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Nine of the best picnic sandwiches

by Great British Chefs 5 July 2022

Eating outdoors at the park or on the beach, is one of summer's greatest pleasures, but there is an art to the perfect picnic. Done right, it's a dreamy experience that can linger on for hours. Done badly, it can mean limp salads and soggy slices! Read on for our top picnic sandwich tips... 

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It's important to choose the right type of sandwich for outdoor dining - something that's fairly sturdy (and can withstand being jiggled around on the journey) will always be a winner, and the layering of the sandwich is important, too - no-one wants to eat bread made soggy by a rogue slice of tomato.

We've rounded up our favourite sandwiches to take on a picnic, from stuffed, pressed loaves that can be cut by the slice, to vegetable wraps that are easy to assemble on-site. Read on for everything you need to know to level-up your picnic sandwich game. Just don't forget to pack the corkscrew! 

Tuna and roasted tomato ciabatta

Tuna sandwiches are a true modern classic, and Georgina Fuggle's version takes the concept to the next level. Tuna is combined with a creamy tahini yoghurt instead of mayo, tomatoes are roasted until jammy and sweet, and both are piled onto rustic bread with yoghurt and fragrant basil. This sandwich really is a taste of summer! Enjoy it with a crisp glass (or plastic cup) of chilled white wine, or an ice-cold beer. And if you're looking for a side dish, this cucumber salad will fit the bill nicely (just swap the asparagus for extra cucumber if it's not in season). 

Muffaletta

This classic sandwich hails from New Orleans, where its roots lie with Sicilian workers who struggled to juggle the various components of their lunch, balancing everything on their knees. A canny grocer noticed their predicament and stuffed it all between two slices of bread - problem solved. The basic idea here is to layer up lots of deli meats and cheeses, so feel free to experiment with your favourite combinations. We love fennel salami, bresaola and mortadella, along with easy-to-slice cheeses such as Emmental or mozzarella. Finally, a piquant relish is essential to balance all those cold cuts. Give Helen Graves' recipe a go and find out for yourself why this sandwich is considered a classic the world over. 

Chicken and apple hedgehog rolls

Kids will love these cute brown rolls, which are much simpler to make than you might think - William Drabble uses a simple scissor method to make spikes before baking. Uncanny! They're filled with a combination of chicken and crunchy apple - a sweet and savoury contrast that will delight palates of all ages. You could always try mixing up the filling if you don't fancy apple - a crunchy salad would be a great choice, such as this coleslaw recipe from Anna Hansen, made with fennel and dill, or try a classic Waldorf. 

Radish sandwiches with anchovy and herb butter

Often, a picnic calls for light, summery flavours, which is when elegant sandwiches like this radish and butter number fit the bill. The sliced radishes are crisp and peppery, matching perfectly with the highly seasoned butter. What's more, these sandwiches won't go limp on the journey, which is half the battle won when it comes to picnic foods. Of course, radishes and butter are great just as they are, so a fun option to serve without bread too. 

Stuffed picnic loaf

What could be better for your outdoor gathering than this made for purpose picnic loaf? A round loaf is hollowed out and layered up with complimentary ingredients such as mozzarella, beetroot and pesto. This brightly coloured example from Jaqueline Meldrum falls on the simpler end of the scale - and is none the worse for it. However, you could experiment with adding different ingredients such as roasted peppers, different cheeses and pickles. The sandwich is wrapped and pressed overnight, meaning it becomes very compact and easy to slice up and serve. A masterpiece of sandwich engineering. 

Vegetable and cream cheese wrap

These wraps work best if you pack the components separately, then assemble them as needed. The roasted veggies and cream cheese can be made ahead of time, so all you need to do when you get there is spread, fill and roll. The sweetness of the roasted peppers and aubergines balances beautifully with the herby cream cheese, which is given an added flavour boost from some green pesto. 

Roast beef and horseradish sandwich

The Quality Chop House specialises in classic British flavours, and it doesn't come more so than roast beef and horseradish. This is a great sandwich to make with leftovers from a beef roast, but it's also worth roasting  a joint of beef to make this sandwich alone - it's that good. The sandwich is completed with a fiery horseradish cream, peppery watercress and sweet, earthy beetroot. Make these in advance and they'll still be great by the time you come to eat them, particularly served with a hearty salad, such as this Tenderstem broccoli with black garlic.  

Mushroom sandwich with pine nuts, raisins and capers

For an unusual vegetarian picnic sandwich, try this mushroom ciabatta from Cristina Bowerman. Button mushrooms are piled onto a rustic loaf with capers for acidity, raisins for sweetness and pine nuts for creamy crunch. Like all good sandwiches, this filling works because it plays with contrasts, which means there's plenty to keep your palate interested. Cristina garnishes the sandwich with radish cress - some lightly dressed rocket or watercress would also work well as a substitute. 

Chocolate peanut butter sandwich cookies

It wouldn't be a well-rounded picnic without a sweet finish, so why not add a dessert sandwich? These chocolate peanut butter sandwich cookies from Rukmini Iyer celebrate the tried and tested combination with a smooth, silky buttercream spread between two classic chocolate cookies. It's a sweet and salty delight! The buttercream sets at room temperature too, so as long as they don't sit in direct sunlight, these cookie sandwiches should keep their integrity until you're ready to eat them.