It is believed that the sandwich was named after the 18th-century aristocrat, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, who asked for his meat to be tucked between two slices of bread so his hands would stay clean during his card games. While sandwiches were initially seen as food for casual men’s get-togethers, they eventually became popular among the aristocracy. Today, sandwiches are beloved by everyone and a great sandwich is the best invention since…well, sliced bread. Sandwiches have come a long way since the Earl’s card game – from simple grilled cheese sandwiches to exotic international sandwiches.

Making a good sandwich is easy; anyone can throw some food between a couple of slices of bread. Making a great sandwich, however, requires a bit more imagination and skill. Here are some tips on how to make incredible sandwiches:

1. Choose the Main Ingredient

The first question is always what kind of sandwich are you making? Is it a hearty tofu or tempeh sandwich? Is it a grilled cheese or is it a veggie-filled sandwich? The main ingredient is the star of the show; it’s probably why you’re making a sandwich in the first place. All other decisions will be made based on the main ingredient. Make sure your main ingredient is packed with flavor. If you’re making a tofu sandwich, turn it into a Buffalo Tofu Po’ Boy or spice up your seitan with a zingy BBQ Jack Sauce. Even if your sandwich is pure veggie heaven, flavor it up by marinating the vegetables first, spicing them up or roasting them.

5 Steps for Making Incredible Sandwiches

2. Best Ensemble Performance 

The secondary ingredients, otherwise known as toppings, are just as important to your sandwich as the main ingredient. They add texture and flavor and they can turn an OK sandwich into an incredible sandwich. Lettuce and tomatoes are great but they can be boring. There are tons of choices for filling up our sandwiches. Instead of lettuce, try spinach, kale, shredded cabbage, or arugula. Swap out watery tomatoes with roasted red peppers or radishes. Top your Chickpea “Tuna” Salad Sandwich with sprouts or pile tangy pickled daikon and carrots on a Vietnamese Tofu Banh Mi Sandwich.

5 Steps for Making Incredible Sandwiches

3. Mix and Match Flavors and Textures

The best sandwiches have elements that bring contrasting flavors and textures to the party. It’s all about balance – you don’t want four mild, soft ingredients stuck between two pieces of soft, bland bread. If your main ingredient is tender, add some crunch and chew to it. For instance, this Crunchy Cranberry Chik’n Sandwich has crunchy walnuts and chewy cranberries, adding texture to the tender soy curls. In this Vegan Humdinger, there is a medley of texture with hummus, carrots, avocado, cucumber and alfalfa sprouts. This creamy, rich Eggplant Burger gets a salty, crunch factor by topping it with potato chips. Flavors have to balance as well. If your sandwich has salty flavors such as olives or tamari, add something sweet like apples or agave. Fatty, rich ingredients like mayo and vegan cheese pair well with something fresh and tart like tomatoes or hot sauce. In this Tempeh Reuben, the rich Russian dressing is balanced by the tangy, vinegary slaw. Sun-dried tomatoes are tart and the perfect complement to the creamy hummus and avocado in this Cracked Sandwich.

5 Steps for Making Incredible Sandwiches

4. Spread the Word

Do you want mustard or mayo on that? Hold on, there are so many more choices for spreads than just mustard and mayo, so get creative. Spreads add flavor as well as moisture and creaminess to your sandwich, so don’t just slap any condiment on your work of food art. Try vinaigrettes, pestos, tampenades, BBQ sauces, chutneys or salsas. Make your own Thousand Island dressing or Russian dressing. Be creative and use hummus or mushroom pate for a thick and creamy spread. Don’t count mustard and mayo out of the picture entirely. Jazz them up by mixing other ingredients into them and make zippy Horseradish-Mustard Mayo or a pretty Red Pepper Aioli. For extra wow, make your own homemade vegan mayo!

5 Steps for Making Incredible Sandwiches

5. Use the Right Bread

Let’s face it, no matter how delicious and perfectly balanced your ingredients, toppings, and spread are, without the bread, it isn’t a sandwich. It’s just a pile of food (albeit an amazing pile of food). The bread is important and can make or break the whole sandwich. You know what I mean. I’m sure you have had the experience of picking up a sandwich and it just falls apart because the bread got soggy or couldn’t hold the ingredients. Whether it’s store-bought or homemade, you have to pick the right bread for your sandwich. If your fillings are moist, the bread should be dense. Otherwise, it will soak up all the moisture like a sponge so choose bread with a thick crust. Tortillas work well for moist foods also and can better hold ingredients that would otherwise fall out from between sliced bread. Go for variety and try different kinds of breads. Rye bread is classic for a Reuben sandwich. Raw veggies are enhanced with a flavorful onion cornbread or toasted sprouted bread. Jackfruit Philly Cheesesteaks are best on big, strong rolls like ciabatta bread. Try pita bread, sourdough, baguettes, challah, or homemade sandwich bread, and buns.

5 Steps for Making Incredible Sandwiches

Sandwiches are one of our favorite comfort foods. They are delicious, decadent, and portable. The next time you go to make yourself a sandwich, follow these tips and turn the quick bite that once fed an Earl into a feast fit for a king or queen.

Lead image source: Chickpea “Tuna” Salad Sandwich