Vegan Cooking Tips

Quick and Easy Sandwich Ideas

By Chef Nancy Berkoff, EdD, RD

What could be easier and tastier than a well-crafted sandwich? Sandwiches can be filled with hot or cold, sweet or savory, delicate or hearty ingredients... and adapt wonderfully to leftovers! Plan to match sandwich fillings with breads. Hearty breads, such as bagels, whole grain, rye bread, pumpernickel, baguettes, or biscuits, can handle the "weight" of hearty ingredients and the taste of spicy ingredients. More "delicate" breads, such as pita, tortillas, lavosh (cracker bread), pappadum (puffed Indian-style bread), roti, and even matzah pair well with lighter (in weight and taste) ingredients.

Get creative with condiments and resolve to never create "just" a vegan cheese sandwich. Stir salsa, horseradish, capers, chopped olives, tapenade (minced, spiced olive dip), pickle relish, or chopped chilies (you select the heat) into vegan mayonnaise, cream cheese, or sour cream; use as a condiment or a sandwich filling. In a real pinch, combine ketchup or tomato paste and vegan mayonnaise or mustard to add some color and zing to a sandwich. A thin layer of hummus, salad dressing, or vegan sour cream or vegan cream cheese can add flavor to your favorite sandwich, as well as keep the bread fresh.

Create layers! Two slices of bread, a smear of mayonnaise and some sliced cucumbers is okay, but add thin layers of leftover salad or spinach leaves, tomatoes, thinly sliced smoked tofu or sweet onions, mushrooms, vegan cheese, or vegan deli slices to create a sandwich that is a meal. Pack your creation and eat it cold, or heat it in a microwave until the filling is hot. To prevent bread from getting soggy, spread a micro-layer of vegan margarine or nut butter on your sandwich bread...not enough to add a lot of fat calories, but just enough to "coat" the bread.

No time to make a grilled sandwich? Toast several extra pieces of bread at breakfast. Layer the toast (it can be cold) with a thin slice of extra-firm tofu, seitan, or vegan cheese; several thinly sliced pieces of fresh tomato; and then another slice of tofu, seitan, or vegan cheese. Add a smear of mustard, and cover with a second slice of bread. Wrap in a paper towel and microwave until hot (about 1 1/2 minutes on HIGH). Voila!.. a toasty, gooey "grilled" sandwich. Depending on your preferences, you can add thinly sliced seeded bell peppers, sweet or yellow onions, spinach leaves, crumbled nori (dried seaweed), or sliced olives. The key here is to keep filling ingredients thin, so they heat evenly and "meld" their flavors.

Do you have leftover cooked mushrooms? Select a slice of bread and smear with a condiment of your choice. Cover the bread with mushrooms, sprinkle nutritional yeast on top, and microwave for a savory hot sandwich.

Create your own bagel masterpieces with cold, cooked, sliced tofu pups, smoked tofu, or crumbled tempeh tossed with salad dressing or vegan mayonnaise, topped with shredded romaine, lettuce, carrots, or beets. Be certain to "smoosh" the bagel top and bottom together, to help the flavors mix and to make it more transportable.

Speaking of bagels, we can go beyond a "bagel and schmear" (bagel with cream cheese). No holds barred vegan cream cheese or sour cream can include: veggies such as minced carrots, radishes, celery, bell pepper, and onions are a traditional mix...minced olives, chopped nuts, minced fresh herbs...parsley and green onions work well...crumbled nori...the list goes on for the savory side. For a sweet "schmear," mix vegan cream cheese with fruit preserves, nut butters and cinnamon, dried orange zest and powdered ginger, chopped dried fruit, or smashed bananas.

Ripe or over-ripe avocados make a great sandwich base. If they are firm enough, slice avocados and top with chopped tomatoes or thinly sliced tomatoes, a squeeze of lemon and you are ready to go! If the avocados are ready to be "dip," then mash avocados with a bit of hummus, salsa, minced onions, minced bell peppers or chilies, or diced olives, and use for a sandwich filling.

How about a sweeter sandwich? Start with a thin layer of nut, peanut, cashew, or hazelnut or apple butter to prevent soggy bread and to add to the flavor. Layer with different flavors of fruit preserves and thinly sliced banana, apple or pear, and close with a sprinkle of chopped nuts, shredded coconut, or finely diced dried fruit. If you'd like to add a bit of crunch, and interest, add a few thin slices of bread-and-butter or sweet pickles.When you have just a little bit of preserves or nut butters left in the jar, combine them for a new taste sensation!

Sandwiches can be layered, stuffed, or rolled. Utilize leftovers and creativity to create a hot or cold sandwich of your dreams!