The Culinary World’s Most Debated Question: What Defines a Sandwich?

The sandwich, a universally beloved food creation, has been enjoyed for centuries. But what, exactly, defines a sandwich? This seemingly simple culinary concept has ignited a myriad of debates and discussions. In this article, we delve into the world of sandwiches, exploring the diverse perspectives and theories that attempt to answer the age-old question: what makes a sandwich a sandwich?

What makes a sandwich a sandwich?

At its core, a sandwich is typically understood as a dish consisting of two pieces of bread with a filling in between. This classic definition has been the foundation of the sandwich for generations, whether it’s ploughman’s, a turkey club, or a classic ham and cheese. It’s this straightforward structure that has made sandwiches a convenient and portable food option.

While the classic definition might seem clear-cut, the world of sandwiches is full of creative and unconventional takes on this timeless dish. Consider, for instance, the open-faced sandwich, a delicacy enjoyed in various forms across Europe. This “sandwich” features a single slice of bread with a spread and toppings artfully arranged on top. Many argue that open-faced sandwiches are indeed sandwiches, while others insist that they defy the classic definition.

One of the most recent debates in the world of sandwiches revolves around wraps. A wrap typically features a filling encased in a soft, tortilla-like flatbread. Some contend that wraps are naturally sandwiches, as they fit the two-bread-and-filling paradigm. However, others argue that the nature of the bread, being soft and pliable, sets wraps apart from traditional sandwiches.

The definition of a sandwich varies across cultures, reflecting regional preferences and traditions. In Mexico, the torta features various fillings within a split roll, while in Vietnam, bánh mì combines French-style baguettes with an array of flavours. India boasts a variety of street food sandwiches that utilise local bread, spices, and ingredients. These cultural variations illustrate that what constitutes a sandwich can be a matter of cultural interpretation.

As culinary innovation knows no bounds, some creations challenge the very essence of a sandwich. Take, for example, the sushi roll. While it features a layer of rice, a filling, and nori seaweed, it defies the classic definition of a sandwich, leading some to ponder whether it can rightfully claim the title. The same debate arises when considering hot dogs and hoagies, which are closely related but different from traditional sandwiches.

Is a Burger a Sandwich?

The age-old question of whether a burger is a sandwich continues to divide enthusiasts. A burger typically features a filling (a patty) enclosed within a split bun, aligning with the classic definition of a sandwich. However, the distinct cultural identity and preparation of burgers have led many to argue that they stand alone as a unique category.


What defines a sandwich remains an enigmatic and ever-evolving topic in the culinary world. While the classic definition of two pieces of bread with a filling between is the foundation, creative interpretations, cultural variations, and unconventional creations continue to challenge and expand the boundaries of what qualifies as a sandwich.

The beauty of the debate lies in the richness and diversity of the sandwich itself. It reflects the dynamic and innovative nature of the culinary world, where boundaries are pushed, traditions are embraced, and tastes are celebrated. Whether it’s a classic club sandwich or an avant-garde reinterpretation, the heart of a sandwich is its ability to satisfy and delight our senses.

Ultimately, what defines a sandwich may be a matter of interpretation. Still, one thing is certain: the love for sandwiches is universal, and the debates surrounding their definition only add to the charm of this timeless culinary creation. So, the next time you enjoy a sandwich, ponder the question: What makes it a sandwich? The answer may be as diverse as the world of sandwiches itself.