24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (2024)

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Updated 2:26 PM EDT, Thu April 20, 2023

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Editor’s Note: CNN Original Series “Eva Longoria: Searching for Mexico” airs on CNN Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Sign up to CNN Travel’s four-part Unlocking Mexico newsletter for more on the country and its cuisine.

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Is there a food more humble yet universally adored than the sandwich?

And while one person’s go-to hamburger snack might be another’s katsu sando or chivito, there’s hardly a country on the planet that doesn’t turn to some type of bread with something stuffed inside it to cure a craving.

Traveling the world’s sandwiches is, in a way, like traveling the world.

To help narrow your choices for the sandwich to plan your next trip around, here are 24 of the world’s best sandwiches:

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (18)

Torta ahogada, Mexico: This "drowned" sandwich features pork tucked into crusty bread doused in spicy red sauce.

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (19)

Tramezzino, Italy: The tramezzino is a triangular Italian sandwich constructed from two slices of soft white bread, with the crusts removed, containing hard boiled egg and tuna fish

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (20)

Shawarma, Middle East: While there are many variations, its base is grilled spiced meat shaved from a rotisserie and tucked into a light sleeve of pita bread, topped with things such as tomatoes, onions and parsley.

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (21)

Pambazo, Mexico: The pambazo is a Mexican street food meal. It is made of bread, potatoes, chorizo, lettuce, sour cream and sauce.

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (22)

Bánh mì, Vietnam: Classical bánh mì sandwich with sliced grilled pork tenderloin, shredded carrots and peeled cucumbers, jalapeno peppers and cilantro on white textured background.

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (23)

Muffaletta, United States (New Orleans): In the NOLA classic, layers of chopped olives, Genoa salami, ham and various cheeses (often with Swiss and provolone) mingle.

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (24)

Chivito, Uruguay: This small South American country delivers a big taste with thinly sliced steak (called churrasco), ham, bacon, lettuce, mayonnaise and melted mozzarella.

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (25)

Pan bagnat, France: Sliced in half (but not completely through), the bread hinges open to reveal layers of raw vegetables, anchovies, olives, sliced hard boiled eggs and chunks of tuna.

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (26)

Smørrebrød, Denmark: You can find this traditional open sandwich at Copenhagen food market stores. You'll see sandwiches on display with seafood, smoke salmon and meats.

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (27)

Spatlo, South Africa: This tasty sandwich is made from a quarter loaf of bread that's been hollowed out and stacked to the max with meat and much more.

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (28)

Montreal smoked meat sandwich, Canada:
Smoked meat sandwiches sit on the counter at Schwartz's Deli in Montreal. It's made with smoked beef brisket layered between slices of light rye bread and drizzled with tangy yellow mustard.

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (29)

Po' boy, United States (New Orleans): NOLA strikes again, this time with the classic po'boy, which is stuffed with fried oysters (or perhaps fried shrimp or roast beef) and piled with lettuce, tomato and pickles

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (30)

Fricassé, Tunisia: A deep fried yeast bun is the exterior, and a savory mash-up of tuna, potatoes and boiled eggs are found inside.

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (31)

Cuban sandwich, Cuba/United States: This pressed sandwich is layered with boiled ham, roasted pork, pickles, mustard, Swiss cheese and butter.

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (32)

Cucumber sandwich, United Kingdom: So fancy! Extra soft white bread with the crusts removed gets layered with razor-thin English cucumbers (peeled, please, then lightly salted and drained), butter and a light dusting of fine pepper.

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (33)

Chip butty, United Kingdom: So not fancy! This starchy wonderland features buttered white bread and stuffed with fries (aka chips in its native Britain). Condiments range from ketchup and malt vinegar to mayonnaise.

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (34)

Katsu sando, Japan: A deep-fried pork cutlet -- pounded and breaded with panko and tucked into a fluffy Japanese white milk bread called shokupan -- is the base for this cult-favorite, convenience store snack

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (35)

Reuben, United States: This classic features sliced corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian or Thousand Island-style dressing.

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (36)

Croque monsieur, France: It comes in male and female versions. For the croque monsieur, slices of white bread are topped with grated cheese and stuffed with thinly sliced ham and emmental or gruyere inside are dipped into egg batter and fried. For the croque madame, the egg component is served fried atop the sandwich instead.

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (37)

Philly cheesesteak, United States (Philadelphia): This delectable hot mess is layered with ribeye steak sliced thin, oozing with cheese, sauteed peppers and onions to your liking.

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (38)

Broodje haring: Netherlands: Served cold, broodje haring features crunchy baguette-style bread filled with thin slices of chilled herring that's been cured in salt and piled with diced onions.

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (39)

Falafel pita, Middle East: Who said vegetarian isn't delicious? Crunchy fried balls of falafel -- made from soaked, ground-up chickpeas mixed with herbs -- are pushed into a warm and fluffy pita pocket with lettuce, tomatoes and tangy tahini sauce.

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (40)

Choripán, Argentina: Sausages splashed with mustard and chimichurri sauce are the makings of this classic mouthful whose name is a mash-up of chorizo (sausage) and pan (bread).

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (41)

Lobster roll, United States (New England): These are piled with big chunks of steamed lobster meat that's usually mixed with lemon juice, mayonnaise and herbs and tucked into a roll resembling a hot dog bun.

24 of the world's most delicious sandwiches (photos)

Torta ahogada, Mexico

This “drowned” sandwich is the most popular street food in Guadalajara, the capital of Mexico’s Jalisco state. Chopped pork is tucked into crusty bread influenced by the French occupation in the 1860s, then drowned in a spicy red sauce that’s said to have become a tradition by accident when a sandwich fell into the sauce. Actor Eva Longoria tries it in her CNN series “Searching for Mexico.”

Best Mexican food: 23 dishes to try

Tramezzino, Italy

While originally from Turin, Venice has taken this popular lunchtime bar snack to the next level – properly stuffing English tea style-triangles of white bread with fillings that include everything from olives and tuna, soft boiled eggs and vegetables to piles of crispy prosciutto with truffle.

Bars all over Venice pull out platters of tramezzini at lunchtime. If you’re doing things right, you’re enjoying them canal-side with a glass of local wine.

Shawarma, Middle East

Shawarma’s name comes from the Arabic word for “turning” – a reference to how this favorite Middle Eastern sandwich’s meaty filling cooks on a vertical spit. In adaptations that spread to the Mediterranean and Europe, shawarma has been reinterpreted as gyro in Greece or doner kebab in Germany, via Turkey.

While there are many variations of this popular street food, its base is grilled spiced meat (usually chicken, lamb or beef) shaved from the rotisserie and tucked into a light sleeve of pita bread, topped with things such as tomatoes, onions and parsley and perhaps tahini sauce and hot sauce, too.

Pambazo, Mexico

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (42)

Mexico's pambazo is stuffed with potatoes and chorizo, among other goodies.

Tortillas might first come to mind when it comes to Mexico. But one of the country’s most famous antojitos (street snacks or appetizers) is the pambazo, a favorite street food sandwich from Veracruz and Puebla said to have been inspired by the shape of a Mexican volcano.

It’s a seriously filling thing featuring bread tinted red thanks to a soak in slightly spicy guajillo sauce. Open up wide for the potatoes and Mexican chorizo inside, topped with lettuce, cheese and cream.

Bánh mì, Vietnam

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (43)

A classic bánh mì is served on French bread with grilled pork, shredded carrots, jalapeno peppers and cilantro.

A culinary remnant of French colonialism, the baguette sandwich was reinterpreted to their own taste by the Vietnamese. Bánh mì are now sold from food carts on nearly every street corner in Ho Chi Minh City and across Vietnam and are widely loved well beyond the country’s borders.

The classic version is pork-based, starring chả lụa (Vietnamese-style pork roll), shredded pickled carrots, pickled daikon, cilantro leaves, mayonnaise and other ingredients. You can find variations with tofu and thinly sliced lemongrass chicken, too. The taste is crunchy, fresh, savory and utterly delicious.

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Muffaletta, New Orleans, United States

Italian immigrants who settled into New Orleans’ Lower French Quarter in the late 19th and early 20th century are to thank for inventing this quintessential New Orleans sandwich made from round, sesame-covered loaves of Sicilian bread that can easily outsize your head.

Inside the muffaletta, layers of chopped olives, Genoa salami, ham and various cheeses (often with Swiss and provolone) mingle to mouthwatering effect.

Chivito, Uruguay

While this Uruguayan sandwich’s name translates to “little goat,” that ruminant’s meat is decidedly absent from this decadent assemblage of thinly sliced steak (called churrasco), ham, bacon, lettuce, mayonnaise and melted mozzarella.

Piled high into a roll that’s similar to a hamburger bun or ciabatta, the chivito is customarily topped off with a fried egg – just to make sure you don’t leave hungry.

Pan bagnat, France

If you like a good salade Niçoise, chances are you’ll be a fan of the pan bagnat – a sandwich that similarly hails from Nice in the South of France and is made using crusty pain de campagne, a boulangerie favorite.

Sliced in half (but not completely through), the bread hinges open to reveal layers of raw vegetables, anchovies, olives, sliced hard boiled eggs, chunks of tuna and liberally applied olive oil, salt and pepper. Bon appétit, indeed.

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Smørrebrød, Denmark

Beloved all over Scandinavia but particularly iconic for being one of Denmark’s national dishes, this open-faced sandwich translates to “buttered bread”– but smørrebrød is so much more.

With rye bread as the typical base, toppings include scores (perhaps hundreds) of combinations that range from curried or pickled herring and tiny pink shrimp to sliced boiled eggs and rare roast beef atop a layer of butter. In true Scandi style, smørrebrød goes big on aesthetics, too – the sandwiches are as pretty to look at as they are delicious to eat.

Spatlo, South Africa

Particularly linked to the Gauteng province and Johannesburg, South Africa’s spatlo sandwich (often called kota, loosely translated as quarter) is made from a quarter loaf of bread that’s been hollowed out and stacked to the max with meat and much more.

Inside, find seasoned fries, cheese, bacon, polony (bologna), Russian-style sausage and perhaps a heaping of spicy atchar sauce (made from green mangoes) and a fried egg.

Montreal smoked meat sandwich, Canada

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (44)

Smoked meat sandwiches, seen here at Schwartz's deli in Montreal, are piled high with smoked beef brisket.

Carnivores say oui to this seriously stacked sandwich from Quebec made with smoked beef brisket layered between slices of light rye bread and drizzled with tangy yellow mustard.

The best briskets used in a true Montreal smoked meat sandwich are said to soak for up to two weeks in brine and savory aromatics such as coriander, peppercorn and garlic before being smoked and hand-sliced to go down in eternal sandwich glory.

Po’boy, New Orleans, United States

A classic belly buster that traces its roots to New Orleans, the po’boy (aka poor boy) is rumored to have been invented to feed the city’s streetcar drivers during a 1929 strike.

The history remains fuzzy, but the taste of this sandwich certainly is not.

Folks who sink their teeth into this mayonnaise-laden French bread stuffed with fried oysters (or perhaps fried shrimp or roast beef) and piled with lettuce, tomato and pickles is in for one beautifully delicious mess.

Fricassé, Tunisia

With a comforting deep fried yeast bun for an exterior and a savory mashup of tuna, potatoes and boiled egg inside, this North African sandwich delivers a filling feed in a deceptively small package.

Tunisia’s favorite picnic and street food sandwich, the fricassé, often gets livened up with additions such as sliced black olives, preserved lemon and harissa – the ubiquitous spicy condiment in this part of the world made from dried red chili peppers, garlic and a spice mix that usually includes caraway, cumin and coriander seed.

Cuban sandwich, Cuba/United States

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (45)

There are multiple claims on the delicious Cuban sandwich's origins.

Originally a luxury item in Cuba, according to Andy Huse, the author of a forthcoming book on the Cuban sandwich, this Florida favorite is cause for constant debate in Miami and Tampa, where purists spar over its fundamental ingredients as well as its origin.

Whether you take yours with salami (à la Tampa) or not (à la Miami), this sandwich layered with boiled ham, roasted pork, pickles, mustard, Swiss cheese and butter and pressed between pieces of fluffy Cuban bread is a simple, hearty and most often affordable feed.

Cucumber sandwich, United Kingdom

On the dainty side of the sandwich spectrum, cucumber sandwiches are a traditional English afternoon tea staple, often spotted on the same tiered platters with scones and mini-pastries.

Extra soft white bread with the crusts removed gets layered with razor-thin English cucumbers (peeled, please, then lightly salted and drained), butter, a light dusting of fine pepper and perhaps a spray of fresh herbs such as dill. Cut the sandwich into neat triangles and pair with a pot of tea.

Chip butty, United Kingdom

The opposite of elegant, the chip butty means business – after all, this is a sandwich sheathed in buttered white bread and stuffed with fries (aka chips in its native Britain) that seem to carve out their own space in all that soft goodness.

Said to trace its roots all the way back to the 1860s and a seaside fish and chips shop in Lancashire, England, the chip butty can be doused with optional condiments ranging from ketchup and malt vinegar to mayonnaise.

Katsu sando, Japan

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (46)

Japan's katsu sando involves a deep-fried pork cutlet.

A deep-fried pork cutlet – pounded and breaded with panko and tucked into a fluffy Japanese white milk bread called shokupan – is the base for this cult-favorite, convenience store snack from Japan.

Considered yōshoku cuisine (Western-influenced), katsu sando is usually garnished with ribbons of cabbage and comes in chicken and egg salad (tamago) versions, too.

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Reuben, United States

Ask people from Nebraska, and they’ll say the Reuben was invented there by a local grocer looking to feed a band of hungry poker players. In New York, the story goes that the sloppily sinful sandwich on rye bread was named for the founder of New York’s Reuben Restaurant.

What’s not disputable is the goodness crammed inside a Reuben – sliced corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian or Thousand Island-style dressing. You’ll need napkins. Lots.

Croque monsieur/madame, France

An archetypal sandwich from France that originated as “un snack” in French cafes, this crunchy (croquant) marvel comes in female and male incarnations (madame et monsieur).

For the croque monsieur, slices of white bread topped with grated cheese and stuffed with thinly sliced ham and emmental or gruyere inside are dipped into egg batter and fried. For the croque madame, the egg component is served fried atop the sandwich instead.

Philly cheesesteak, Philadelphia, United States

Mouthwateringly simple, the City of Brotherly Love’s most beloved sandwich is a delectable hot mess layered with ribeye steak sliced thin, oozing sheets of provolone and sauteed peppers and onions to your liking.

Purists insist the Philly cheesesteak is enveloped inside a hoagie bun. But if you’re whipping one up at home, any thick white bread is sure to be satisfying.

Broodje haring, Netherlands

Like a taste of the salty North Sea distilled into sandwich form, this classic Dutch sandwich is for serious seafood fans only.

Served cold, broodje haring features crunchy baguette-style bread filled with thin slices of chilled herring that’s been cured in salt and piled with diced onions. Depending on where you are in the Netherlands, it might have sliced gherkins, too. Look for it anywhere there’s a market at the stalls called vishandels.

Falafel pita, Middle East

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (47)

The vegetarian falafel pita is packed with fresh flavors.

You won’t miss meat in this vegetarian staple of Middle Eastern cuisine. The falafel pita is exactly what its name suggests. Crunchy fried balls of falafel – made from soaked, ground-up chickpeas mixed with herbs – are pushed into a warm and fluffy pita pocket and brightened up with lettuce, tomatoes, tangy tahini sauce and other additions that might include chili sauce and hummus.

You’ll find people lining up for this sandwich on the streets of Beirut, Amman and many other places across the Middle East and beyond.

Choripán, Argentina

Sausages splashed with mustard and chimichurri sauce are the savory makings of this classic Argentinean mouthful whose name is a mash-up of chorizo (sausage) and pan (bread).

Choripán’s origins are thought to trace back to the country’s cowboys called gauchos, known for their grilled meat asados. But today, the casual and filling sandwich is found beyond Buenos Aires and the Andes at food carts, futbol games and restaurants across South America. It’s best enjoyed hot off the grill.

Lobster roll, New England, United States

24 of the world’s best sandwiches | CNN (48)

A classic Maine lobster roll served up on a dock by the Five Islands Lobster Co.

New Englanders hold their humble lobster roll dear – a summertime coastal treat piled with big chunks of steamed lobster meat that’s usually mixed with lemon juice, mayonnaise and herbs and tucked into a roll resembling a hot dog bun.

You can find them at seafood restaurants across the United States. But a classic lobster shack on the stretch of coastline from Maine to Connecticut will make for a scenic backdrop that’s hard to beat.

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