/ Food & Drink

What makes a great vegan sandwich?

Not so long ago, vegan sandwich options were almost non-existent, but in the last few years things have changed. What do you think are the key ingredients?

There weren’t many vegan sandwiches on the shelves just a few years ago, save for the occasional ‘hummus sandwich’, which tasted as depressing as it sounds! But now, a whole range of plant-based and vegan friendly options are on offer, with brands and retailers getting more involved on meat-free diets.

But not all vegan sandwiches are made equal – there are some pretty dire creations out there. So what do you think makes a great vegan sandwich? Here are my opinions – let me know if you agree!

It should be exciting

Meat eaters get a plethora of combinations; egg and bacon, tuna and sweetcorn, English breakfast and so on. Vegan options should be on the same level, with a diverse range of exciting fillings. When there are so many easy wise to make a vegan filling interesting, like with chutneys or relishes, simply chucking vegetables between two slices of bread won’t cut it. Speaking of which…

It should be in the right medium

Vegan fillings can differ a lot from typical sandwich fillings. Sometimes, that means that sliced bread won’t be right. Well thought-out vegan sandwiches will come in the right medium, whether that be a wrap, bun or even pastry. Adding extra flavour to these, such as with beetroot or herbs, makes them even better.

Meat substitutes need to be worth it

There are plenty of fake meats now available, often made from plant-based proteins. But unless they actually taste good and have a similar texture to real meat, they’re not worth putting in a sandwich in my opinion..

Plant-based meat alternatives: what are your options?

Some of them end up feeling mushy when you eat them, whilst others have too much salt in them to make up for flavour differences. Only a great meat substitute will end up making a great vegan sandwich.

Don’t use fake mayo or cheese if you don’t need to

Meat alternatives can be hit or miss, but in my experience vegan mayo and cheese options can be a minefield. Right now, I don’t think a lot of them taste nice at all, but they are an easy way to bulk out a vegan sandwich. If a sandwich doesn’t taste good as is, adding these fake alternatives is unlikely to make a difference.

It should be as good as a regular sandwich

Ultimately, I think a great vegan sandwich will be ‘great’ if it can rival a non-vegan sandwich. I think vegan options have been sidelined and undervalued in the past, with poor fillings and little effort put into their development.

But now there’s no excuse for weak vegan options. I’d like to see companies upping their game and offering vegan-friendly products that are just as tasty as their meat counterparts.

Over to you!

What does a great vegan sandwich look like to you? And what do you think of the rise of vegan options from shops and cafes?

Agree with my reasoning above? Let’s discuss it in the comments.

Comments

I am concerned by the potential confusion between vegan and plant-based. Plant-based is fine if you want to reduce your meat and dairy intake but not necessarily if you want to eat food that is free from animal materials.

We had a Conversation about plant-based food and a new British Standard: https://conversation.which.co.uk/food-drink/plant-based-food-meaning-definition-consultation/

Claire Milne of the Consumer & Public Interest Network posted a comment that in the draft standard, plant-based food could contain up to 5% of ingredients derived from animals: https://conversation.which.co.uk/food-drink/plant-based-food-meaning-definition-consultation/#comment-1603331

We know where we stand with vegan food but the public deserves to know what plant-based means.

Vegans make terrible sandwiches. They’re all skin and bone.

That sandwich in the picture is a bit gluttonous, look at the size of it, you’d need a big mouth to eat that! It does look tasty though, but it’d be far too big for me.

We’ve just switched over to Heinz vegan mayo and honestly, I cannot tell the difference at all. It’s well worth the try if you haven’t tried that one.

beanie says:
17 December 2021

The fact that there are some very realistic and good quality 100% vegan ‘meat’ and ‘dairy’ alternatives now available, means that there really is no excuse for companies to develop poor vegan sandwiches. The issue is that it is *non-vegans* who do not have proper knowledge, nor a genuine respect for veganism, that are developing many of the vegan offerings. P.s Heinz and Hellmans vegan mayonnaise are absolutely amazing!

I suppose the reality is that many food producers are trying to take advantage of the trend towards vegan foodstuffs but their heart, or their understanding of the consumer demand, is not really in it. If they cannot make an equivalent appealing product then perhaps they should not even try.

I don’t see a sandwich as a meal so an ordinary tomato or cucumber sandwich is good enough, but for those who buy animal-free sandwiches every day as part of their subsistence a broader range and tastier contents with adequate balanced nutrition are essential. A vegan sandwich should not be a distress purchase or an inferior substitute where non-vegan products are generally of a higher quality.

Munro has invited us to suggest what should go into a good vegan sandwich. If you look at what is available in the non-vegan range there are some rather unappetising options and the only appeal of these ones is the addition of an interesting product description:

Perhaps the answer is to make your own sandwiches, use fillings you like, know exactly what is going into them and possibly save money.

Yes — It clearly shows that the chicken came before the egg [accompanied by some tomato].

Morrisons eventually got the value more or less right.

Indeed. Although it’s very unappealing at least it contains no mayo. I don’t understand the popularity of mayo although it does keep the filling glued in place.

Kevin says:
18 December 2021

That must be the most out of date eggs I’ve ever seen, but it shows just how arbitrary ‘use by’ dates are.

The photo is from 19 February 2019 and is one in a series showing oddities in the world of retailing. Sadly the ‘two for the price of three offers’ have ended. Once I can can photograph a sign that says that ‘the stationary department has moved’ I will lose interest.

Vegan products often go for taste with no focus on healthy ingredients.

One thing I hate about ready made sandwiches is how they’re near enough always full of mayonnaise or salad cream, they never give you any choice, they always just totally wrongly assume that “everyone” likes it. Well I DON’T! I find both substances absolutely vile, and there must be others out there too who also can’t stand them, but it’s become another stupid standard thing hasn’t it? Just like so many other outrageous things like the stupid insane and totally intolerable noise that’s played on so many phone lines now when they put you on hold making them totally inaccessible, and if you complain you just get totally ignored because there’s far too many appalling grossly condescending attitudes out there that need to seriously change for the better.

As a matter of interest, Crusader, what sort of background sound would be acceptable to you during the long pauses while waiting for a response from a call centre or even the doctor’s office? Some tranquil seashore sounds perhaps? The clickety-clack noise made by an old railway train as it goes over the joints and the points? The distant sound of jungle drums? Birdsong from a country wood?

Today’s technology should be able to give callers the choice — Press 1 for a Mariachi band; 2 for a dulcimer; 3 for a rattlesnake; etc, etc.

Sorry — I’ve just realised this is way off topic

What we should get is phone calls answered without the need to listen to most of a piano concerto. The statement “we are experiencing a high volume of calls at the moment” wheres a bit thin after that’s the excuse that has been used for years. Just hire more people or instigate a call-back service as some companies do.

This is why I always have a sandwich handy when I make a phone call to an energy supplier or such like.

I put the phone on loudspeaker and then get on with a job, like the washing, making lunch, or watering in the greenhouse.

One of my energy companies – Scottish Power I think – had a very reliable call-back service instead of hanging on. I very rarely need to phone my suppliers; I find email a better way and had good response in the past, but rarely need to use it either.

My doctors’ surgery at least tell you your position in the queue, updated as you hold on….and on….. I wish others would do this.

I’m not that keen on traditional sandwiches. Too much bread. I think the Danes have the best idea with open sandwiches – prawn, smoked salmon, egg and tomato “mayonnaise” is a favourite. An exception is very thin bread making cucumber sandwiches.

That sounds like a good idea, as long as there’s no appalling added effects, like there all too often is these days which are totally IMpossible to listen to. And there should be miles more sandwiches available without any mayo or anything similar added, there’s far too many wild assumptions made that “everyone” likes the same standard things, when of course they don’t. And there’s an old saying that “assumption is the mother of all foul-ups”, which of course it is because 99% of the time it’s all wrong.

If you are vegan you do not eat meat end of. Why all these child’s plastic toy looking ‘ meat substitutes’ they look revolting and I am sure are all highly processed which means it is not healthy. If you think it is better for the planet then all the fuel needed to prod, squidge ,produce a ton of chemicals you have never heard of to reshape into plasticised effigies and into more plastic to wrap it in does not not sound planet friendly. What is wrong with good old cucumber and /or tomato sandwiches or even beetroot and lots of green leaves. As one of of 4 children and little money I often had tomato sandwiches in school and tasty too. No sliced ham then.

We used to always have tomato sandwiches similar to these growing up. They’re the best!

https://www.archanaskitchen.com/spicy-onion-tomato-masala-sandwich-recipe

Tomato sandwiches are best made and eaten straightaway, otherwise they lose their texture and make the bread a bit soggy, in my experience.

I agree. I have my tomatoes with sandwiches rather than inside them. Nothing worse than a soggy sandwich.

I quite like the moist effect of a tomato sandwich. I usually make them with cheese, either grated or sliced depending on the state of the cheese. Cheese and onion is another favourite sandwich using the middle slice of a big onion. I suppose Marmite is my favourite non-animal content.

As a matter of information, where does veganism stand on eggs and honey as constituents of sandwiches?

I can understand people not wanting animals raised purely for slaughter and setting a diet accordingly. However, if animals are raised humanely and just byproducts used – milk, eggs, and the honey John mentions – then why the objection?

Out of interest, do vegans not keep pets?

I can’t see that the consumption of the produce of bees and chickens is harmful to the insects or birds if their husbandry is humane and healthy, but milk is not such an easy question. Cows in milk have to be milked at least twice a day so they would be completely redundant. There would be little value in rearing sheep or pigs either.

It would be theoretically possible — after a lengthy transition period — for society to manage without the non-meat by-products of animals as synthetic alternatives are available, but whether there is now enough land left in the UK (a) to sustain the plant-based substitutes for meat and dairy products, and (b) to produce the plant-based textiles required in lieu of animal by-products, is another question. Obviously, there would be a much lower arable requirement if crops were not required for animal feed. I think there would need to be a sharp rise in the use of oil derivatives for synthetic fabrics, and chemicals generally as artificial fertiliser would be needed to improve land for crop production. Has anyone done even a crude projection of the consequences of a non-animal future taking into account the gains and losses?

What will become of all the land that is not much use for anything other than grazing if grazing animals are no longer required for food and other products? We have developed some of the best arable land in the country; it might have been better if we had saved that for crops and covered all the pastures and hay meadows with houses.

I suppose the popularity of equestrianism will keep some animal husbandry going but the hectares devoted to horse racing might have to be put under the plough. At least there are electronic alternatives with virtual formbooks but the rest of the industry would have to find something else to do.

I don’t imagine most vegans want to impose their views on the remaining 99% of us, but I respect their wishes to follow a particular regime. Sheep provide wool, which can be harvested without death. A cow can be milked to provide cheese and yoghurt, for example, while it leads a happy life. Bees seem to thrive when kept in hives, free to come and go as they please, and perform a very valuable role in pollinating plants.

One view is that no animals should be kept in captivity, but that will never happen.

What is a vegan’s view of carnivorous animals?

Back to sandwiches. As with vegetarians, why try to make veggie products look like meat?

Not just LOOK like meat/fish etc, why on earth do they want them to TASTE like meat or fish? If I want vegan I’ll have a Marmite sandwich, oops sorry, mixed with real butter so NOT vegan!

Alice says:
21 December 2021

I’m not vegan, but I’m lactose intolerant, which means I often buy vegan products to make sure they’re dairy-free.

I think the key is variety. In the same way that the non-vegan options offer up a number of different fillings as well as styles (baguettes, sub rolls, wraps, standard sarnies) – it’s nice to have choice.

There’s nothing worse than going into a shop and only having one option… and you don’t like the look of it.

Pret and Marks and Spencer’s are my faves for a vegan lunch. Pret get extra points from me too, as they offer hot options (meatball wrap).

I think many vegan products are dishonestly packaged. I wonder how many people in a hurry quickly pick up what they think is a meat product only to find later it contains no meat whatsoever.

These following images are two products that can be used in sandwiches that do not contain meat.

Click on images for larger view.

I agree, Alfa.

I wonder how many people know what mycoprotein is. Quorn is largely made of the filamentous fungus or mould Fusarium venenatum. A small number of people suffer from mould allergies. At least many people know that certain cheeses contain moulds but I suspect that we are not supposed to know that Quorn does. https://www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/knowledgebase/quorn/

If you are a vegan, why would you want to eat anything that looks like meat? Whether it is described in a misleading way or not.
Good graphics, Alfa.

In some cases, vegans are being conned by marketing, as I mentioned earlier: https://conversation.which.co.uk/food-drink/vegan-sandwiches-meat-alternatives/#comment-1642406

“Dishonest” is absolutely the right word for this marketing material. Given that the advertising code regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority requires all advertising to be “legal, decent, honest and truthful”, how does Quorn get away with it?

I agree with Malcolm’s comment about the comparison of the product to meat; clearly designed to confuse the issue. Not dissimilar to the “I can’t believe it’s not butter” slogan which presumably escapes prohibition by virtue of a semantic nicety.

Our butcher says his cows eat grass so are vegan therefore they are plant based. 🙂

So long as the cattle eat nothing but vegetable material that is a persuasive argument, but, as the BSE crisis showed, they had been fed on contaminated meat and bone meal which caused a degenerative brain disease transmissible to humans. The cows affected by the disease suffered badly for long periods in some cases and it was following that episode that veganism attracted more adherents. The harmful practices are now banned.

I totally agree that when a product is produced it should not utilise clever wording to indicate it is a faux product such as shown in those pictures by alpha and cause confusion.
Years ago I went into a shop that made up sandwiches and the big tub of ‘ spread ‘ looked like margarine. As lots of spread types make me queasy I stick to butter so asking if it was butter, the very young lady said it was” I can’t believe it’s not butter ” so it must be butter!
A lot of vegan produce is an expensive con anyway. There was a vegan “cheese” board offering for Christmas. Each piece had exactly the same ingredients plus whatever the ‘flavouring’ was but those ‘ingredients ‘ if any were not specified.
A side effect of this vegan trend means I am finding lots of Wheat free products and Gluten free for coeliacs have disappeared off the shelves in supermarkets, although the ‘free from ‘chiller area is full of dairy free. I am finding that It means some gluten free products are dairy free too and it tastes disgusting and I like all kinds of cheeses!

John – The threat of BSE (and vCJD in humans) has been very successfully contained but has not gone away: “There have been five cases of confirmed BSE in the UK since 2014, all of these have been in animals which, as fallen stock, were not destined for the human food chain and posed no risk to the general public.” https://www.gov.uk/government/news/single-case-of-classical-bse-confirmed-on-a-farm-in-somerset

As food prices rise I hope that cost cutting will not affect standards in the UK or elsewhere.

The best type of vegan sandwiches contain jam, either strawberry or raspberry.

Trevor says:
23 February 2022

Meat substitutes might satisfy some people! In my opinion they are not worth buying. One can make a samdwich using vegetables and fruit without too much bother which is varied in texture and flavour providing interest, nutirtion and satisfaction of both physical and mental wellbeing!

I like tomato sandwiches, made fresh with a nice sprinkling of salt. But don’t use beefsteak tomatoes 🙁