pork
You don't need a professional smokehouse to make a pulled pork sandwich—believe it or not, with homemade barbecue sauce and high-quality liquid smoke, you can make great pulled pork indoors. The pork is done as soon as it's tender enough to easily shred, which means it's ready to pile into a sandwich roll with barbecue sauce, tacos with salsa, or just your mouth, straight from the Dutch oven.
Chorizo-Spiced Pulled Pork With Mexican Street Corn Slaw
Pulled pork gets a Mexican twist in this recipe with typical chorizo flavorings, like paprika, ancho chili powder, cumin, Mexican oregano, cayenne, cinnamon, and cloves. Balance out all that spice with a refreshing elote-inspired coleslaw, adding corn and Cotija cheese to the usual cabbage-and-mayo base.
Grilled Pork Sandwiches With Grilled Plum Chutney and Cabbage Slaw
There are relatively few things that go into a sandwich that can't be improved by grilling, so, if you're taking the time to fire up that Weber, why not make the most of it? This beauty is built on grilled crusty rolls with grilled pork and a chutney made of grilled plums, grilled scallions, and grilled jalapeños. To balance out all that smoke, we brighten up the grilled ingredients with a fresh, crunchy miso slaw.
Italian Sausage and Fontina Shooter's-Style Sandwich With Sun-Dried Tomato-Caper Relish
Truthfully, we've found the original, steak-based version of the shooter's-style sandwich to be a huge disappointment, but take heart: A party-sized pressed sandwich can work great with other ingredients. This one uses fatty Italian sausage and Fontina cheese; sautéed onions, fennel, and red peppers; and a rich, tangy sun-dried tomato and caper relish. The meat and cheese are triple-layered to give their flavors plenty of opportunity to meld.
Mexican Mushroom and Spinach Sandwich
A Mexican-style torta is actually quite easy to make vegan, because the meat really isn't that important—tortas are all about the add-ons, like refried beans, avocado, and chilies. But you've got to have a main ingredient of some sort to work with those toppings; here, we use mushrooms for their meaty qualities, sautéed with garlic and spinach.
Mexican Fried Eggplant Sandwich
This vegan torta gets the same glorious mess of toppings, but pairs them with golden-brown battered and fried eggplant slices and blackened Poblano peppers. Assemble all the ingredients and serve the sandwich as is, or, for a more unexpected approach, make it into a pambazo by soaking the sandwich in red enchilada sauce and grilling it until it's lightly charred.
Grilled Lemongrass- and Coriander-Marinated Tofu Vietnamese Sandwiches
You already know how to make excellent grilled tofu, right? Good. Put your skills to work in this recipe by first soaking that tofu in a Thai-style marinade, then turning it into a Vietnamese-style bánh mì filled with pickled carrot and daikon, cucumber, jalapeño, cilantro, and vegan mayo. For extra flavor, try adding our homemade ginger-scallion oil.
Vegan Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Panini With Sun-Dried Tomato Mayonnaise
For a vegan sandwich with tons of character, we start with three deeply flavorful ingredients: sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, and a vegan sun-dried tomato mayonnaise, all melded together in a panini press—go slowly so as not to crack the bread. The tomatoes and onions combined with the crispy crust produce a sandwich that's not so far off from pizza.
Vegan "B.L.A.T."s: Lettuce, Tomato, Avocado, and Crispy Smoked Mushroom Sandwiches
Forget the idea of vegetarian "fakin' bacon" as inherently sad and flavorless, not to mention texture-less: Our crunchy, smoky mushroom-based bacon stand-in is so good, we'd take it over most supermarket pork bacon. We combine it with vegan mayonnaise in this meat- and dairy-free sandwich, affectionately nicknamed the "B.L.A.T."—the "A" stands for "avocado," a surefire way to improve almost any sandwich.
Homemade Egg McMuffin
The Egg McMuffin sandwich at McDonald's is a dear favorite of ours, but it's not without flaws, from the relatively poor quality of the ingredients to the lack of color on the English muffin and bacon. Our upgrade calls for toasting the muffin and crisping the Canadian bacon in butter; cooking the egg within the ring of a Mason jar lid gives it that tidy round shape. While you can certainly seek out a fancier cheese, I find that it's tough to improve on the classic melted American.
Classic New Orleans Muffuletta Sandwich
In a city of wonderful food, the muffuletta is one of the greats. It's made by layering cold cuts and briny, tangy olive salad on a muffuletta roll—a wide, round loaf of bread coated in sesame seeds. Outside of New Orleans, finding the proper roll can be a challenge, but a soft-crusted ciabatta or focaccia will work in its place. The sandwich improves after resting for an hour, so it's ideal for bringing along on a picnic.
Italian-American Meatball Sandwiches
At the risk of sounding obvious, the most important components of a good meatball sandwich are juicy, tender meatballs and a flavorful tomato sauce—of the latter, we've got lots to choose from. After that, all you have to do is build it. We use an Italian-style roll with the tough ends trimmed off, drizzled with a bit of olive oil and rubbed with garlic. Spoon on the sauce, layer on halved large meatballs (which stay in place better than whole small ones), melt on some cheese, and get ready for maybe the best meatball sub you've ever had.
Pueblan-Style Cemita Sandwiches
The defining characteristic of a true Pueblan cemita is its namesake sesame seed bun, plus the papalo leaves that also go into our cemita grilled cheese. We fill ours with a breaded chicken, beef, or pork cutlet, plus toppings like shredded Oaxacan cheese, avocado, and pickled jalapeños. Hollowing out a bit of the top bun will allow you to pile 'em high.
Roosevelt Avenue-Style Cemita Sandwiches
The cemitas you'll find in a New York taco truck are a little different from their Pueblan counterparts. Meats tend to be drawn from typical taco fillings, like carnitas or al pastor. Use a free hand with your toppings—in big, messy American-style cemitas, avocado and cheese are often joined by lettuce, tomato, refried beans, and mayo.
Sautéed Soft-Shell Crab Sandwiches With Pickled Vegetables, Cilantro, and Ginger-Chili Mayo
Two different dishes contribute inspiration for these crunchy-crab sandwiches: Cantonese crab with scallions and ginger, and Vietnamese bánh mì. Dredge the crabs in cornstarch before sautéing them for a shatteringly crisp shell on each one. We line up three of them on each Vietnamese-style baguette, accompanied by ginger-chili mayo, quick-pickled carrots and cucumbers, fresh scallions, and cilantro.