The Very Best Tomato Sandwich Needs Just 3 Ingredients

June  4, 2019

As Food52 gets older (and wiser), and our archive of recipes grows, we’re making the effort to revisit some good-as-gold recipes. Today, we're highlighting a beautiful love letter to summer tomatoes from our co-founder Merrill Stubbs.

Ah, summer love. Intense as the rising temperatures, it inspires joy, angst, optimism. It’s the season when we embrace our passions and new beginnings, no matter how fleeting they might be.

And for our very own Merrill Stubbs, that summer lovin’ means tomato season. Her love letter addressee? Tomato sandwiches:

The tomato sandwich is, in my opinion, both under- and over-appreciated, depending on the camp you fall into. Some just don't appreciate the magic of a perfect tomato sandwich, while others, like me, think about it more often than is technically healthy. (I figure if fantasizing about tomato sandwiches is among the worst of my vices, I’m probably okay.) When tomato season is in full swing I tend to have a tomato sandwich for lunch at least three days a week.

Back in 2010, Merrill shared a straightforward recipe that allows tomatoes to shine. It’s just three ingredients—two pieces of whole grain toast spread with mayo and stuffed as generously as possible with slices of ripe tomato. Oh, and some salt and coarsely ground black pepper.

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Top Comment:
“Best tomato sandwich out there - hands down. (And I love mayo, but not here. The tomatoes don’t need it.)”
— Marian R.

Yes, it’s really that simple. And thank goodness, because love is complicated enough.

More Very Good Tomato Sandwiches

Can't help but add something extra to your tomato sandwich? You're not alone. Here are four more A+ recipes that go beyond tomatoes, bread, and mayo.

Inpatskitchen swaps out standard mayo and calls in bacon-avocado aioli. Yep, bacon-avocado aioli. (And it's even better than it sounds, thanks to a little garlic and lemon juice.) You can serve it open-face like Pat—or feel free to close it up if you're on the go.

"I had eaten tomatoes before, but I never really loved them until I tasted these," lastnightsdinner writes. "And I’ll never forget the day [I tried them] them up in this sandwich." The sandwich mostly follows Merrill's method: bread, tomatoes, and mayo. But then it adds crispy-edged, pan-fried provolone. Yes!

Some say that anchovies make everything better—and this recipe is a case in point. fiveandspice makes an olive-oil aioli with anchovies, lemon, and garlic, then generously smears that on toast, and piles juicy tomatoes on top. Bonus points for a sprinkle of briny capers.

According to our lifestyle writer Ella Quittner, "The is a recipe for those times when you find the world’s best-looking tomato and you’re so excited to eat it, you don’t even have the patience to close your sandwich before taking a bite." In addition to the world's best-looking tomato, this one includes: jammy eggs, fresh herbs, and a mustardy homemade mayo.

This article was originally published in July 2018. We refreshed it with some of our favorite recipes because, come summertime, there's no such thing as too many tomato sandwiches.

What's your favorite way to eat summer tomatoes? Share your sandwiches (and more!) in the comments below.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.


Pam July 5, 2019
Tomato, whole wheat bread - period - that's the perfect breakfast sandwich - then for lunch or dinner I add in some real mayo and maybe a few slices of cucumber and If I'm really living it up some bacon.
Karen M. July 5, 2019
Omit the mayo and add a thin slice of cheese. Any kind works, but havarti is my favorite. Must have pepper and the cheese adds the salt.
Sean June 19, 2019
I have been eating these since I was a kid. The best way to make one of these is having the best of one ingredient.. A JERSEY. 🍅 . A 🍅 grown in New Jersey is the best 🍅 you will ever have in your life. I wish there was a way to let you taste the difference from a New Jersey garden/farmed grown 🍅 to a regular mass produced produce . i would lay money that a NJ homegrown 🍅 would be the best 🍅 you will ever eat. We eat them like apples they are so good!
Penny July 21, 2018
Forty or more years ago, my California husband and I were visiting my parents in Georgia. While driving around, we stopped at a vegetable stand. My mother said "We should buy some tomatoes and have tomato sandwiches for lunch." My husband said "What's a tomato sandwich?" The proprietress said "Boy, where have you done been livin' that you ain't never had a tomato sandwich?" He had never realized how deprived his childhood was !
Lucy S. July 20, 2018
Melody M. July 15, 2018
I just made one last week for lunch.. tomato and cucumber fresh from our garden, red onion, sharp cheddar, s&p on toasted sourdough with Duke's Mayo. Yum!!!!
Marian R. July 15, 2018
My Pennsylvania born dad would butter one side of each slice of bread and grill it in a frying pan (like a grilled cheese). Then take thick sliced, summer ripe farmers market tomatoes and put them in the warm grilled bread (soft white sides out to hold). Sprinkle liberally with salt. The slight crunchy buttery bread with the salty tomatoes is heaven. Best tomato sandwich out there - hands down. (And I love mayo, but not here. The tomatoes don’t need it.)
CongaChile July 15, 2018
YES, finally someone who prefers a flavorful, substantial bread that actually compliments the wonderful, complex flavors of a summer, home grown tomato instead of a gummy, sticks to the roof of your mouth and between your teeth wonder bread. We wait all year for these special fruits of our gardens, so why disrespect them with plain white bread? BTW, I generally grow 30+ plants, about a dozen or more varieties, 90% of my garden. If I was stranded on a desert island with only one food, TOMATOES!
Donna D. July 15, 2018
This Jersey girl’s not a big fan of tomatoes. I know blasphemy! I tend to get an allergic reactions to tomatoes not grown locally but I do love thick slices of tomato on crusty sourdough with whipped cream cheese or a BAAT - bacon, arugula, avocado and tomato - on seeded rye (Orwashers Corn Rye is the BEST) when tomatoes are in season.
Carolyn July 6, 2019
Yes, to arugula instead of lettuce!
Colleen July 15, 2018
My husband (from Bradford county, PA) grew up on tomato sandwiches. I’m sure he used Hellman’s mayo, which is fine, but I might step up my game and use homemade mayo or aoili just for the challenge (and flavor).
jimmy July 12, 2018
jimmy NJ born and raised.
when I was a young child my grandpop had a large garden the tomato vines were way taller then I was. he would pick a tomato off a plant cut it in half and put salt on it, ( he kept a salt shaker next to his garden chair ). and we eat. they were so juicy and delicious. that was our "sandwich"
mimin July 20, 2018
That’s how my NJ grandpa taught me to eat a tomato. Thanks for reminding me.
k July 12, 2018
Not sure if it was because my mom disliked it or because we were too poor to afford bacon, but I grew up thinking that B.L.T. meant "Bread, Lettuce, Tomato." Still my favorite!
BerryBaby July 8, 2018
Gummy white bread, Hellmans (Best Foods) mayo, garden fresh tomatoes, S/P. That’s it!
Judy L. July 8, 2018
Here’s my personal favorite paleo three: Irish butter, tomatoes, and organic eggs! Melt lots of butter, add diced fresh tomatoes (I use sliced cherry tomatoes right from the garden) until bubbly, add three scrambled or whole eggs on top, and cook the eggs as you do normally. Just as satisfying, with or without bread ...
Cynthia S. July 8, 2018
New Jersey born and bred, this is how we did it : White bread (come on, it was the 1950s), Jersey tomaotes we grew in the backyard, Miracle Whip. That’s it. All this other stuff and whole wheat bread, etc. is new.
Judy L. July 8, 2018
LOL ... In San Francisco, sourdough has been King forever. We spread our white bread in the 1950’s with butter and sprinkled it with white sugar ... loved that as a kid
BerryBaby July 8, 2018
Same in the midwest, 1950’s summertime favorite!
Shirley R. July 8, 2018
Thank you for reminding of day gone by.
Ttrockwood July 8, 2018
I like a sturdy toasted sourdough for some crunch, then a schmear of dijon, (no mayo for me thanks) then the tomato slices and flakey salt/pepper. Eaten open face to maximize tomato consumption.
Sean S. July 7, 2018
My mother grew up in Northeast Alabama where tomato and peanut butter sandwiches are a thing. I know it sounds awful, but they are amazing! Thick tomato slices with peanut butter on one slice of bread and mayo on the other. Serve with potato chips on the side and add some to the sandwich for crunch. Heaven.
Ruth M. July 15, 2018
Peanut butter, sliced tomatoes and bacon OR peanut butter and bread and butter pickle slices!
joey July 7, 2018
sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, onions
salt, pepper
a small amount of oil/vinegar
perfect summer salad

& alwats a BLT - especially double decker
Jan July 7, 2018
I usually don’t eat white bread but for tomato sandwiches, it just works. Soft, not toasted. Dukes mayonnaise, homegrown tomatoes, salt and pepper. Yum!