There hasn’t been much in the way of sandwich innovation—at least not until recently, when chefs started swapping out tried and true pieces of bread for other foods.

By Justine Sterling
Updated May 23, 2017
rethink sandwich
Credit: © Brandan Schulman

When the Earl of Sandwich first used two pieces of bread to transform his lunch into a portable, handheld meal, he not only revolutionized the way we eat; he also created a new category of food. Since then, however, there hasn’t been much in the way of sandwich innovation—at least not until recently, when chefs started swapping out tried and true pieces of bread for other foods.

While some breadless sandwiches are worth eating for the novelty (we’re looking at you, Krispy Kreme cheeseburger), others offer an infinitely improved sandwich-eating experience. The option to swap out bread for something else means chefs have the chance to play with textures and add a whole new (literal) layer of flavor. This year, take advantage of the sandwich’s break from bread by trying one of these five breadless sandwiches from across the country.

Forma Savory Doughnut Duo
Credit: © Forma

Savory Doughnut Duo Sandwich at Forma, Los Angeles
The newly opened Los Angeles restaurant and cheese bar garnered buzz for their pastas finished in massive wheels of cheese, but it earned a cult following when chef Piero Topputo introduced the savory doughnut sandwich. Growing up in Puglia, Topputo's mother used to stuff and fry leftover focaccia dough to make crispy, bite-size snacks. As an adult testing out pizza dough, Topputo was inspired by those childhood treats to fry up the extra dough and make savory doughnut-like puffs to use as sandwich buns. Ultra-crispy on the outside and fried to order, the rolls are sliced open and stuffed with two fillings: stracciatella cheese, prosciutto, tomato sauce and arugula; and spicy nduja sausage and marinated zucchini. One order comes with both sandwiches served on a wooden board.

Bread-less Sandwiches
Credit: © Nancy Borowick

Fried Chicken & Waffle Sandwich at Root & Bone, New York City
Top Chef alums Janine Booth and Jeff McInnis have transformed a soul-food staple (chicken and waffles) into an easy to eat sandwich at their fried chicken–centric Alphabet City spot. Made with mini buckwheat waffles instead of bread, the sandwich is stuffed with sweet tea–brined boneless fried chicken, pickled green tomatoes and cheddar cheese. It’s served with a cup of whiskey-spiked maple syrup for dipping.

Bread-less Sandwiches
Credit: © Will Englemann

Tortillas de Doble Capa at Donostia, New York City
Spanish tortillas (thick, flat omelets made with thinly sliced fried potato and caramelized onions) take the place of sandwich bread at the Basque-inspired Donostia. The sandwich is typically stuffed with sautéed spinach, leek and mascarpone, but you can also get one with Serrano ham and Peñacoba cheese, or a daily special like the BLT (bonito, lettuce and tomato). “We’ve really only seen this style at a few places in the north of Spain,” owner Jorge de Yarza says. “Only when you’re able to perfect the classic single layer Spanish tortilla can you then attempt the layered doble capa.”

Bread-less Sandwiches
Credit: © Anne Kellogg/Zingerman's Delicatessen

#39 Good Golly Miss Molly at Zingerman's Deli, Ann Arbor, Michigan
It’s not on the printed menu, but the Good Golly Miss Molly is available for those in the know at the legendary Zingerman’s. Stuffed with fatty, juicy corned beef or pastrami, the sandwich is made with homemade potato latkes instead of bread. The deli’s latkes are heartier and thicker than some others, so they can stand up to the meat. “You’re asking for a tummy-full when you get one of these,” says chef Rodger Bowser. “These aren’t flimsy little pancakes.”

Bread-less Sandwiches
Credit: © Catherine Owens

Beef Jibarito at Ames Street Deli, Cambridge, Massachusetts
First made in the early 1990s by Chicagoan Juan C. Figueroa at his Borinquen Restaurant, the jibarito is a classic Chicago sandwich made with crisp, fried green plantains instead of bread. Now, thanks to chefs like Chicago native Nick Anichini of Ames Street Deli in Cambridge, the sandwich’s popularity is spreading to other cities. A jibarito is typically slathered in garlicky mayo and stuffed with steak, but Anichini upgrades his take on the sandwich with dollops of scallop mayonnaise and beef tongue. Also on the sandwich: pickled onion, avocado puree and red romaine.

F&W's new series reveals the best ways to maximize your food year through travel, wine, cooking, tech, style, events and experiences. Use #BESTFOODYEAR on Twitter and Instagram to tell us about the ones you want to try. We'll continue to share more tips with the hashtag throughout the year and want to hear about how you celebrate food every day, too.