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The classic Southern tomato sandwich is about as simple as it gets! Don’t let the summer pass you by without indulging in this delicious lunch or easy dinner recipe. You only need 5 minutes, plus some white bread, mayonnaise, ripe tomatoes, and fresh basil!

Slices of tomato on white bread
Table of Contents
  1. Is a Tomato Sandwich a Southern Thing?
  2. Ingredients
  3. How to Make a Tomato Sandwich
  4. What to Serve with a Southern Tomato Sandwich
  5. Are tomato sandwiches healthy?
  6. Recipe Variations
  7. Tips for the Best Tomato Sandwich Recipe
  8. Tomato Sandwich Recipe

Have an abundance of tomatoes on hand? Make this Southern fried green tomatoes recipe, a pot of roasted tomato soup, and this tomato salad with basil and balsamic, too!

That’s right, I’m giving you permission to take the night off from cooking and serve a tomato sandwich for dinner! When the blazing heat of summer is beating down on us, turning on the oven or standing over the stove just doesn’t sound appealing. Instead, take advantage of the season’s most delicious fresh produce and whip up a tray of these easy tomato sandwiches for a light and tasty meal in minutes!

Is a Tomato Sandwich a Southern Thing?

While there are countless ways to prepare a tomato sandwich (from B.L.T.’s to Roasted Tomato Sandwiches and Indian Tomato Sandwiches), the simple white-bread-only tomato sandwich is definitely a Southern obsession. It’s so easy, in fact, that I’ve been making the meal for years — and never actually considered sharing the “recipe” here on the blog. There’s hardly a recipe at all! But you know what? On the off chance that you’ve never tried this amazingly basic combination, allow me to introduce you to the best that summer has to offer!

The Origin of the Tomato Sandwich

Perhaps it’s the South’s long hot summers that created the love affair with a tomato-and-mayonnaise sandwich. The simple recipe allows the ripest, juiciest southern tomatoes to shine in the easiest, quickest way possible. Pair it with another Southern classic, Duke’s mayonnaise, and you’ve got a delicious concoction in a matter of minutes!

While no one knows exactly who invented this combination, one of the first references to the tomato sandwich was in the Virginia Chronicle in 1911, where a man describes his lunch as a tomato sandwich, a slice of watermelon, iced tea, and a slice of coconut cream pie. Sounds pretty darn good, right?! Thomas Jefferson was one of the first to bring tomatoes to Virginia when he planted the European seeds in his own garden in Charlottesville, so it’s not a surprise that the tomato sandwich quickly became a local favorite!

Southern tomato sandwich recipe served on a white plate

Ingredients

The perfect tomato sandwich requires just a handful of basic ingredients: white bread, fresh summer tomatoes, mayonnaise, and fresh basil.

What Tomatoes Go Best on Sandwiches?

Since you’re using just a handful of basic ingredients, it’s important to make sure that they’re the best quality — starting with the tomatoes. These sandwiches should only be enjoyed during the hot summer growing months, since the ripest, juiciest red tomato is essential to a good sandwich. Don’t even mess with those bland, mealy, pink tomatoes that you find at the grocery store in the middle of winter!

Slicing a tomato on a wooden cutting board

Specifically, look for large, meaty, and juicy tomatoes when making sandwiches. Instead of Roma tomatoes or other small tomatoes, try Brandywine or Beefsteak varieties. Feeling fancy? Try an heirloom tomato sandwich with the big, beautiful tomatoes that you can often find at a farmer’s market. Really, any sweet, ripe summer tomatoes that you can get your hands on will work great here!

The Mayonnaise

As I mentioned above, Duke’s mayonnaise is hands-down the best mayo for a sandwich. If you can’t buy Duke’s where you live, then Hellman’s is a good alternative. Don’t resort to something like Miracle Whip here.

Stirring together mayo and basil.

The Bread

Just a simple white sandwich bread is all you need! This isn’t the time to pick up a loaf of artisanal bread or whip out your sourdough starter. Instead, a simple packaged loaf of soft white bread or a couple of slices of our favorite homemade white bread is always the preference. There’s no need to toast the bread first, although you can if you like.

The Seasoning

Again, we’re keeping it really simple: salt, pepper and fresh basil. Basil’s another summertime crop that helps to highlight the natural flavor and sweetness of ripe tomatoes. They’re a match made in heaven, so don’t skip this ingredient! And while you could certainly just lay flat leaves of basil on your sandwich, I prefer snipping the basil leaves with kitchen shears and stirring them into the mayonnaise. That way the basil mayonnaise is spread evenly on both sides of the sandwich, and I don’t have to bite into a potent basil leaf.

Southern tomato sandwich on a white plate

How to Make a Tomato Sandwich

Assembling this simple delight could not be easier, and fortunately doesn’t require any actual cooking!

  1. Prepare the Basil Mayonnaise. Stir together snipped fresh basil leaves and mayonnaise in a small bowl.
  2. Assemble Sandwich. Spread each slice of bread with the basil mayonnaise, top with sliced tomatoes, season with salt and pepper. Add the remaining slices of bread on top to make the sandwiches.
  3. Slice and Serve. Cut the tomatoes sandwiches in half, and then serve immediately. Don’t let them sit for too long, or those juicy tomatoes may give you a soggy sandwich!
Stacked tomato sandwich on a white plate

What to Serve with a Southern Tomato Sandwich

Serve a tomato sandwich for lunch with a side of potato chips and pickles.

If you’d like to offer the sandwiches as a light dinner, try rounding out the meal with any of these additional sides:

Horizontal side shot of a plate of tomato sandwich

Are tomato sandwiches healthy?

White bread and mayonnaise might not be nutritional powerhouses, but at least you’ll reap numerous benefits from the fresh tomatoes. Tomatoes are the major dietary source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to many health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. They are also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K (source).

How many calories in a tomato sandwich?

This will vary depending on the type of bread used and the size of your tomatoes. On average, one sandwich will have about 245 calories, 14 grams of fat, 28 grams of carbs, and 5 grams of protein.

Recipe Variations

  • Cucumber Tomato Sandwich: add thinly-sliced cucumbers to the sandwich.
  • Onion Tomato Sandwich: thinly sliced Vidalia onion or pickled red onion would be delicious additions.
  • B.L.T.: Add slices of thick, crispy bacon and a few lettuce leaves to each sandwich.
  • Pimento Cheese and Tomato Sandwich: spread a layer of pimento cheese on the sandwich for a rich, flavorful addition.
  • While we love the white bread classic, you can obviously use any bread that you prefer — from whole wheat bread to pita bread, sandwich rolls, bagels, or croissants.

Tips for the Best Tomato Sandwich Recipe

  • These sandwiches are best served immediately. While you can certainly pack them in a picnic basket for the pool (I’ve done it many times!), the bread tends to get soggy from the tomatoes after too long.
  • This recipe yields two sandwiches; however, you can easily scale the recipe up to make as many sandwiches as you need.
  • Don’t forget to season the tomatoes with kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper. This extra touch adds such great flavor to the sandwich!
  • Feel free to add extra basil leaves to the sandwich if you like, or slather on some extra mayonnaise to suit your tastebuds.
Tomato sandwich on a plate with ripe on the vine summer tomatoes in the background

More Tomato Recipes to Try

Square featured image of a southern tomato sandwich on a white plate with fresh basil

Tomato Sandwich

5 from 4 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 0 minutes
0 minutes
Total: 5 minutes
Servings 2 sandwiches
Calories 245.7 kcal
The classic Southern tomato sandwich is about as simple as it gets! A perfect no-cook, 5-minute summer meal!

Ingredients
  

  • 4 slices white bread
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (I prefer Duke's brand)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons snipped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 ripe tomato, sliced
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  • In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise and basil.
  • Spread each slice of bread with an equal amount of the basil mayonnaise.
  • Divide the tomato slices evenly between two pieces of bread. Season tomatoes with salt and pepper. Place the other two slices of bread (mayonnaise-side down), on top of the tomatoes to form two sandwiches. Slice in half and serve.

Notes

  • These sandwiches are best served immediately. While you can certainly pack them in a picnic basket for the pool (I’ve done it many times!), the bread tends to get soggy from the tomatoes after too long.
  • This recipe yields two sandwiches; however, you can easily scale the recipe up to make as many sandwiches as you need.
  • Don’t forget to season the tomatoes with kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper. This extra touch adds such great flavor to the sandwich!
  • Feel free to add extra basil leaves to the sandwich if you like, or adjust the amount of mayonnaise to suit your tastebuds.

Nutrition

Serving: 1sandwichCalories: 245.7kcalCarbohydrates: 27.5gProtein: 5.2gFat: 13.8gSaturated Fat: 1.9gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.9gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.4gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 325.8mgPotassium: 196.9mgFiber: 2.2gSugar: 2.8g
Keyword: southern tomato sandwich, tomato sandwich
Course: Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: Southern
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in July, 2020. The photos were updated in July, 2022.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. Leslie Criswell says:

    5 stars
    These sandwiches were staples from my very much northern childhood. We ate them everyday in the summer and sometimes enjoyed more than one each! While these are indeed amazing made according to your recipe, they are exemplary when the bread is toasted and delivers a bit of crunch texture wise. Thank you for this one=I can now share it with my children-who thought that I just made these up…

    1. Blair says:

      Whether you’re from the north or south, toasted bread or not, they’re absolutely delicious. Hope your kids will love them, too! 🙂

  2. Lindy J Taylor says:

    5 stars
    Sounds delish. I grew up with tomato sandwiches too!
    Much simpler though. Only miracle whip, sliced bread, and tomatoes. Sometimes we added a slice of cheese.

    Thanks for this reminder. And fancier edition.

    1. Blair says:

      Thanks, Lindy! I hope that you can enjoy another one this summer and bring back fun memories!

      1. Debbie says:

        The Campari tomatoes in the clear plastic cases in the grocery stores are very good.
        You can get a great tomato sandwich, when fresh summer ones aren’t around …fall, winter, spring.. Camparis are a close second to fresh summer tomatoes.
        Sallie, if you read this Comment… QUIT ROLLING YOUR EYES!!

        1. Blair Lonergan says:

          Yes, ma’am! I’ve tried those and they’ve been very good! 🙂

      2. Debbie Hill says:

        The Campari tomatoes in the clear plastic cases in the grocery stores are very good.
        You can get a great tomato sandwich, when fresh summer ones aren’t around …fall, winter, spring.. Camparis are a close second to fresh summer tomatoes.
        Sallie, if you read this Comment… QUIT ROLLING YOUR EYES!!

    2. Anne says:

      5 stars
      Love summer tomatoes! Couldn’t get through a summer without this staple!

      My grandfather was from TN and my grandmother Detroit, where a bunch of southerners had already moved.
      My mom was raised, and subsequently so was I, on summer tomatoes. Toasted tomato sandwiches and BLTs were not only easy in the humid MI summers, but cost effective.

      1. Blair Lonergan says:

        Thank you, Anne!

  3. Joie says:

    Thanks! I love your recipes. I am having some trouble reading them, because the print is in such a light color. Would you consider making the print bold or at least a little darker?

    1. Blair says:

      Hi, Joie! Thank you for your feedback! I will definitely keep that in mind when updating my site in the future. Thanks again!

      1. Max Katz says:

        Yo, Blair …. the bread is always lightly toasted, there is no basil (but there is plenty of salt & fresh-ground pepper, the mayo is always Hellman’s/Best above Dukes, which is basically just another version of Hellman’s/Best. Only Yankees or Italians put basil on a sandwich meant to be eaten on the back porch.

  4. Beth says:

    5 stars
    The tomato sandwich became popular during the civil war era when primary source of food came from family gardens. This according to my grandfather who was born in in 1888 in Troup County, Ga. His parents lived during the civil war era. We always used yellow tomatoes, mayo, salt and pepper on white bread. Yum

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      So simple, but so good at this time of year!❤️