I may be an ex-vegetarian, but I still crave a meatless sandwich. Done right, it can pack a satisfying bite packed with flavor and veg, without the post-lunch drowsiness of a cheesesteak. But if we’re talking honestly, we have to admit that more often than not, vegetarian sandwiches are... not good. It’s 2023. We should be past the days of soggy grilled vegetables rolled into a limp wrap. We can do better.

So, in honor of Milk Street’s Sandwich Week—a celebration of everything sando, in which we’re fearlessly tackling everything from the science of building a better sandwich to the perfect grilled cheese—I’m rounding up 10 of our best vegetarian sandwiches for you. Trust me, you won’t even miss the meat.

Smoky “Pulled” Portobello Sandwiches

Portobello mushrooms, cut into matchsticks and smoked, are a lighter, modern twist on smoky, succulent pulled pork. A tangy, sweet Kansas City-style barbecue sauce is a perfect companion for smoky mushrooms. While any slaw will pair well, I like the sharp, simple slaw our team developed with the recipe as a balancing agent for the mushrooms. And for extra decadence, consider serving on a rich, eggy brioche bun.

Charred Eggplant Pita Sandwiches with Spicy Tahini

The earthy, spiced eggplant is so flavorful, it can be its own dish. Inspired by the Middle-Eastern hand food sabich—a pita stuffed with fried eggplant, tomato-cucumber salad, hard-cooked egg, hummus and amba, a pickled mango condiment—our streamlined sandwich pairs broiled slices of za’atar-seasoned eggplant with a harissa-spiked tahini sauce, quick-pickled onion and tomato.

Cheddar, Roasted Onion and Apple Tartines

Talk about fall on a plate: This open-faced grilled cheese gets an autumnal twist from green apples and onion, both mellowed and made sweeter by a high-heat roasting in the oven. A generous slathering of dijon mustard butter and sprinkling of savory cheddar on the baguette adds an element of comfort with minimal effort.

Fried Halloumi Sandwiches with Peaches, Arugula and Honey

Milky, tangy and briny, halloumi cheese is popular for a reason: Its high melting point can stand up to grilling and frying. For this easy sandwich, fry halloumi until it browns, a quick source of deep flavor (and an easy way to get rid of its telltale squeak when chewing), and wedge it between toasted bread with juicy peach, peppery arugula, thyme-infused honey and pickled peppers.

Fried Egg Bánh Mì

We didn’t expect a fried egg sandwich to be the culinary highlight of a recent trip to Paris—but this bánh mì reminded us of the simple perfection of pairing hot-off-the-skillet eggs and fresh crunch. Inspired by one we tried at the bánh mì shop Nonette, it nestles runny-yolked fried eggs between slices of airy baguette bread, rounded out with classic pickled veggies and fresh herbs.

Grilled Cheese with Fruit Chutney

Turns out, fruit is the perfect complement for rich grilled cheese. Melty gruyére, Comté or raclette and salted butter make a savory base. Homemade chutney is delicious here, but if you’re low on time, you can’t go wrong with Eat This Yum’s Balsamic Caramelized Onion Jam or Mymouné Sundried Fig Preserves.

Eggplant or Tofu Katsu

Traditionally, the Japanese meal katsu features breaded and deep-fried pork or chicken cutlets. Our lighter eggplant version is dipped in a cornstarch slurry for ultra-crispy texture—and it’s pan-fried, rather than deep-fried. And our tofu riff relies on pressing so the cutlets cook up tender-crisp. Tuck the cutlets between slices of white bread with some green cabbage for a meaty, meat-free sando.

Kale and Cheddar Melts with Caramelized Onion

For an earthier twist on grilled cheese, wilted kale, caramelized onion and sharp mustard pack a tangy-sweet wallop. For any adamant carnivores in your life, a slice or two of crispy bacon doesn’t go amiss.

Quinoa and Black Bean Burgers

Is a burger a sandwich? I say yes. Can we get a veggie burger that’s actually great, not just a pale shadow of the meat variety? Also yes! These bean and quinoa burgers play up the pan-fried crispiness you won’t get in a meat patty, lightly scented with spices you’ll find in chili. You needn’t mask these bean and quinoa burgers with a pile of fixings and flavorings. They’re good enough to eat on a simple salad.

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