The genius of the sandwich is in its endless permutations: take bread, go wild with the fillings. But the sandwiches we make most often are in the simple, no-recipe mold, and often involve just three ingredients. Here are Eater editors’ favorite combinations.
Mackerel + Dijon mustard + flaky salt
Really good tinned mackerel doesn’t need much accompaniment — I enjoy eating it straight from the tin, and doing so has yet to feel like a compromise. On those occasions when I want it delivered to my mouth as part of a sandwich, I don’t do much to mess with its minimalist appeal. A smear of Dijon mustard cuts through its fattiness, while a sprinkle of flaky salt makes it taste even more like itself. Put together, they are my holy sandwich trinity. — Rebecca Flint Marx, senior editor
Pan-fried mortadella + duck egg + cheese
When I was 5 or 6, two-ingredient (or too-few ingredient) sandwiches were my most frequent lunches, often roasted turkey and Muenster cheese on a toasted plain bagel, and bologna with American cheese on spongy white bread. As I got older, I started to welcome a third ingredient into the latter — a buttery fried egg — turning the thing from a drab lunchbox item into a breakfast sandwich staple.
Now, the fully realized adult me has gone a step further: One of my favorite breakfast sandwiches is mortadella (the more pocked with pork fat and pistachio, the better), a big ol’ duck egg, and whatever cheese is on hand (though it works very well with a milder cheddar). Duck eggs because size — they can spread over more of the bread than a regular hen egg, and that gargantuan yolk; pan-fried mortadella because it’s delicious. Cheese fuses everything together before I place it on warm toasted bread or a seeded bagel. Highly recommend with an obscene pour of orange juice, or, if you’re feeling fancy, blood orange San Pellegrino. — Nicole Adlman, cities manager
Cashew butter + mashed banana + cinnamon
They say necessity is the mother of invention. But I find being a mother is necessarily inventive, especially when it comes to food. To keep my toddler happy with eating staples like toast with nut butter multiple times a week, I try to add a bit of variety. One morning when we had a banana that was heading into banana-bread territory, I decided to instead turn it into a toast topping. Inspired by the Elvis sandwich, I toasted some wheat bread, thinly spread on some cashew butter, and then I mashed the banana in a little bowl and spread that on top, too. I added a sprinkle of cinnamon, cut the bread in half and made a triangle sandwich. It looked so good I immediately made one for myself, too. Somehow, an old banana and another damn nut butter toast are absolutely decadent when combined together — it’s all the things that weekday breakfasts at home typically aren’t: warm, sweet, rich, and unexpected. — Hillary Dixler Canavan, restaurant editor
Turkey + bacon + American cheese
I adore bagels (especially when in bagel capitals like New York or Jersey), and always find myself with the same debate when I’m in a position to order one: Do I get a bagel sandwich, spread simply with cream cheese, or throw some lox or sablefish on top? As a lover of protein, especially in the morning, I find myself most frequently going the sandwich route, and fish isn’t always the best pairing for every scenario (like, for example, if I happen to be hungover). For years, my most trusted bagel sandwich order has consisted of deli turkey (ideally Boar’s Head), crispy bacon, and a melty slice of American cheese. The combination is a bit of a salt bomb, which is perfect for this salt fiend. The ingredients are easy to find at any bagel shop, and the cheese adds a much-needed textural contrast of creaminess to the mix. The sandwich is even more satisfying when I pair the fillings with my own homemade bagels, one of the recipes I’ve been most proud to successfully execute in the past few years. — Missy Frederick, cities manager
Tomato + mayo + flaky salt
This is a sandwich made of things I thought I despised. I grew up hating raw tomatoes, hating mayonnaise, and assuming the best bread was crusty and homemade and was never dented by your fingers. And yet, after trying a tomato and mayo sandwich on Wonder Bread in a neighbor’s backyard a few summers ago, it has become my favorite sandwich. It only works if the tomatoes are at peak summer freshness and brightness, if the mayonnaise is slathered thickly enough to counter the tomatoes’ acidity, the bread is soft enough that the slippery tomatoes don’t fly out (I now prefer Martin’s potato bread), and it’s all topped with some flaky sea salt before assembly. This sandwich is how I know summer has arrived, and I cherish it for the few weeks that it is possible to exist. — Jaya Saxena, senior writer
Membrillo + manchego + prosciutto
One of my favorite three-ingredient sandwiches is a tweak on a two-ingredient sandwich I ate while living in San Sebastian as a teenager. Bocadillos are sort of the Spanish answer to a sub: A long baguette sliced lengthwise, and layered with a few ingredients — sometimes jamon serrano and tomato, sometimes chorizo, sometimes a full slab of tortilla Española. But my favorite was super simple: membrillo, or quince paste, and nutty manchego cheese.
It wasn’t until I got home that I thought to add a few slices of jamon serrano to my membrillo bocadillo; the resulting sandwich has the right balance of salt and sweetness, the tenderness of the ham mimicking the texture of the membrillo. Stateside, prosciutto is infinitely easier to find than jamon serrano, so these days, I often layer membrillo, manchego, and prosciutto between two pieces of crusty bread when looking for a little taste of San Sebastian. The secret is to keep repeating the layers: membrillo, prosciutto, manchego, membrillo, prosciutto, manchego, until it’s a layer as thick as one slice of bread. Just be sure to membrillo both pieces — or eat it open-faced. — Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor
Turkey + herbed cream cheese + American cheese
Turkey and cheese is a classic, and obvious, sandwich combo. For anyone who eats the same sandwich for lunch a couple times a week, though, it’s easy to get bored with the typical turkey, sliced American cheese, and mayo situation. Chive cream cheese, both herbaceous and creamy, is perfect for breaking up that monotony. It’s more flavorful than mayonnaise, and richer, which makes what’s normally a workaday sandwich feel especially indulgent. Fine served as-is or warmed gently in a toaster oven, the combination of sliced turkey, American cheese, and chive cream cheese is an excellent way to make your lunch feel a little more luxurious without doing any actual work. — Amy McCarthy, staff writer