America is a great country for sandwiches, there’s no doubt about it. But sometimes I get the sense that our neighbors to the south have been quietly outdoing us at the sandwich game. Take Mexico’s torta ahogada or the pambazo, for example. Those sandwiches are both stuffed to the gills before being dunked in fiery salsas that could scare the pants off your average gravy-soaked French dip or Chicago beef. Or the cemita—upon first glance it looks like a close relative of the hamburger roll. But once you bite into it, you realize that this isn’t just another squishy bun: its got that crackly crust with a delectably tender and soft inside, perfect for holding any number of flavorful fillings con todo.
Mexico’s sandwiches have their roots in the bread baking traditions brought over during the short-lived French colonial period, from which dozens of different types of sandwiches and sandwich breads arose. Tortas, made on oblong telera or bolillo rolls, and hamburger bun-like cemitas are the two most well-known, although you can find sandwiches of myriad shapes and sizes throughout the country. One thing that they all have in common is that they tend to be intricately layered affairs, featuring big ingredients with big flavors. In fact, if you wanted to explore the belly-filling excesses of Mexican cuisine, its sandwiches are a pretty good place to start.
And while nothing beats a fully-loaded creation made by a streetside vendor with impeccable technique, a little ingenuity can lead you to perfectly passable Mexican-style tortas, cemitas, and more at home. These 10 recipes will have you layering and stacking your way to sloppy, overstuffed, and unashamedly indulgent sandwich bliss.
When’s the last time you started your morning with a sandwich that’s taller than it is wide and stuffed with oozy layers of fried egg, refried beans, and cheese? Treat yourself to this extravagant breakfast creation that will fill you up until lunchtime rolls around and you’re ready for your next torta of the day. Get our Mexican Fried Egg Breakfast Torta recipe.
Between its two pieces of bread, this sandwich packs in some serious greens. Roasted poblanos, tomatillo salsa, avocado, lettuce, and cilantro not only make it (at least somewhat) healthful, they also provide an intriguing mix of contrasting flavors and textures. Get our Mexican Torta with Rajas and Jack Cheese recipe.
Tofu may not be the most traditional torta filling, but it soaks up the flavors of Mexican-style hot sauce as well as any meat. Pickled jalapeños, crumbly cotija cheese, and mashed black beans join in here to keep things hale and hearty. Get our Grilled Tofu Torta recipe.
Even amidst all the other ingredients, it’s hard to miss the slices of fried, panko-coated zucchini in this sandwich, which add a satisfying layer of crunch. Get our Mexican Torta with Fried Zucchini recipe.
The open-face breakfast sandwich of your dreams, this hefty avocado toast upgrade is also piled with scrambled eggs, refried beans, chorizo, sour cream, and two types of salsa (green and red). Get our Mollete con Chorizo y Salsa Tricolor recipe.
The torta ahogada, a Guadalajaran specialty, is not for novices or the heat-adverse. Smothered in a fiery arbol chile sauce, each bite gushes with prickly, astringent heat. Get the Torta Ahogada recipe.
From the outside, it may look like a fairly standard pork cutlet sandwich, but tucking into this cemita reveals its intermingling layers of smoky chipotle, pickled veggies, and cheese. Get the Cemita Poblana with Pork Milanesa recipe.
Pambazos are an everything-and-the-kitchen sink sort of sandwich, with chorizo, potatoes, and a laundry list of other fillings that shouldn’t belong between two pieces of bread, but totally do. Speaking of the bread, it’s dunked in a guajillo chile sauce to take things really over the heat-blasting top. Get the Pambazo recipe.
Is a quesadilla a sandwich? We think so—or at least it’s not dissimilar enough to disqualify it from this round-up. Think of it as a Mexican grilled cheese, and fill it with whatever your heart desires. Seared golden-brown mushrooms and Mexican chorizo are a great combo, bound together by plenty of molten cheese. Get our Mushroom and Chorizo Quesadilla recipe.
This pollo de ensalada may not be traditional, but it is a delicious way to make chicken salad exciting again. The simple but flavorful trifecta of jalapeño, lime juice, and cilantro gives leftover roast chicken real pizzazz. You could always add a dash of cumin and maybe some hot sauce for extra punch. Get our Mexican Chicken Salad recipe.