Sandwiches have secured their spot as a staple in American cuisine, offering a diverse array of flavors, textures, and cultural influences that cater to every palate. From the bustling delis of New York City to the sun-drenched coasts of California, the sandwich has evolved into an art form, with each state boasting its own signature creation. In this list, we’re going to take a gastronomic tour of the most popular sandwiches across the United States, exploring the history and unique elements that make each one a beloved classic.
Image via 2ndavedeli
20. Pastrami on Rye
A Pastrami on Rye sandwich is a classic deli offering that features thinly sliced, seasoned, and smoked pastrami beef piled high on rye bread, often accompanied by mustard and sometimes a pickle on the side. The rye bread’s distinct flavor complements the spiciness of the pastrami, creating a sandwich with a robust and savory taste profile. This sandwich has become a staple in New York delis and is celebrated for its hearty filling and the perfect balance of textures and flavors that make it a satisfying meal.
19. Beef on Weck
A Beef on Weck is a sandwich that hails from Western New York, particularly the Buffalo region, and is made with rare, thin slices of roast beef piled onto a Kummelweck roll. The roll is distinctive, topped with coarse salt and caraway seeds, which gives the sandwich its name and a unique flavor profile. It’s usually served with a side of au jus for dipping and horseradish for a spicy kick, making it a savory and satisfying choice with a blend of textures and bold flavors.
18. Lobster Roll
A lobster roll is a New England delicacy consisting of succulent chunks of lobster meat lightly dressed with mayonnaise or melted butter, served on a grilled, buttered hot dog-style bun, often with a sprinkle of chives or a dash of lemon juice. The lobster meat is typically cold in a mayo-based version, known as a Maine lobster roll, or warm in a Connecticut-style roll with butter. Its popularity stems from the fresh, sweet lobster meat that provides a taste of coastal summers, making it a sought-after item at seafood shacks and upscale restaurants alike.
17. Hot Brown
A Hot Brown sandwich is a Kentucky classic, originally created at the Brown Hotel in Louisville in the 1920s as a hearty alternative to late-night ham and egg suppers. This open-faced sandwich is loaded with turkey and bacon, then smothered in a rich Mornay sauce and baked or broiled until bubbly and golden. Its indulgent combination of creamy sauce, crispy bacon, and tender turkey makes it a beloved comfort food and a staple of Southern cuisine.
A Muffuletta is a substantial sandwich that hails from New Orleans, featuring a round, dense sesame bread loaf filled with layers of marinated olive salad, capicola, salami, mortadella, emmentaler, and provolone. It was created in 1906 by Sicilian immigrants at Central Grocery Co. on Decatur Street, New Orleans, becoming a hallmark of the city’s Italian-American cuisine. The Muffuletta is celebrated for its bold flavors and contrasting textures, from the tangy and briny olive salad to the rich and savory meats and cheeses.
15. Cuban Sandwich
A Cuban sandwich, also known as a Cubano, is a grilled sandwich that traditionally includes roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and sometimes salami on Cuban bread. The sandwich is pressed and toasted, which warms the ingredients and gives the bread a crispy exterior. Its delicious flavor combination and textural contrast have made it a beloved staple in both Cuba and the United States, particularly in areas with large Cuban-American communities like Miami and Tampa.
Stoltzfus Meats and Deli/Facebook
14. Pulled Pork Sandwich
A Pulled Pork Sandwich is a hearty, Southern-style sandwich that features slow-cooked pork shoulder or butt that’s been shredded or ‘pulled’ after being roasted for several hours until tender. This succulent pork is often mixed with a tangy barbecue sauce and served on a soft hamburger bun, sometimes topped with a scoop of coleslaw for added crunch and creaminess. Its popularity lies in the rich, smoky flavor of the meat, the sweet and spicy balance of the BBQ sauce, and its comforting, melt-in-your-mouth texture, making it a favorite at cookouts and diners.
Joe Leone’s Italian Specialties/Facebook
13. Tuna Salad Sandwich
A tuna salad sandwich is super easy to whip up – just toss some canned tuna with a bit of mayo and throw in whatever crunchy bits you like, like celery or pickles. It’s a total go-to because it’s cheap, packed with protein, and those omega-3s in the tuna are a big win for your health. Plus, you can mix it up however you want, making it a pretty chill option that never gets boring.
Mike Dubberly WBRC/Facebook
12. Egg Salad Sandwich
An Egg Salad Sandwich is a simple, classic sandwich made with chopped hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise, and often additional ingredients such as mustard, celery, onion, salt, and pepper to enhance the flavor, served on various types of bread. It is popular due to its creamy texture, the mild yet satisfying taste of the egg salad, and its versatility, as it can be enjoyed plain or with various add-ins and bread choices. Furthermore, its ingredients are commonly found in many households and it’s relatively easy to prepare, making it a convenient option for meals and snacks.
11. Meatball Sub
A Meatball Sub, also known as a Meatball Sandwich or Meatball Hoagie, is a popular American-Italian sandwich that includes meatballs, marinara sauce, and melted cheese, such as provolone or mozzarella, served on a long hoagie roll or baguette. The sandwich’s history is somewhat nebulous, but it has been suggested that it was invented in the United States around the turn of the 20th century, coinciding with the arrival of Italian immigrants who brought their traditional cuisine, including meatballs, to America.
A Reuben sandwich is a grilled sandwich composed of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing, served between slices of rye bread. The origin of the Reuben sandwich is disputed, with one claim attributing it to Reuben Kulakofsky, a grocer from Omaha, Nebraska, who created it for his weekly poker game held at the Blackstone Hotel in the 1920s, while another claim suggests it was invented by Arnold Reuben, the owner of Reuben’s Delicatessen in New York City, in the early 20th century. Regardless of its true origins, the Reuben has become a staple in American delis and is renowned for its savory, tangy flavor profile and satisfying combination of textures.
9. French Dip
A French Dip sandwich is a hot sandwich consisting of thinly sliced roast beef (or sometimes other meats) on a “French roll” or baguette. It is typically served with a side of beef jus—the natural juices collected from the cooking process—for dipping. The sandwich’s origin is contested between two Los Angeles restaurants, Cole’s Pacific Electric Buffet and Philippe the Original, with both establishments claiming to have created it in the early 20th century. The story from Philippe’s suggests the sandwich was accidentally created in 1918 when the owner, Philippe Mathieu, dropped a French roll into the roasting pan filled with meat juices. Cole’s, on the other hand, contends their version was invented in 1908. Regardless of its true origin, the French Dip has become a beloved part of Los Angeles’ culinary heritage and is enjoyed by many across the United States.
8. Italian Beef
An Italian beef sandwich, originating in Chicago, is composed of thin slices of seasoned roast beef, simmered and served au jus on a long French roll. The sandwich often includes giardiniera or sautéed sweet peppers, and can be ordered “dipped” or “wet,” meaning it is briefly submerged in the juices the meat was cooked in, adding to its flavor and tenderness. Its popularity is attributed to the savory depth of the seasoned beef, the hearty portion sizes, and the unique combination of textures from the crusty bread soaked in jus to the crunch of the giardiniera, making it a staple of Chicago’s culinary scene.
A cheesesteak sandwich, often associated with the city of Philadelphia, is made with thinly sliced pieces of beefsteak and melted cheese in a long hoagie roll. The sandwich often includes toppings like sautéed onions, peppers, and mushrooms, with the choice of cheese ranging from provolone to American, or the iconic Cheez Whiz. Its popularity comes from the combination of juicy, flavorful beef with the creamy, melted cheese and the satisfying texture of the roll, making it a filling and indulgent meal that has become a symbol of Philadelphia’s culinary identity.
The Shoals Shack/Facebook
6. Po’ Boy
A po’ boy is a traditional sandwich from Louisiana that typically consists of meat, often roast beef or fried seafood such as shrimp, crawfish, fish, oysters, or crab, served on New Orleans French bread with a crisp crust and fluffy center. The sandwich is dressed with toppings like lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayonnaise, and it’s renowned for its hearty fillings and distinctively fresh, local ingredients. Its popularity is rooted in its flavorful combinations and generous portions, offering a taste of New Orleans’ rich culinary culture at an affordable price, which is how it got its name during the 1929 streetcar strike when it was served to “poor boys”.
Cheeseburgers became popular in the United States as part of the broader fast-food movement that took off in the early to mid-20th century, with their quick service and mass appeal playing a significant role. The combination of juicy ground beef patties with melty cheese on a bun was an instant hit, offering a more flavorful twist on the already beloved hamburger. National fast-food chains and diners helped proliferate the cheeseburger across the country, solidifying its status as an iconic American food.
4. Peanut Butter & Jelly
A peanut butter and jelly (PB&J) sandwich consists of peanut butter and fruit jelly spread between two slices of bread. The sandwich is beloved for its perfect pairing of the rich, savory flavor of peanut butter with the sweet and sometimes tart taste of jelly or jam. The combination of creamy or crunchy peanut butter texture with the soft bread and smooth jelly appeals to most Americans and is a staple in most kitchens.
3. Club Sandwich
A club sandwich, also known as a clubhouse sandwich, is a type of sandwich that is traditionally double-decker, featuring three layers of bread and two layers of fillings including sliced poultry, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. The combination of flavors and textures—from the savory meats to the crisp lettuce and ripe tomato, all brought together with the creaminess of mayonnaise—makes it a satisfying and popular choice. Its deliciousness is further enhanced by the contrast between the toasted bread and the various cold fillings, creating a hearty and multi-dimensional eating experience.
2. BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato)
The BLT is a classic sandwich that features the key ingredients of bacon, lettuce, and tomato. Typically served on toasted bread with mayonnaise, the BLT combines the crispiness of bacon, the freshness of lettuce, and the juiciness of ripe tomatoes. This popular American sandwich is celebrated for its balance of textures and flavors, often enjoyed as a quick lunch or a casual diner staple.
1. Grilled Cheese
The sandwich is a staple in American cuisine, known for its simplicity and the ease with which it can be customized or enhanced with additional ingredients like tomatoes, bacon, or onions. It’s a common homemade meal as well as a menu item in diners and casual restaurants across the United States.