I present to you one of the most famous of all the Southern sandwiches: the tomato sandwich.
A summertime staple, this Southern sandwich is a shining example of the magic of letting perfect produce shine.
It's also an example of one of the great Southern Traditions on which nearly everyone has an opinion: mayonnaise.
But before we get into what we disagree on, there is one thing we can all agree on when making a tomato sandwich:
What tomatoes are best for sandwiches?
Ugly tomatoes. Tomatoes that are weird colors. Tomatoes that came from the famers market, your grandmother's garden, or a guy you know down the road.
Tomatoes with weird names like "Johns Island Ugly", "Cherokee Purple", or "Black Brandywine." For the love of all that is holy, do not use a mid-winter Roma or rock-hard Beefsteak tomato. If that's all that's available, don't make tomato sandwiches at all!
Tomato sandwiches are a summer food because that is when the tomatoes are best for them: tender, juicy, flavorful.
One thing to note - if you are picking tomatoes for say, a deli meat sandwich, you might want to pat them dry.
For a this sandwich, though, you want all that delicious moisture to mix with the mayonnaise and create its own tomato-y mayo-y sauce.
Which brings me to a Southern Rivalry older than the SEC:
What kind of mayonnaise should be used for a tomato sandwich?
Duke's or Hellman's, that is the question.
A tool I use for my blog helps me understand how many people search for certain terms on Google each month. Do you know how many search for "Dukes or Hellmanns?". ZERO.
Because Southerners are already sure they know the right answer.
But am I sure? Not so much. I enjoy both Duke's and Hellmann's on a tomato sandwich. Also, there is a third contender that no one ever talks about: homemade mayonnaise.
Homemade mayo is my preference always, but - in the words of the great Ina Garten - if you don't have any, store bought is fine. I'm definitely the outlier here though. I'd love to hear about what your favorite mayo is in the comments ( scroll to the bottom past the recipe to comment! )
What type of bread should be used in a tomato sandwich?
In a classic tomato sandwich, white bread. Because my dear friend Lydia made me my first tomato sandwich with Captain John Durst Bread, that is what I always use. The distinct yellow color gives away the brand, but John Durst is still white bread through and through! If you can find it, use it! If not, any basic, soft white sandwich bread will do.
If this tomato sandwich is your first, use the white bread. If you are ready to branch out and go less traditional, here are some awesome variations:
- Sourdough bread, tomato, mayo, bacon
- Seeded bread, tomato, mayo, avocado
- Toasted bread, tomato, mayo
- Grilled panini style with tomato, mayo, basil
Other Southern Recipes You Might Love:
- Fried Green Tomatoes
- Instant Pot Boiled Peanuts
- Southern Baked Macaroni and Cheese
- Southern Tomato Pie
- Buttermilk Fried Crispy Chicken Burger
How to make a tomato sandwich:
- 1 extra large heirloom tomato 2 medium tomatoes may be used instead
- 8 slices white bread Captain John Durst is my favorite
- 4 Tbsp Mayonnaise homemade, Duke's, or Hellmann's
- 1 Tbsp ground pepper approximate value, you'll want to add pepper to taste
- ½ Tbsp salt optional, to taste
- Slice tomatoes between ⅓ and ½" thick. Spread mayonnaise on one side of each piece of bread. Place one slice of tomato on one mayonnaise-d slice of bread. Repeat four times. Liberally pepper each tomato slice ( fresh cracked is best ). Sprinkle with salt if desired. Place the remaining slices of bread mayonnaise side down on top of the tomatoes to make four sandwiches.
Love it toasted. Or you can add a little cheese and grill it with the mayo on the outside of the bread instead of butter
My mom, grandma, and great-granny's way of making them includes a slice of American cheese and a generous helping of salt and pepper. Straight from rural west Georgia/east Alabama!