Big Little Recipes

The Joy of a 5-Minute Pickle Sandwich

This week’s Big Little Recipe is saucy, cheesy, and, above all else, quick.

April 27, 2021

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. That means five ingredients or fewer—not including water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (like oil and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Psst, did you hear we’re coming out with a cookbook? We’re coming out with a cookbook!

In the before times, I was a lunch planner. Which is to say, more organized (okay, uptight) than a dinner planner, albeit not as much as a breakfast planner, or even a snack planner, though I’m not even sure if these exist.

I made soup on Sundays. I portioned it into pint containers. I labeled the pint containers. I froze the pint containers in my deep freezer. My deep freezer that I bought specifically for making pint containers of soup.

Then, at the start of each week, I pulled a medley of soups (chickpea noodle! cashew tomato! tahini spinach!) from the freezer to thaw in the fridge. I packed a new flavor each morning, toted it on the train, strolled it to our office, and microwaved it in the team kitchen as soon as noon struck.

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Top Comment:
“Lay on the half sour slices, lay on the cheese, and then scatter bread and butter pickle chips so there's a little salty and a hit of sweet. I'm often in a hurry making lunch for my daughter/nurse who's too overwhelmed to get her food together for the day. There's a need for speed.”
— Lisa L.

I’m not like that anymore. Not even a little bit.

No, now I’m the sort of person who realizes it’s 1:56 p.m. at the same time that I realize I have a meeting in four minutes. But how? So I sprint to the blender (to the blender!), throw in a half-ripe banana, some crushed ice, peanut butter, and oat milk. And I gulp it down while on no-video, no-audio, partly out of respect for my coworkers, but mostly for my dignity.

And honestly? None of this makes any sense. I eliminated two-plus hours of commuting (on a good day—because NJ Transit is nothing if not unpredictable) and somehow ended up with less time to make lunch. Has time lost all meaning?

I’m going to go with yes. That’s okay. That’s fine. That’s where this pickle sandwich comes in. It’s cheesy, it’s mustardy, it’s glorious. Almost as easy as blending a banana. And infinitely more satisfying.

Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop Stylist: Veronica Olson Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog
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Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


BocaCindi May 31, 2023
Sounds seriously good.
Molly F. August 24, 2021
My sister closest in age to me, and I, grew up eating dill pickle sandwiches. They were nothing fancy. Sliced dills and mayo on two slices of bread. As kids, we had plenty of good food but snacks were a different thing back then. Pickle sandwiches, rice, or raw cabbage with salt. Mom did bake a lot so we had sweets from time to time. I remember once when a young preacher and his wife were visiting us, he was shocked to see us making pickle sandwiches. We talked him into trying it and I wouldn't say it was his favorite, but he also never forgot it!
Clatterbuck August 24, 2021
I grew up eating cheese and pickle sandwiches. I always use sharp cheddar cheese with bread and butter chips and a swipe of mayo. I haven't had one for a while but after seeing this I will have one soon.
Susan D. May 8, 2021
Tried this with picked asparagus to which I had added minced red pepper for a previous side dish. For ease in eating asparagus in a sandwich, I processed the pickled mix until chunky. Along with extra sharp Cheddar and the spread, it was SO tasty. A previous reviewer wondered about this in a grilled sandwich...I will try that next time. Thank you.

MacGuffin May 4, 2021
I have a hard time dealing with any pickles that aren't full (I'm talking FULL) sour, pickled in brine only. That said, I keep Branston on hand for cheddar sandwiches--it's just what cheddar needs, even if it contains vinegar.
WyoGirl May 4, 2021
Brings to mind my favorite sammy: peanut butter with my sister-in-law’s homemade sliced spicy dill pickle. The best. Just peanut butter on your choice of bread with slices of dill pickle. So satisfying. Think I’ll go round one up right now.
Susan May 2, 2021
My pimento cheese sandwich has no pimento. Instead, dill pickle relish and white cheddar with mayo or yogurt in a container for easy grab and eat. Whole grain bread, of course!
Brookiestardust April 29, 2021
I had this for lunch today and it was very good! I agree about the whole grain mustard. It was perfect. I will be working this into my sandwich rotation. Thank you! :)
Paul M. April 28, 2021
Thank you, Emma! This ALMOST sounded weird until I gave it a go. The combination of toasted bread, pickles, and cheese is strangely satisfying. I used Vlasic kosher dill stackers, bread and butter pickle chips, and cheddar jack cheese, "onaccounta, that's what I had!" It works.
I wonder what the sammie would be like grilled... hmmm! Look out, George Foreman grill...
ellicia April 28, 2021
I got hooked on cheese and pickle sandwiches while reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. When Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander described making their simple cheese and pickle sandwiches, I soon found myself in the kitchen making one too. This is taking it to the next level and I am looking forward to trying it.
Susannah April 27, 2021
Almost as good as a Provolone or Cheddar sandwich w/ muffuletta salad on it. Got to have the muffuletta.
Susanna S. April 27, 2021
I would like to add sour cream and onion potato chips to sandwich
Cheryl W. April 27, 2021
Similar to my favorite sandwich, mango chutney on toast with cheddar cheese and pickles.
Lisa L. April 27, 2021
Sounds wonderful, too.
Lisa L. April 27, 2021
I love the idea and combo of flavors. In a hurry, tho, I wouldn't bother making sauce. I'd slather one slice of bread w/mayo, the other w/mustard. Lay on the half sour slices, lay on the cheese, and then scatter bread and butter pickle chips so there's a little salty and a hit of sweet. I'm often in a hurry making lunch for my daughter/nurse who's too overwhelmed to get her food together for the day. There's a need for speed.
Carrie April 27, 2021
I have enjoyed pickle and cheese sandwiches since college when my roommate introduced me to them! Bread and Butter or Dill and a slice of cheese-just magical!
They are delicious indeed and remind me of my youth... :)
Love April 27, 2021
Looks delish, would totally make that! Maybe use a different colored bowl when making your mayo sauce? Was hard to see the mayo.
MC April 27, 2021
Yeah....I don't think so!......BLECH! I like my pickles 'on' deli sandwiches, 'with' some sort of sandwich meat........but lone? NO!!
MB9 April 27, 2021
Half sour!!!
C K. April 28, 2021
What is “ half sour”
Ivy B. May 2, 2021
It’s a type of pickle, my favorite variety.