A summer party outdoors requires plenty of food you can eat with your hands—preferably just one hand, as you hold a beer with the other. Though burgers and hot dogs may be the first items to spring to your mind, expanding your Fourth of July cookout menu to include a good old sandwich or two can be a great idea. (For those of you now protesting at your screen, "But burgers and hot dogs are sandwiches!", we refer you to Kenji's guiding principle: A hot dog isn't a sandwich because if you ordered "a sandwich" and someone brought you a hot dog, it'd be weird.) Sandwiches tend to allow for a much broader range of breads—as fun as it might be to try, stuffing a burger patty into a baguette or pita produces less-than-ideal results—and fillings, including more vegetarian and vegan options. Tofu, halloumi, eggplant, mushrooms, and all manner of other vegetables work beautifully on the grill. And if you aren't cooking outdoors this July 4th, we've got lots of satisfying sandwiches that can be made entirely in your kitchen, from a pulled pork number that's made in the oven (it's delicious, we promise!) to a make-ahead vegetarian shooter's-style sandwich big enough to feed a crowd. Here are 12 of our favorite sandwich recipes to keep you and your July 4th guests happy, sated, and in that relaxed, summery kind of mood all day long. You can find even more excellent sandwich recipes in our Independence Day guide.
The Best F&$king Grilled Chicken Sandwich Ever
You can do more than you'd think to make grilled chicken breast tasty, but to become transcendent, it needs accoutrements. This sandwich turns humble grilled chicken into something to crave by topping the breast with smoky bacon, crunchy potato chips, crisp vegetables, mayo, and a zesty jalapeño-avocado sauce, all on a soft sesame seed bun.
Chacarero Chileno (Chilean Steak and Bean Sandwiches)
Sure, green beans seem more like a possible accompaniment to a sandwich than a topping. But chacarero chileno, a Chilean concoction of grilled beef, tomato, and green beans on a roll, just works somehow—trust us. The key is to overcook the beans until they're soft and tender, so that they can fully integrate with the rest of the fillings. We like beefy, loose-textured skirt or flap steak for this sandwich; brushing it with a quick homemade aioli before cooking it on the grill gets it nicely flavorful and browned.
Grilled Merguez Sandwiches With Caramelized Onions, Manchego, and Harissa Mayonnaise
If you're feeling adventurous in the kitchen this July 4th, you might try swapping out your usual store-bought brats for homemade sausages. One of our favorites is merguez, a North African lamb sausage. It's tasty enough on its own that you could just stick it in a bun and be done with it. But a little Manchego cheese, harissa-spiked mayo, and caramelized onions sound so good, don't they?
Grilled Jalapeño-Marinated Steak Sandwiches With Charred Onions and Cotija Mayo
All too often, steak sandwiches are marred by tough or chewy strips of beef, difficult to bite through and capable of spoiling the whole sandwich experience. To keep this hanger steak good and tender, cook it over very high heat just until it hits medium-rare—any longer and it will toughen up—and cut it against the grain. Then pair that perfectly cooked steak with charred onions, cilantro, and an elotes-inspired Cotija mayo for one incredibly flavorful sandwich.
Steak Sandwiches With Roasted Tomatoes, Parmesan, and Radicchio
This indoor-friendly sandwich starts from the premise that, even if it's the steak part of a steak sandwich that gets us excited, it's the condiments that really make it special. To get great contrast with the meat—use any cut, prepared any way, or even leftovers from yesterday's grilling session—we pile on a variety of flavors and textures, using sweet roasted tomatoes, bitter radicchio, nutty Parmesan shavings, and a sharp and creamy sauce of mayo flavored with anchovies and more Parmesan.
Grilled Blackened Fish Sandwiches
Nothing says summer warmth and sunshine like this simple sandwich, a ubiquitous sight all over Florida: grilled grouper, mahimahi, or other firm white-fleshed fish, topped with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise (tartar sauce or remoulade works, too) on a soft bun. It's not fancy, and that's exactly how it should be. Remember that the "blackened" part refers to the process of coating meat in a spice rub and grilling it just until it turns dark—you don't want the fish fillets to burn.
Grilled Pork Sandwiches With Grilled Plum Chutney and Cabbage Slaw
As long as you're grilling the meat for a sandwich, why not do the same for the rest of it? Grilling deepens the flavor of every warm component in this recipe, including pork loin, crusty sandwich rolls, and a thick chutney made with grilled plums, scallions, and jalapeños. We skip the grill for the slaw, though—the cool, crunchy cabbage gives the sandwich some much-needed balance.
Easy Oven-Baked Pulled Pork Sandwiches
I know, I know—to some people, pulled pork doesn't feel right unless it's made on the barbecue. But if you don't have a smoker, you can still make spoon-tender and delicious pulled pork in your oven—really. Here, we do it up Eastern North Carolina–style, flavoring the meat with cider vinegar and a little sugar and serving it with pickled cherry peppers. If you really miss the barbecue flavor, you can add a few drops of high-quality liquid smoke, too.
Classic New Orleans Muffuletta Sandwich
One of the signature flavors of New Orleans, the muffuletta is a sandwich that's tailor-made for picnics—it's big enough to serve multiple people (how many depends on your respective appetites), and it actually gets better if you make it ahead of time and let it sit at room temperature. In fact, even if you aren't taking the sandwich anywhere, we still recommend making it at least an hour before serving, to allow the alternating layers of cold cuts, cheese, and olive salad time to meld.
Roasted Vegetable and Goat Cheese Shooter's-Style Sandwich
Made to feed a crowd, a pressed "shooter's sandwich" is another that's perfect for picnics, at least in theory. Our attempt at a classic steak version was underwhelming, but we—ahem—pressed on and devised four really good shooter's-style sandwich recipes. For a vegetarian option, we pile intensely flavored roasted vegetables, rich caramelized onions, and tangy goat cheese into a hollowed-out loaf, then settle a heavy weight on top to compress it into a neat, streamlined package.
Grilled Lemongrass- and Coriander-Marinated Tofu Vietnamese Sandwiches (Vegan Banh Mi)
With low, slow cooking and a double coating of marinade, grilled tofu comes out crispy and packed with flavor. For these vegan banh mi sandwiches, we soak the tofu in a lemongrass and coriander marinade, then grill it and serve it with cilantro, cucumber, jalapeños, vegan mayo, and pickled carrots and daikon.
Grilled Halloumi Pita Sandwiches
There are several cheeses out there that are suited to the grill, but halloumi is king of them all. The salty Cypriot cheese is unpleasantly hard raw, but throw it on the fire and watch the exterior crisp up, while the inside softens just enough without causing the cheese to lose its shape. I could eat it straight off the grill all day, but if you're capable of a little more self-control, try wrapping it in a pita with tomato, red onion, lettuce, and cool, mild tzatziki sauce.