All Our Favorite Ways to Build a Better Breakfast Sandwich

All Our Favorite Ways to Build a Better Breakfast Sandwich

Earlier this year, the failing Wall Street Journal shitposted their way into the discourse by suggesting people hit hard by inflation might save money by skipping breakfast. I couldn’t read the whole thing because it is, hilariously, paywalled. But I don’t feel like I need to, because while it’s true that eggs are more expensive than they were a year ago, they’re still a relatively cheap and filling food, and they make a hell of a sandwich. I eat them not only for breakfast, but for lunch and dinner, and don’t intend to stop, no matter what hot takes the wannabe Johnathan Swifts of the WSJ print.

This is all to say that I am passionate about breakfast sandwiches, and passion often leads to innovation, or at least a few good suggestions. Here are my favorite ways to build a better breakfast sandwich, naysayers be damned.

Make your own McMuffin in five minutes

Photo: Claire Lower

This McMuffin dupe may not have the sterile stratification of the fast food classic, but it sure tastes good. The filling ingredients are nestled inside a ramekin before being nuked and slid onto a toasted English muffin. Make it with bologna. Everything is better with bologna.

Rethink your bread

Photo: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

Toast, English muffins, and croissants are the most common breakfast sandwich bread options, but there are a few ways you can branch out.

You can make a sliceable, toast-able pancake bread by mixing a couple cups of just-add-water pancake mix with 3/4 cup of water. Bake it off in a loaf pan and slice and stack your sandwich as usual for a delicious, but less gimmicky, McGriddle-esque breakfast. (You can also place your sandwich fillings directly on pancakes; both are good options.)

Building your breakfast sandwich on French toast—either freshly fried or leftover from weekend brunch—gives it a Monte Cristo vibe without all the deep frying. Don’t let the sweetness of the bread dissuade you from piling on savory ingredients; this sandwich is best with a swipe of Dijon.

If you want to avoid wheat entirely, try potatoes. I adore a hash-browns-as-toast moment, and the salty, crunchy patties make an equally good sandwich foundation. My favorite is a SPAM and cheese—the slices fit onto the oblong patties perfectly—but I wouldn’t be mad if you added an egg.

Just keep adding potatoes

Photo: A.A. Newton

Hash browns also make a great sandwich filling. Whether you slide a McDonald’s patty onto your McMuffin or build your own sandwich from scratch, hash browns add bulk, flavor, and (most importantly) satisfying texture.

Photo: Claire Lower

Putting hash browns on a breakfast sandwich is good, but putting fries on a breakfast sandwich might be even better. As I’ve explained previously, it’s a matter of structure:

Flavor- and texture-wise, the experience was very similar to eating a hash-browned breakfast sandwich, with one key difference: The entanglement of potatoes helped hold the sandwich together by creating a little nest for the egg to rest in. This not only prevented the slippery fried egg from sliding off the sandwich, it created a sort of yolk dam, which kept more—if not all—of the golden, liquid yolk from spilling onto the plate.

Or forget spuds and add onion rings

Photo: Claire Lower

Much like fries, onion rings act as a little nest for your eggs, keeping them on the sandwich until you bring it to your mouth. They also deliver the flavor of fried onions, which is a good, if ambitious, flavor with which to start your day. (Waffle the rings for extra texture.)

Treat it like any other sandwich

Photo: A.A. Newton

Breakfast sandwiches are almost always made with fatty, greasy ingredients, but it’s rare they’re served with ingredients that help cut through the fat, which is a real missed opportunity. Adding some pickle slices balances out the richness and, as A.A. Newton explains, invites “the slightest bit of sour crunch to the grease orgy, creating an addictive contrast in flavors and textures and making you feel like you’re eating vegetables for breakfast.”

They’re also rarely served with tomatoes, and that’s a mistake. A juicy, fruity tomato brings fresh acidity without too much tartness, giving your tongue a reprieve from all the hot, greasy ingredients. Grating tomatoes on a breakfast sandwich is a clutch move that I’ve raved about before:

The raw, fresh tomato pulp functions somewhat like a jam, and somewhat like a condiment. It has the tanginess of ketchup with a lighter, juicier, fresher sweetness, along with the umami you would expect from a ripe summer tomato. It’s just really freaking good.

This sandwich is best when tomatoes are in season, but cherry tomatoes work pretty well in the gloomy winter months.

Photo: Claire Lower

Finally, don’t forget the mayo. Sandwiches, even those stacked with runny eggs and melted cheese, need lubrication, and nothing lubricates a sandwich quite like tangy mayo. (It also acts as a hydrophobic barrier, preventing your bread from getting soggy.) Mix in some hot sauce, and you’ve got a stunner of a breakfast sandwich spread.

Upgrade the egg

Photo: Claire Lower

In most cases, cheese adds a gooey element to the breakfast sandwich. Not so with the frico egg. By frying your egg directly in a pile of cheese, you can add a crispy, crunchy, salty element to your sandwich that you usually only get with bacon. (Don’t let this prevent you from adding a slice of melted cheese as well. I see no reason you shouldn’t have two types of cheese on your sandwich.)

Photo: Claire Lower

If you want to maximize your yolk absorption, try serving the egg upside down. Doing so gives the runny yolk nowhere to go but down into the bread. It seems silly, but it prevents yolk loss, and that’s important to me:

When you serve an egg on toast, yolk side up, the yolk has nowhere to go but down a slippery egg-white slope. Egg whites are not known for their ability to grip onto anything, which leads to the yolk running down the sides of the smooth white and onto the plate. (Yes, you can wipe it up with more toast, but I some mornings I just want one piece of bread.) Flip it over, and you put the yolk in direct contact with toast (a known yolk absorber).

Batch ‘em

Photo: Claire Lower

Making individual breakfast sandwiches can become unwieldy if you’re serving a crowd, and making a big batch can save you time (and effort). Case in point: Every element of these pull-apart BEC sliders is cooked in a single pan. The eggs are actually cooked in the bacon drippings, making for an indulgent, waste-free brunch.

These freezer-friendly breakfast sandwiches (and burritos) come from a very old recipe of mine, but it’s one of my partner’s faves. All you have to do is bake some scrambled eggs on a sheet pan, cut them into squares or circles, then build two week’s worth of freezer-friendly breakfast sandwiches. (If you go the circle route, you can use the egg scraps to make breakfast burritos.)

Shape your meat to your bread

Photo: Claire Lower

Making your own sausage isn’t the easiest way to elevate your breakfast sandwich, but I think it’s worth the effort. Not only is the flavor better—and exactly what you want it to be—but you can shape the patty to match your bread.

If grinding meat is too high-effort, you can shape your bacon to make a bacon patty. All you have to do is twist and coil the bacon, then cook it off in your waffle iron to render out the grease for maximum crispiness.

Branch out from the BEC

Photo: Claire Lower

It should be pretty obvious by now that I love egg-based breakfast sandwiches, but I’m also a big fan of eating non-breakfast sandwiches for breakfast, and there’s no reason you can’t do the same (especially if you’re unwilling to buy eggs at their current cost). I have many suggestions for you to peruse in this article, but my favorite non-breakfast breakfast sandwich is the simple ham and butter (use a dry cured ham if you’re craving something fancy).

This post was originally published in February 2023 and was updated on July 17, 2023 to include additional recipes and photos.

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