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 Labor Day cookout menu to include a good old sandwich or two can be a great idea.
Sandwiches tend to allow for a much broader range of breads and fillings, including more vegetarian and vegan options. And if you aren't cooking outdoors on Labor Day, 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 17 of our favorite sandwich recipes to keep you and your holiday-cookout guests happy, sated, and in that relaxed, summery kind of mood all day long. You can find even more excellent recipes for sandwiches, burgers, sides, drinks, and more in our guide to grilling.
Sandwiches for the Grill
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.
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.
Everything you love about Peruvian-style grilled chicken—spice-rubbed whole chicken cooked slowly and lovingly on the grill and served with a delectable cilantro- and chili-spiked green sauce—but in sandwich form. Yes, we already called that other grilled-chicken sandwich "the best," but this one is a worthy challenger for the title. (Really, it's all about that sauce.)
If you're feeling adventurous in the kitchen this Labor Day, you might try swapping out your usual store-bought brats for homemade sausages. One of our favorites is merguez, a North African lamb sausage that's so tasty on its own, 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?
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 elote-inspired Cotija mayo for one incredibly flavorful sandwich.
Nothing says summer warmth and sunshine like this simple sandwich, a ubiquitous sight all over Florida: grilled grouper, mahi-mahi, or other firm white-fleshed fish, topped with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise (tartar sauce or rémoulade 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.
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.
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.
There are several cheeses out there that are well 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. We 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.
For a twist on tandoori chicken in a portable, cookout-friendly package, try these flavorful grilled chicken patties instead of burgers for a change. We use ground chicken thigh meat, which retains moisture on the grill better than breast meat, and season it with a potent mix of warm spices. The patties are loaded up on grilled naan or flatbread, along with sliced red onion, tomato, lettuce, cucumber, and a half-cooling, half-fiery jalapeño-mint yogurt sauce.
Sandwiches to Make Indoors
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.
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. Want something a little bit different? Try this recipe for pulled lamb sandwiches, which also relies on the oven.
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.
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.
We love good Cuban sandwiches as much as the next person, but making them at home is an involved and time-consuming process, from slow-roasting pork shoulder to assembling and pressing the sandwiches themselves. This recipe relies on a few shortcuts to yield results that are not only delicious but plentiful enough to feed a crowd. We use a mojo-marinated pork tenderloin instead of the usual pork shoulder, so the meat cooks in less than an hour, and press the sandwiches between two sheet pans to produce a big batch in one swat.
You don't have to call it a cheesesteak if you don't want to, since, admittedly, there's neither cheese nor steak to be had in these vegan sandwiches. What they do contain is sheets of thick, chewy yuba, or tofu skin; meaty shredded roasted trumpet mushrooms; and caramelized onions, all soaked in a homemade mushroom broth for tons of umami flavor. We pile the yuba and mushrooms onto hoagie rolls along with a generous helping of Kenji's Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce.
No summer is complete in our eyes without at least one really good lobster roll, but the expense of buying lobster (and the extra work involved in dispatching and shelling it) makes enjoying one at home a tough proposition. Shrimp rolls, on the other hand, are cheaper and more convenient, and can be just as tasty. Poach the shrimp (we've found that a cold start is best for poaching many proteins) until they're just firm and perfectly cooked through, chop them up, fold them into a simple mayo-based dressing, and scoop them into buttered and toasted top-split buns. You'll feel yourself transported to a beachside seafood shack in no time.
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