Know Your Roll: Pairing Your Bread With Your Sandwich

Brooke Newberry
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All the world loves a sandwich.  The relationship between the bread and the filling is one of the most important relationships in culinaria.  There’s a reason why certain sandwiches are seen encased with specific types of bread.  Just like with wine and food and sauces with meats – choosing a foundation for your filling is a way of pairing.  Good bread or the proper bread can elevate ingredients, and bad bread or the wrong bread can make even the most premium sandwich innards fall flat.

In general, use seeded, grainy breads with flavors that complement the flavors of the fillings, or choose mild-flavored breads to let the sandwich fillings stand out on their own.


White Bread

The OG sandwich bread. Classic white has been the tried and true choice.  Characterized by its use of refined flours, soft texture, plain white color and comforting light brown crust – white bread is chosen not because of its complex flavor profile, but for its neutrality and softness.     

Try it with:

The two reasons to use soft white bread: for nostalgia purposes and for fillings that are more tender, like tuna salads, chicken salads, BLTs (enter the great toasted or untoasted debate), and your PB&Js.

Rye Bread

Rye bread has a deep, hearty flavor with a unique compact and chewy texture.  Both the crust and crumb will make your mouth and jaw work.  Rye bread should taste strong, like rye. Pair rye breads with strong-flavored fillings.

Try it with:

Use rye for traditional sandwiches with spiced meats like Reubens.  Rye’s herbaceous flavor profile also lends itself well to egg salad (best with chunkier egg salad that hasn’t been over-processed) and smoked fish.  Think pickled, smoked or cured things: try rye with smoked salmon, a thin layer of cream cheese and pickled onions.


Sourdough has a chewy texture and slightly tangy taste.  This hearty choice is made with a “sourdough starter,” which is different from a yeast.  Sourdough should not be too sour.  The tang of the bread complements sweeter ingredients and can enhance hearty, earthy and meaty fillings.

Try it with:

Try a sourdough, steak and mayo sandwich – simple.  Also, slab together thick slices of mozzarella, juicy tomatoes and a thick aged balsamic drizzle – this is just about the best pairing for sourdough.  Try sourdough loaf with grilled chicken and caramelized onions.  Also, make bread pudding with this stuff.

Pullman Loaf

Pullman loaves are made with white flour and are baked in long, narrow and lidded pans.  Known for its perfect, thin, sturdy white slices, pullman loaves are a classic sandwich bread choice.  The thin nature of this bread’s slices demands simpler fillings.

Try it with:

The classic combo of cucumber and cream cheese is perfect for pullman tea sandwiches. Also, try thinly sliced radishes atop butter, or anchovy and lemon butter, or super thin slices of apple and brie.


Focaccia is considered a “flat bread,” which means that it hasn’t been leavened.  These Italian breads are usually dense (they’re made with lots of olive oil) and often have a strong flavor of their own: olives, rosemary and sun-dried tomatoes are among the most common additions.  This bread is best with its insides melted, open-faced in the oven before closing her up.  Since the bread is so often herbed – sweeter, cheesier fillings will nicely contrast those herby embellishments.

Try it with:

Pile focaccia with Italian cold cuts for a traditional experience, or oven-melt provolone over thinly sliced veggies (think sweet red bell peppers).


Baguettes are a classic sandwich bread with hard crusts and a soft, chewy crumb. These are also just ever so slightly sweet.  Because of their hearty crusts, these can stand up to substantial fillings, like salami.  Avoid going for fillings that are too chewy, like steak – the bread itself is chewy enough and your mouth will be worn out.

Try it with:

Bahn Mi is a classic example of baguette usage: the meat is rich and saucy and the veggies are thick cut.  Meatballs are also a match for baguettes because the crumb of the bread lovingly soaks up the sauce and the meat is pliable enough to not overwork the eater.

Sweet Roll 

Soft, white with brown tops, and seen in round or mini square shapes, sweet rolls (also seen as Hawaiian rolls) are the pull-apart breads that just make everything taste good.  Its sweetness can come from pineapple juice, honey or the addition of vanilla in the bread-making process.  When pairing these, think in complementary mode.  Pair sweet with salt.  Avoid super saucy fillings with these guys – drier fillings will prove to be better choices.

Try it with:

Open a roll and satiate it with scrambled eggs, a touch of mayo and sweet pork sausage for a killer breakfast sandwich. 

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