Anyone who eats sandwiches knows the BLT – Bacon Lettuce Tomato Sandwich. No, there’s nothing vegetarian about that. Try switching out the non-vegetarian B out of that and replace it with a B that’s vegetarian. Then you have a Vegetarian BLT Sandwich! It’s not a new concept and this is my version.
The Sandwich is generally attributed to John Montagu, fourth Earl of Sandwich who was also a notorious gambler. It is rumoured that he invented it so he wouldn’t have to leave the gambling table! The BLT though an American icon, is thought to have origins in an English tea sandwich from the Victorian era. The BLT sandwich first appeared in British cookbooks in the late 1920s, and became really popular in America after World War II.
A traditional BLT consists of crispy bacon, fresh lettuce and slices of tomato between two slices of white bread slathered with a lot of mayonnaise. The modern take on it can include one or more of other additions. These include cheese, avocado, egg (for a BeLT), pineapple, bell peppers, etc. Twists on the BLT include BLT tacos, BLT burgers, BLT pasta, BLT soup, Chinese BLT fried rice, Taiwanese fluffy steamed bao BLTs, Vietnamese rice paper BLTs, Mexican Quesadilla BLTs, and more.
If you grew up in India or in an Indian family, you’ll know that a sandwich isn’t considered “real” food. At best, it’s considered a snack of sorts and even then only Indian versions of the sandwich count. Bread for breakfast is not considered very Indian and a sandwich is never lunch or dinner. That said, I have a love for bread and am happy to eat a sandwich for a meal or even in between.
One doesn’t need a recipe to make a sandwich. If you want to make a Vegetarian BLT Sandwich, I offer you the following options. What’s the “B” in my BLTs vegetarian? Read on…..
Let’s start with the bread. In my opinion, the thin sliced commercial sandwich bread should be a last resort. Go for slightly thicker crusty but soft bread slices. White bread is the best choice, but personal preference rules. The BLT is also very good with burger buns, foot long rolls, brioche, croissants or even bagels. Toasted or not toasted is a purely personal choice.
Next is mayonnaise or bread spread. Which adds flavor and moisture. You can go with plain or flavoured mayo. Use creamy cheese spread, cream cheese or butter instead. Hummus (plain or flavoured) or thick flavoured yogurt is an option.
Then the vegetarian “B” option for the Vegetarian BLT Sandwich . My choice is not a substitute for bacon but a vegetable that starts with the letter B. There are a lot of such vegetables like Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Butternut Squash, Bitter Melon or Bok Choi even. I’ve never eaten bacon but I understand it is salty sweet with some umami. It is also fatty so it crisps up well when pan fried. So my choice of a “B” vegetable should come close in terms of taste/ flavor. I would also prefer something that would pair well with the other ingredients and be a bit substantial and filling. Steam cooked or oven roasted Boniato or Beets are very good options.
Boniato are pink or white coloured sweet potatoes with creamy white flesh, the kind we commonly find in India. Sweet Potatoes are naturally mildly sweet and earthy. I peel and cut them into thick slices before steam cooking them. Then I mildly salt them and pan sear them in a little oil making them a bit crisp on the outside. This works beautifully.
Use whatever lettuce you like. Fresh and crisp lettuce makes all the difference. A variety that has a sharper flavor adds a little something to the sandwich. The same goes for the tomatoes. Whatever you have or can source works. I just prefer to slice my tomatoes into smaller pieces for easier eating. It could make for a soggy sandwich though if you don’t eat it immediately. You could also try using sun dried or oven roasted tomatoes for a change.
So that the BLT part taken care of. You can however add a little more flavor if you prefer but always remember that less is more. Egg can make a really good addition if you eat them. Use them boiled or fried. You could try tofu or paneer in some form or the other too, instead of egg.
If you like a little heat beyond the usual crushed black pepper, try chilli flakes, chili butter, Sriracha mayonnaise, etc. Other flavor additions include, dried herbs, za’atar, herbed garlic butter, harissa, pesto, etc.
I made my BLT with crusty home-made pan toasted white bread, creamy cheese spread, pan grilled steamed boniato slices, Romaine lettuce, my local variety of tomatoes, slices of bell pepper, a well fried egg, herbs, red chilli flakes and salt to taste. Don’t forget to salt your sandwich.
Vegetarian BLT Sandwich
- Thick slices of white bread
- Creamy cheese spread
- Steamed and pan roasted Boniato slices
- Romaine lettuce
- Tomato sliced
- Bell peppers sliced
- Mixed dried herbs
- Fried or boiled egg optional
- Salt and red chilli flakes to taste
- I will not explain putting together a sandwich as that’s over stating things! I will share my tips or tricks (for want of a better expression) for making this sandwich. I will just mention that quality of the ingredients used can be the difference between a good and great sandwich.
- I prefer soft, untoasted bread for my sandwiches unless I’m making a grilled sandwich. Toasting tends to dry out the bread. Here, I just heated the bread slices on one side only, on a grill pan, to very slightly crisp the outer surface.
- I prefer to steam cook thick slices of sweet potatoes and then pan sear them. This keep them moist. I feel oven roasting gives them a slightly chewy texture unless you add quite a bit of oil.
- So go on and make your Vegetarian BLT Sandwich as you like it. Bon Appétit!