Vegan Cooking Tips

Fast Sandwich Spreads

By Chef Nancy Berkoff, RD, EdD, CCE

Ever since the Earl of Sandwich decided to take his lunch between two pieces of bread, sandwiches have become a way to grab a fast meal or pack a portable snack. Bread is not usually an issue for sandwiches. There are so many healthy and delicious varieties of fresh or frozen fresh breads and rolls for sale. You don't even have to stick to two pieces of bread. You can roll tortillas, lavash, or cracker bread; top English muffins, bagels, crumpets, or sopas (a cross between a flour tortilla and an English muffin); or stuff a pita pocket.

After awhile, finding new ideas for sandwich fillings can become trying. Therefore, we thought we'd offer some suggestions to jazz up grab-and-go breakfast sandwiches, lunches, and snacks.

  • Sliced or mashed avocado makes a good base for a sandwich filling. If you are going to prepare avocado fillings more than one hour before serving, squeeze in a bit of lemon or lime juice or light vinegar (such as rice vinegar) into the avocado to prevent browning. Avocado does fine on its own as a filling; however, to jazz it up, you can mix in some of your favorite mustard, spoon in a small amount of soy sauce or nutritional yeast, or place slices of extra firm tofu on top of the avocado.
  • Hummus is available canned or fresh. Add some of that mashed avocado to your hummus for a new flavor. Spread hummus on bread and top with chopped black olives, salsa, chopped canned tomatoes, or sunflower seeds.
  • Caponata is a popular eggplant appetizer. Purchased canned or in a jar, caponata is a thick mixture of chopped roasted eggplant, capers, black olives, and tomato purée. Look for it in the Mediterranean or Italian section of your market. We have found various brands in Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Bristol Farms, and several national grocery store chains. We have also found caponata online.

    Caponata is a spread all by itself; however, it can be topped with shredded vegan cheese or with shredded romaine, chopped fresh spinach, or thinly sliced cucumbers.

  • If you don't have time to cook lentils, then look for them in a can or a jar at the market. Drain lentils and mash in a bowl, or process very lightly in a blender or food processor. Spread lentils on bread, and top with shredded vegan cheese, chopped black olives, pre-chopped onions (in the produce section), tomato purée, or thinly sliced pickles.
  • Silken tofu can be mixed with capers, chopped veggies (such as scallions, carrots, radishes, bell peppers, or fresh chilies), and a small amount of your favorite salad dressing for a savory sandwich filling.
  • Extra firm tofu can be crumbled and tossed with a small amount of vegan mayonnaise, prepared mustard, and curry powder for a savory sandwich. Extra firm tofu can also be tossed with vegan mayonnaise, raisins or dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, and a small amount of fruit preserves for a sweet sandwich.
  • If you have the time, you can prepare your own nut butter by blending 2 cups of nuts (such as pecans, walnuts, cashews, or almonds) with a small amount of vegetable oil in a blender or food processor. Homemade nut butter will separate when stored. You can either mix the separated oil back into the butter or skim it off, but removing the oil will make the nut butter a bit grainy.

    Top nut butters with very thinly sliced apples or pears and a sprinkle of vegan cheese, chopped walnuts, and shredded coconut; finely crushed whole grain cold cereal; thinly sliced bananas and fresh peaches in season; or for a different taste, vegan bacon bits. (It's good, really!)

    You can toss nut butters with crumbled extra firm tofu and a sprinkle of ginger for a spicy/sweet sandwich. Depending on your taste, you can add a sprinkle of garlic and a squeeze of lemon juice for a sweet-and-sour sandwich filling.

    If you don't have the time or equipment for making nut butters, you can still branch out from peanut butter. Try soy butter (made from roasted soy beans), sunflower butter, or almond butter. You can mix soy or sunflower butter with your favorite fruit preserves before spreading on bread. You'll find the taste is even more intensified. Or you can mix in raisins, dried cranberries, diced dried peaches or apricots, well-drained canned pineapple tidbits, or apple butter (which is well-cooked and concentrated apples, not a dairy product) with your nut butters to create new flavors.

  • Do you have some leftover steamed cauliflower or broccoli? Chop the cauliflower or broccoli flowers very finely. Toss with chopped fresh parsley, nutritional yeast, and a small amount of vegan mayonnaise or your favorite creamy-style salad dressing for a tasty sandwich filling.

The sandwich fillings in this article do not need to just nestle in between two slices of bread or roll around in a tortilla. Think about packing a container of any of the fillings and dipping or dunking breadsticks; pretzels; wedges of apples or pears; carrot, celery, or jicama sticks; or baked chips into them. If you would like to use any of the fillings as dips, they can be thinned with a small amount of vegan mayonnaise or vegan sour cream.

Vegan Thai Dinner

Star of Siam • 11 E. Illinois St. • Chicago, IL
Sunday, October 26, 6:30 PM • During the ADA Conference
Dietitians, local members, and the public are welcome!

The Vegetarian Resource Group will hold a vegan dinner during the American Dietetic Association Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo. Dietitians, VRG members, and the public are invited. Come and meet the dietitians from the ADA Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group. Please reserve early. Hope to see you there!


Mee Krob (Thai Rice Sticks) • Spring Rolls • Vegetable Tempura • Green Curry Tofu
Fried Tofu with Spicy Sweet-and-Sour Plum Sauce • Star's Tofu Delight (Vegetables and Straw Mushrooms)
Stir-Fried Eggplant with Basil and Bean Sauce • Pad Thai (Rice Noodles) • Charcoal Grilled Veggies
Mixed Vegetables on Rice • Wild Rice Medley with Nuts • Fried Rice • Oranges for Dessert • Tea


$20 each for adults who register by September 30 and $25 each after September 30 t $9 each for children/br> Prices include tax and tip. Payment must be made in advance.

Menu subject to change. Please reserve early as seating is limited. Refunds will be made only if we have a replacement for your seat. Call (410) 366-8343 between 9 A.M. and 5 P.M. Eastern time Monday to Friday; fax (410) 366-8804; click the Donation button at <> and write ADA Dinner in the notes section; or send a check to VRG, P.O. Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203.