The key to a flavorful sandwich is a good spread
There’s a lot of debate over what makes a good sandwich. Is it the bread? Or does the meat (or whatever is standing in for the meat) matter most? We would argue that the answer lies in a third, often overlooked detail: the sandwich spread.
Mayonnaise is a classic to be sure, but the quickest route to a memorable sandwich is a condiment that packs a wallop of flavor and effortlessly unites the bread with its fillings. These are the sandwich spreads that Eater’s staff use to give their home-constructed sandwiches an extra je ne sais quoi. Which isn’t to say that you should skip the mayo (or even the Vegenaise) — as you’ll see, plenty of these spreads shine brightest when they’re combined with that stalwart of sandwich construction. Regardless of their mayo content, all of them testify to the beautiful and unshakable truth that there are as many different sandwich spreads as there are sandwiches.
Coriander chutney has been a staple of my life since I was young and made my own kick-ass tuna salad with it. Years and years later, I discovered the magic of slathering the chutney onto sliced-meat sandwiches. The spicy, tangy, slightly herbaceous flavor pairs so well with sliced turkey (honestly, my go-to cold cut). And yes, that tuna salad is great in sandwich form. (Full disclosure: I tend to get my coriander chutney from Kalustyan’s, which happens to be owned by my uncle and managed by my father.) — Nadia Chaudhury, Eater Austin editor
I’ve never been a big hot sauce person, having honestly been too afraid to try it when I was younger. But harissa came into my life more recently, and now that I’m a full-fledged adult with more advanced tastebuds and no fear of spice, we get on great. And this harissa from New York Shuk is one of the best: deeply flavorful, gently spicy, with a perfect thickness (some harissas are too liquidy) and a subtle touch of lemon. To my partner Daniel, whose family is Moroccan, it tastes like a distillation of his mother’s best dishes; for me, it’s the best condiment for spreading on tuna sandwiches, pitas with shawarma, or truly any other savory ingredients sandwiched between bread. — Ellie Krupnick, director of editorial operations
I use a lot of tahini. The rich, earthy taste of sesame seeds pairs well with basically everything, providing savory heft to thinner partners and a sturdy base to high-flying flavors. This applies to sandwiches as much as salads and entrees, as long as your tahini is thick enough not to spill out the sides (and you stir, stir, stir in the separated oil). It’s great combined with mashed items like avocado, and particulate ingredients like sprouts or chopped pickled vegetables, all of which can help catch any errant globs. Of course it’s also great on a nice seeded bread to amplify those sesame vibes. I like Beirut brand because the oil and solids reconstitute well, and I can get it in 2-pound tubs — like I said, I use a lot. — Nick Mancall-Bitell, editor
It may be considered very 2018-overpriced-deli of me, but I still think Boursin, the grocery store Gournay cheese, is a top-notch sandwich spread: It has the tang of a goat cheese and the smoothness of a cream cheese, with a really nice, savory foundation. I find that sandwiches are often either too dry or too messy; most should have a nice, semi-firm spread on them, whether it’s pimento cheese, hummus, guac, or membrillo. Boursin works as both an adhesive for vegetables intent on escaping the bread — slaw, thinly shaved onion, sprouts — and as a creamy complement to pretty much any protein. I find it works particularly well with turkey or roast beef; garlic and fine herbs Boursin goes best with roast beef with dijon, while shallot and chive complements a turkey with cranberry sauce quite well. And any of them work nicely in a cucumber-Boursin tea sandwich. — Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor
Giardiniera is delicious, without dispute. Pickled veggies and hot peppers — what’s not to love? But when you’re making a run-of-the-mill sandwich, fitting those giant chunks of carrot and pickled cauliflower onto the average slice of bread is a serious challenge. Enter Marconi Hot Giardiniera relish, a Chicago icon that’s perfect for slathering onto any sandwich, but especially a DIY Italian beef or, yes, a hot dog. It’s nice and spicy, with plenty of tang from the pickled veggies, and spreads easily, making it an easy way to spruce up even the most basic of ham-and-cheese affairs. — Amy McCarthy, staff writer
While it would be sacrilege to suggest that hoagies lack flavor — sharp provolone cheese, meat after meat after meat, and a crunchy sesame roll provide wallops of moxie to Philadelphia’s staple sandwich — adding Cento hoagie spread only livens up an already perfect lunch. The mixture of chopped hot red and sweet green cherry peppers steeped in tangy vinegar brings a sweet-and-sour boost to rich prosciutto and mortadella, cutting through the fat to create a sensation all its own. Though it’s a regional specialty, it can thankfully be ordered online. Don’t be shy about spreading it on even the simplest of sandwiches, from ham and cheese to a turkey club. — Dayna Evans, staff writer and Eater Philly editor
I’m one of those people who knows mayo is objectively good in a sandwich but remains slightly put off by the concept, unless I can mix things in and call it an aioli instead. One of my favorite inclusions is Calabrian chile paste (usually from the brand Tutto Calabria), which I generally add in a ratio of one part chile, three parts mayo. Its balance of fruity pepper, tart vinegar, and present but not challenging heat adds oomph to the cheese, meat, or greens in my sandwich — while also making it easier for me to accept mayo and its moisture-adding benefits. — Bettina Makalintal, senior reporter
The absolute GOAT sandwich spread is Mrs. Miller’s Hot Pepper Jelly, made even better (if you can believe it!) by mixing it up with a mayonnaise of your choice. (I’d recommend springing for Duke’s mayo if you’ve got it). Nothing precious here, no recipes or quantities — just a couple spoonfuls of each mixed together and slapped onto any sandwich does the trick. I like this concoction on deli-style sandwiches, burgers, and especially breakfast sandwiches. The HPJ is fantastic on its own, too: a little sweet, not too hot, and stellar straight out of the jar. — Stefania Orrù, supervising producer
Although I eat plenty of Vegenaise on its own, I also love using it as a base for mixing other condiments. One of my favorite combinations is Vegenaise and Brooklyn Delhi’s garlic achaar. On its own, the garlic achaar is magnificently fierce, and while I like stirring it into various dishes, it can easily overwhelm a sandwich on its own. Mixing it with Vegenaise, however, tempers it just enough that its savory heat complements whatever other ingredients are present. I love using the combination on any sandwich with roasted vegetables and/or tofu; it also makes a mean egg salad. Really, it works anywhere heat and fat are called for, which is most sandwiches. — Rebecca Flint Marx, senior editor