Perfect Pairs: Two-Ingredient Sandwiches


The sandwich is the ultimate exercise in edible gestalt: Great vegetables, cheeses, meats, and breads make, in the aggregate, something so much more wonderful than any one ingredient alone. While there's a time and a place for ten-ingredient Dagwoods and double-decker club sandwiches, there's a particular magic to be found in the very simplest sandwiches. These nine sandwich variations call for just two ingredients each (plus bread, of course, and the occasional grind of pepper); they are, in our opinion, the very pinnacle of lunchtime perfection. See 9 two-ingredient sandwiches in the gallery »

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Tomato & Avocado
Sweet, juicy heirloom tomatoes and slices of just-ripe avocado work in perfect harmony no matter what you serve them on, but a slice of seven-grain bread adds a perfect amount of texture and crunch.


2 slices seven-grain bread
1 tsp. mayonnaise
3 slices ripe tomato (about ½ a medium-sized tomato)
½ avocado, peeled and sliced

Spread the mayonnaise in a thin, even layer on one slice of the bread. Top with tomato, avocado, and remaining bread.

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Goat Cheese and Olive Tapenade
The New York City restaurant Penelope serves a cult-favorite sandwich called the John Oliver: fresh goat cheese and a generous serving of kalamata olive tapenade together on (yes, really) toasted cranberry walnut bread. It's an uncanny pairing: sweet, nutty, briny, and creamy all at once.


2 ½"-thick slices cranberry-walnut bread
2 tbsp. goat cheese, softened
2 tbsp. kalamata olive tapenade
Toast the bread until golden and warm. Spread one slice of bread with goat cheese, the other with olive tapenade, and sandwich both pieces together.

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Ricotta and Honey
A dollop of ricotta on earthy-sweet oat bread is delicious; add a drizzle of sourwood honey and it's elevated to the exquisite. (For a bit of sophistication, top with a sprinkle of freshly-crushed red pepper flakes, fresh thyme, or thinly sliced mint leaves.)


2 slices oat bread or oatmeal bread
3 tbsp. ricotta cheese
1 tsp. sourwood honey
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes or fresh herbs (optional)

Lightly toast oat bread until just golden. Spread one slice with ricotta, drizzle with honey, sprinkle with red pepper flakes or fresh herbs if desired, and top with remaining slice of bread.

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Radish and Butter
It's très French to pair crisp, spicy radishes with softened, salted butter; a thin-sliced baguette is the perfect vehicle.


2 tsp. unsalted cultured butter, like Plugra
¼ tsp. sea salt
2 slices baguette, cut on the bias
2 large radishes, sliced into ⅛" rounds
Fresh ground black pepper

In a small bowl, blend together butter and salt using a small spatula until butter is soft and airy. Spread baguette slices with butter, arrange radish slices on top, and finish with a grind or two of pepper.

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Peanut Butter and Bacon
Bring out peanut butter's savory side by topping it with a few strips of smoky bacon-cooked extra-crisp to hold up against sogginess. On hearty whole-wheat bread, it's the kind of sandwich you may not be able to wait until lunchtime to eat.


4 slices whole-wheat bread
4 oz. bacon
4 tbsp. creamy peanut butter

Toast bread until golden brown and warm. Meanwhile, heat bacon in a 12" skillet over medium heat and cook slowly, until fat is rendered and bacon is very crispy. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and allow to cool slightly. Spread peanut butter evenly across two slices of bread, top with equal portions of bacon, top each sandwich with one of the remaining pieces of bread.

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Ham and Egg
Ham and eggs may be a breakfast classic, but they're even better for lunch: try sliced or quartered hard-boiled eggs layered with a salty black forest ham and a bit of mayo on a hearty white bread.


2 slices white bread
1 tsp. mayonnaise
3 slices black forest ham
1 hard-boiled egg, sliced or quartered

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Apple Butter and Smoked Gouda
This combination is autumn on a slice of bread: sourdough spread with rich apple butter, topped with slices of mild smoked gouda and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. (If you don't have smoked gouda on hand, you can substitute a plain gouda or a mild smoked cheddar.)


2 ½"-thick slices sourdough bread
2 tbsp. apple butter
2 oz. smoked gouda cheese, thinly sliced
¼ tsp. flaky sea salt, like Maldon

Spread one slice of bread with apple butter. Top with cheese, sea salt, and remaining slice of bread.

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Cucumber and Cream Cheese
There's no reason this tried-and-true combination needs to be limited to tea time. Make three or four of these paper-thin preparations of white bread topped with tangy, softened cream cheese and crisp cucumber slices, and call it a lunch.


8 (¼"-inch) slices white sandwich bread
4 oz. whipped cream cheese, softened
1 seedless or English hothouse cucumber, thinly sliced

Spread four slices of bread with even portions of cream cheese. Arrange cucumbers on top, and top with remaining slices of bread.

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Cheddar and Mustard
Dense rye bread is the perfect base for a generous smear of not-too-spicy whole-grain mustard topped with thin slices of a sharp cheddar-white or yellow will do, but there's something particularly wonderful about Wisconsin's hard, yellow cheddars against the sweet-spice of a honey mustard.


2 slices rye bread
2 tbsp. whole-grain honey mustard
2 oz. sharp cheddar cheese

Spread mustard on one slice of bread; top with cheese and remaining slice of bread.