America runs on sandwiches. US Foods reports that Americans eat roughly 300 million sandwiches every single day. That equals about one sandwich a day for every American.
We’re truly a sandwich-loving nation.
Of course there are the classics — the club, ham and cheese, BLT. Those will probably never go out of style.
But what’s new and exciting? How are sandwiches pushing the envelope as we move into the new year?
To find out, let’s take a look at some of the more interesting sandwich trends and recipes for 2018.
Keep Your Eye on the Knish
Throughout the country, we are seeing an increasing number of stuffed pastries and puff pastries on menus. Joan Lang at Flavor has noticed this, too, and she argues that the recent popularity of empanadas and bao steamed buns are introducing consumers to generations-old filled pastries.
Could these dishes be setting the table for a knish renaissance? Lang thinks so, and she offers a couple of ways restaurateurs could get ahead of the curve:
Offering knishes as a premium sandwich-bread option.
Trying out a variety of fillings and doughs to get a feel for what your customers’ tastes are. Maybe a bacon-egg-and-cheese breakfast knish would work for business, she says.
You Have Room to Explore Higher Price Points for Bread
In October, the New York Post ran a piece artisanal bread loaves that some New Yorkers are willing to pay $20 for. While the Post strikes an alarmist tone over this development, it’s worth keeping in mind that the ceiling on your bread prices might be higher than you would have otherwise anticipated.
“If you’re going to eat bread, you might as well eat good bread,” one New Yorker told the newspaper. “It challenges me to bring the rest of my meal up to par.”
This is in line with our experience that millennial consumers are willing to pay a premium price for high-quality foods. If you can provide your customers with an excellent bread, you might find that they are ready to reward your commitment to quality.
Dry Aging Meats
We’re seeing a growing popularity in the dry aging of meats like beef and chicken.
More and more restaurants are finding the value in allowing meats to dry and cure in a fully controlled environment before serving them. Jennifer Armentrout points out in Fine Cooking that allowing beef to age helps the natural enzymes break down the muscle tissue. In turn, this improves both flavor and texture.
In terms of aging duration, it’s critical to get the timing just right. The Gordon Ramsay Restaurants team explains that the “sweet spot” is usually somewhere between 21 and 25 days. After that, the meat begins to lose its taste.
Although this adds to the complexity of the process, aged meats can be a huge selling point and something that many patrons are willing to pay extra for.
Sure, mustard and mayo are great. But why not try Kimchee relish or Mazi Piri Piri sauce? Or maybe even Yuzo Kosho or hot honey?
These are just a few of the next-level condiments that Sierra Tishgart at Grub Street says you need in your fridge. Exotic condiments like these are really catching on, and more and more delis and restaurants are incorporating them into their menus.
The Prepared Foods team puts some perspective on this trend by pointing out that consumer demand catapulted the condiment/sauce market to $24 billion in 2016, which will no doubt grow even more by 2018.
Consumers, and millennials in particular, love to experiment with different condiment combinations.
Bright and Bold Colors
Humans are innately visual creatures, and we eat with our eyes just as much as our mouths. Harry Pettit explains at the Daily Mail that this is “hardwired” in the brain and even has evolutionary roots.
So, it should come as no surprise that foods with striking colors will be trending up in 2018. Fine Dining Lovers points out that matcha green buns and black breads are two great examples of how sandwiches are incorporating bright and bold colors.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Restaurants and delis can win over customers by experimenting with a plethora of contrasting meat and veggie colors and throwing in some funky-colored side dishes.
Adding this visual component is a surefire way to turn heads and raise interest.
Our collective love of cheese is nothing new. Though it has historically played second fiddle to meats, many sandwiches will be putting cheese front and center in 2018.
In other words, melty, gooey, cheesy goodness is in. Hot sandwiches with or without meat featuring melted cheese are already popular and should catch on even more moving forward.
Kristin Hunt and Andy Kryza at Thrillist point out some of the best options for grilled cheeses and melts at the moment. Some of their top picks include goat cheese, feta, Havarti, pepper jack and Muenster.
Interest Grows in High Quality Breads
The whole idea of slapping a sandwich together with uninspired white or wheat bread is quickly becoming passé. We’re finding that more and more people have discerning tastes as it relates to the breads they choose to eat.
Charlotte Atchley writes at World Grain that there’s a growing interest in quality and clean-label, unpackaged breads. People are becoming a lot wiser as to what goes into the breads they consume, and we’re seeing an obsession with quality. She uses two key words, natural and handmade, to describe what people are looking for most in breads.
Atchley also explains how Americans are becoming more open to trying new varieties of breads. She references a report that found 66 percent of people like trying new bread varieties, and 57 percent like trying breads from other cultures or regions.
This is worth noting for restaurant and deli owners who are looking to entice new customers and create a more interesting dining experience.
Hot Sauce Popularity Heats Up
“Some like it hot” is putting it mildly. Another big trend is the average American’s partiality to hot sauce. Noah Rothbaum gets into specifics on The Daily Beast.
He points to a study that found more than half of all American households have at least one bottle of hot sauce, and shipments to restaurants, cafes and bars have surged in recent years.
Sriracha and chipotle sauces (and their variations) are especially popular and have become common on many menus. But Steve Bramucci at Uproxx takes it one step further and lists some of the top hot sauces that are a bit more obscure yet totally worthy of attention. Some of his picks include:
Now, let’s get into some of the top sandwich recipes you can expect in 2018.
Banh Mi is a classic Vietnamese sandwich that’s taking the nation by storm. Ian Salisbury writes at Time Money about banh mi’s menu penetration and explains that it has increased nearly five-fold in the past four years.
Typically consisting of grilled pork, pickled carrots and cilantro on a baguette, it’s a simple yet delicious sandwich with a very complex taste. Although it’s currently only on two percent of restaurant menus, you can expect a major spike in 2018 as Southeast Asian cuisines continue to influence the American palate.
Chorizo-Spiced Pulled Pork with Mexican Street Corn Slaw
Rabi Abonour highlights 20 of the most innovative, mouth-watering sandwich recipes at Serious Eats. This is one of the most interesting and pays homage to both Southern BBQ and Mexican cuisine.
It uses boneless pork shoulder, garlic, apple cider, paprika and cotija cheese just to name a few ingredients for a robust taste that really pops. Morgan Eisenberg breaks down the full recipe step-by-step here.
Braaibroodjie (South African Grilled Cheese)
What better way to put a new spin on a traditional grilled cheese than the incredibly delicious braaibroodjie? Although it’s a simple, it packs a bold taste and uses the following ingredients:
- White bread
- Unsalted melted butter
- Sharp cheddar
- A tomato
- White onion
- Salt and pepper
- Sour chutney (this is the kicker)
Andy Fenner offers the full recipe at SAVEUR and explains that this is one of the most authentic braai (the word that encompases South Africa’s rich barbecuing tradition) dishes there is.
Croque Madame Sandwich
Here’s a classic French comfort food that takes your average ham sandwich to completely new heights. The core ingredients include ham, sourdough bread, Gruyere cheese and eggs.
But what you do with those ingredients is what makes the croque madame sandwich so interesting. You create bechamel sauce (butter, flour, milk, cheese and some spices — otherwise known as white sauce) and use it as a spread for the ham and bread. You then add cheese and other ingredients, and the whole thing is topped off with a fried egg.
It’s truly a masterpiece, and Alex Guarnaschelli explains the whole preparation process with her recipe on The Food Network.
Chicken-Fried Chicken and Pickled Pepper Sandwich
Most people are accustomed to the traditional chicken-fried steak sandwich, but not so much with chicken-fried chicken. It relies on the same cooking technique: dipping cuts of chicken in buttermilk and seasoned flour then frying them in a shallow pan.
From there, you add a mix of pickled peppers. This can include sweet peppers, banana peppers, Cubanelles or whatever you happen to fancy. Throw it on a hoagie roll and add some lettuce and mayo, and it’s good to go.
It’s crispy, crunchy, and the pickled peppers give it just the right amount of zing without being overwhelming. Lisa Lavery has the full recipe at Chowhound.
Although the sandwich is nothing new in and of itself, it continues to evolve over time. People keep experimenting, which leads to new combinations and endless possibilities.
With 2018 just around the corner, these sandwich trends and recipes are likely to dominate the culinary landscape and should be on the radar of restaurant and deli owners.