Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Lia's guide to simple, delicious sandwiches for veggies

This sandwich is really simple, but it's still delicious! Apple, vegan cream cheese & peanut butter!
There was about a 3-year period where I hardly ate a sandwich. That period started about when I went vegetarian, and ended about 6 months ago.

Why, you ask? Because trying to make conventional sandwiches vegan without making serious adjustments leads to really awful sandwiches. Trust me, it's not pretty.

Sandwiches are just two pieces of bread with delicious fillings in the middle. That brings good news and bad news for vegans.

The good news is that bread is almost always vegan, or at least very easy to find in vegan varieties.

The bad news is that those delicious fillings we're used to seeing in sandwiches are hardly ever vegan.

So here are a few general tips and a couple of creations to inspire your own delicious, veggie sandwich-making!


Non-vegans tend to put a blob of mayonnaise on their sandwich and be done with it. And to be fair, mayo is pretty delicious. But vegans have to get a little more resourceful, which is a good opportunity to find a new favourite condiment.

There are three things I think about when choosing my condiment:

1. Flavour profile

If your main ingredient in your sandwich is banana, you probably don't want to put mustard with it, because it'll probably clash terribly (though to be fair, I've never tried it, so I could be wrong). On the other hand, how delicious would a banana-based sandwich be with coconut butter as your spread?

2. Strength of taste

You have to decide at some point: is my condiment going to be the star of the sandwich? If it's not, you have to consider how strong-tasting it is. The flavour strength will tell you if you can slather it on and have a nice, juicy sandwich, or if you have to put a tiny amount and risk a dry filling. Usually, unless it really is the star, the condiment shouldn't have such a strong taste that you can't put a generous helping on your sandwich to avoid the dryness.

3. Thickness

You know when you put mustard on your bread and it just soaks right in? That's not going to help your filling avoid being dry. Having a nice, thick condiment goes a long way. It means you can put a thick layer that adds a nice, smooth texture to your sandwich and makes sure each bite is delicious. There is also the problem of sogginess. Balsamic vinegar is delicious, but you're not going to pour it on your sandwich unless you're aiming for a savoury version of bread pudding.

My favourite condiments for sandwiches are these:

- Hummus, because it's thick and still has a mild enough garlic flavour to complement roasted veggies and such.

- Flavoured vegan cream cheese (like Daiya's strawberry or chive & onion), because it won't soak into the bread and it adds a subtle flavour complexity.

- Any kind of nut or seed butter (including coconut butter), because nuts and seeds pair beautifully with everything from roasted veggies to strawberries and bananas.

Sometimes there's a need to choose only one condiment, if it's going to clash with other flavours. But other times, two condiments are twice as good as one!

Apples go well with peanut butter and cream cheese. Why use only one?


Ever bite into a soggy sandwich? What about the one where you take one chomp and the whole filling comes right out of the bread because it's too hard to chew? Texture goes a long way.

There are three textures I try to get in a sandwich:

1. Crunchy

Crunchiness makes your sandwich taste fresh. This doesn't take too much effort. The most sure-fire way to achieve this is to put a big old leaf of lettuce on your sandwich. Gets you your roughage and crunch all in one. Done!

2. Substantial

This is the texture that makes you feel like you're eating something that will keep you full for a while. This one can be any number of things. I've used tofu, roasted squash or root vegetables, any kind of bean or pea mixture, etc. This should be the (dare I say it?) "meaty" part of your sandwich.

3. Smooth

Sandwiches simply taste better when there's a smooth and slightly creamy texture. This can be achieved by condiments oftentimes, but sometimes mashing a banana or putting a slice of vegan cheese on your sandwich can fulfill this as well. And when I'm not feeling the creaminess but still want the smooth texture, often I choose hummus as my sandwich base.


Herbed vegan cream cheese, lettuce and cucumber.
If you put a lot of bland things together on a sandwich, it will still be bland. If you put a lot of things with distinctive flavours on your sandwich, your sandwich will be at war. So basically: pick your star. Your star doesn't even have to be anything complicated. The sandwich pictured above was just herbed vegan cream cheese, lettuce and cucumber, but since cucumber was the most distinctive flavour, it was the star. I wasn't about to go and put mustard on to drown out the natural deliciousness of the cucumbers. That would be criminal.


Bread is a big deal in sandwich-making. You don't want thick-sliced bread that's got a crunchy crust, or else you won't be able to bite into your sandwich. If you're like me, you also won't want that light, bland Wonderbread-style bread that doesn't really add anything to the sandwich. (I tend to save that for an old-fashioned and kind of boring classic, like PB & J.) But it's up to you and what works best for your taste buds. Just know this: good bread is the kind of thing you remember about your sandwich, so it can make a huge difference.

My favourite kinds of bread for sandwiches are things like focaccia and ciabatta, when I can afford it. Otherwise, I just buy that thick-sliced bread from the grocery that sounds like it's made by italians but in a Wonderbread-type bag. It's cheap, but still better than that thin-sliced nonsense.

There you have it, folks! My guide to vegan sandwich-making. Post your favourite sandwich combinations in the comments, yeah?


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