Many years ago, I was speaking with an older colleague who was intrigued by my plant-based diet but couldn’t wrap her head around one thing: “but what do you put on sandwiches?!”
At the time, I was usually bringing leftovers for lunch or eating take-out, so I was mostly confused by her confusion. Now, I’m a parent, and I get it. Sandwiches, man. So fast to make, easy to pack and eat out of the house, universally beloved, zero brain power required, next-to-zero clean up.
We often have sandwiches for lunch, sometimes open-faced, usually toasted, almost always on whole grain sprouted or sourdough bread. These five sandwiches are all ridiculously simple—so simple in fact, that I feel a bit silly writing about them. But I’m thinking of my poor confused former colleague, and others like her, who simply cannot picture a sandwich without deli meat and cheese.
You can always get plant-based versions of deli slices and cheeses, or cream cheese, to make the sandwiches you’re used to, by the way. But for the most part, in our family, we’re all about those straight legumes. Below are five ridiculously simple vegan sandwiches we eat on the regular:
If you’ve known me for more than five minutes, you know that I’m obsessed with hummus. It’s super delicious, widely loved, easy and inexpensive to make, and so nutritious: rich in fibre, protein, iron (which is made up to 5X more absorbable from the vitamin C in the lemon juice), calcium from the tahini, and a wide range of other vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients.
You can put whatever you want on your hummus sandwich! It plays well with just about anything. I love hummus on toast with in-season tomato, or smeared in a sandwich with lettuce and/or cucumber for crunchiness.
Smoked tofu, lettuce and tomato
I gravitate towards smoked tofu for its convenience and irresistible smoky flavour, but this also works with fried or baked tofu, flavoured with simply soy sauce or something more, if you’re feeling it. For the best smoked tofu sandwich, I’m going to insist that you slather on some vegan mayo. Make your own with silken tofu (yes, really—it’s outrageously creamy and rich) or buy the jarred stuff, which is now widely available. With the lettuce and tomato, this sandwich is kind of like a BLT minus the cancer, animal cruelty, and climate change. And you won’t need a nap after lunch, either!
Chickpea salad sandwiches are the updated version of the tuna salad sandwiches of the 80s. Instead of opening and draining a can of tuna, open and drain a can of chickpeas. (Or you can make your own chickpeas from dry—that’s what I do.) Using a potato masher or fork, mash the chickpeas up a bit in a bowl until no whole chickpeas remain, then mix in vegan mayo, diced pickles and a splash of pickle brine, diced celery, minced dill, a squeeze of lemon, S&P to taste. Or add in whatever you would’ve added to tuna salad. Other options: red peppers, grated carrots, parsley, scallions, shallots, relish, mustard, capers, crumbled seaweed. If you didn’t know, now you know.
Peanut butter (or Wow butter for allergen-free zones)
Um, yes I know peanut butter is so simple and basic that it almost feels like cheating to include it, but the thing is, the humble peanut butter sandwich is too useful not to include. Did you know that peanuts are actually legumes? Paired with whole grain bread, you’ve got a full amino acid profile; serve it with some fruits and veggies, and you’ve got a balanced meal that takes mere minutes and zero brain power to make. I ate peanut butter on rice cakes almost every day for lunch as a kid. My kids like peanut butter and banana sandwiches, and sometimes for a bit of a treat, I’ll sprinkle in a few chocolate chips and toast the sandwich in a skillet à la grilled cheese. All-fruit jam is nice, too.
Non-dairy butter and nutritional yeast
To the uninitiated, this combo probably seems insane, but stay with me here. This is literally my kids’ favourite way to have toast, and I know from years of associating with vegans that it’s a common go-to for others, too. After sprinkling on nutritional yeast to the melty butter, smear it in with the knife a bit so it doesn’t fall off when rambunctious little ones inevitably drop their toast. For school lunches, make two pieces and pack them with the topping sides facing each other—like a sandwich that is meant to be pulled apart.
Are you on Team Sandwich, too? What’s your fave?