A few weeks back, while making BLTs for dinner, my mom suggested we use basil instead of lettuce on the sandwich.  We only had arugula in the garden, and basil seemed like a much better pair with the tomato.  The resulting flavor was so incredible, it quickly became apparent that we’ve been limiting our sandwiches! The thought that basil only belongs wedged between mozzarella and tomato couldn’t be farther from the truth.  It belongs in many, many sandwiches.

Here is my most recent sandwich creation substituting big basil leaves for lettuce.  I urge you to make the switch, you won’t believe how good it is!

Toasted Black Forest Ham and Manchego Sandwich

Makes one sandwich

2 slices whole wheat sour dough bread (sturdy whole wheat bread, rye, or white sour dough would also work)

4 slices high quality Black Forest ham

4 small slices Manchego cheese (Manchego is a Spanish sheep’s milk cheese, if you can’t find it a sharp cheddar would also work well)

2 slices ripe tomato

5 large basil leaves

1 T mayo

1 tsp mustard

Begin by preheating your broiler.  Lightly toast both slices of bread in your toaster.  Once toasted, spread mayo and mustard evenly across both slices. Layer the ham on one piece of bread, and top with sliced cheese. Place under broiler while you prepare the second side.  Place basil, then tomato slices on second side.  Once cheese is nicely melted, remove from oven.  Place ham and cheese side on top of the other slice of bread, pressing sandwich together slightly.  Cut in half and enjoy immediately.

  1. Absolutely! basil on sandwiches are so a+. i think that people get so wrapped up in basil being paired with mozzarella and tomato that they don’t realize how versatile it is!

    and bright side of this morning: my coworker just brought me a basil plant. it’s sitting on my desk right now!

    • I agree 100%. Basil is perfect for sandwiches. Some people are missing out on the flavor change as well as texture. I followed this recipe, but instead used shaved honey turkey breast, Swiss cheese, tomato, mayo, mustard, red onion, and your sourdough bread. Perfection!!

  2. Forget the basil, I’ve not had a sandwich in weeks! I really want one now, these look amazing. There’s nothing like a full packed ham sandwich.

    • Thank you! I totally know what you mean. I originally was going to talk about how much I loved sandwiches in this post, but then decided I really needed a whole post dedicated to that subject.

  3. Totally agree!

    The first time I went to Italy and had a panini with grilled eggplant and basil was an amazing experience. Panini, for one thing, had not become popular in Japan yet so that was new to me as well as the idea of grilled eggplant in a sandwich. But what basil leaves can add to all that was even more awesome.

    Your bread looks great.

  4. Wow… it just goes to show what thinking outside of the box will do. I have a huge basil plant in the garden, and have really been limiting myself with it. Will definitely give this a try in a sandwich!

    • Thank you! I know, it’s crazy how something so simple can make such a difference. Glad you’ve got a new way to use your basil plant!

  5. you forgot garlic :-) (don’t mind me, I’d put garlic everywhere).
    I have fresh basil during whole season, but never in a million years would I ever think of putting it on a sandwich, and it sounds like something I would/will adore!!
    my theory is that sandwiches are the best food (well, I exaggerate, but only to state how much I love sandwiches).

    • Good point! You can never have too much garlic :). And I agree, sandwiches are one of the best foods.

  6. Basil wont be for everyone, but for that extra zing to a sandwich, it’s an excellent addition. One I have not indulged in for a while, but will do soon again with this reminder - well done!

  7. You took great pictures of the food! I love basil on everything, so I’m sure this recipe is a winner :).

  8. Kat

    I adore basil and use it frequently in my dishes. But I hadn’t thought of trying it in place of lettuce on my sandwiches…and I sure will now! Thank you for such an inspiring idea! I’m always looking for new ways to use classic ingredients and foods that are healthy, too.

  9. Pingback: Basil- in sandwiches! (via Channeling Contessa) | Happiness Is Licking The Spoon

    • Very true! The arugula from our garden is super peppery though, so we just couldn’t resist the sweet basil.

  10. I love basil, so just had to click on your post. I put fresh basil in just about every salad along with a touch of fresh mint and parsley: green salads, quinoa salads you name it. Your photos induce a mouth watering effect.

    • Thank you! And I’m with you on the herbs, they should be used as much as possible-especially in the summer.

  11. Oh my! I am so hungry after looking at this gorgeous pictures….basil and tomato is the perfect combination. Thanks for sharing and congratulations on becoming Freshly Pressed.

  12. Mmm, what a delicious-looking sandwich! I have used basil in paninis before and it adds such an incredible flavor boost. I haven’t eaten a sandwich in a long time, but I’m craving one now! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! :)

  13. …and I just happen to have fresh basil in my “garden.”

    (And btw, “garden” is in quotes because basil is actually the only thing I have in my “garden.”)


    Sounds amazing!

  14. sallyjeangenter

    Yum! I discovered basil in sandwiches, etc. when a friend first made spinach salad with one-fourth of it basil leaves. I was amazed at how good the flavor combination was and quickly adapted basil into more than just spaghetti sauce and pesto.

    Gorgeous pictures! They’re making me hungry.

  15. Yum! I have going to have to try this with the basil from my backyard!

  16. im a vegetarian, but i can appreciate the smell of meat, and i do eat tofurky in salads and sandwhiches. basil is a great flavor to add to a meal. dried herbs bought from the store do not compare. from what i understand, basil is very easy to grow in a kitchen window. i give this blog entry about basil a two thumbs up…:)

  17. We love basil on sandwiches or in anything! It’s one of our favorite herbs! Your sandwiches look so good - it’s almost as if I could lift them off the page and start eating! Congratulations on being freshly pressed!

  18. i LOVE manchengo cheese!! I make my own cheesy crackers from them,.. the recipe is on my blog, just search “cheesy manchengo bunnies! ” : )
    Love your sandwich idea! cant wait to try it!

    • Wow- what an adorable idea!

  19. Delicious! I made a batch of pesto to freeze with most of my basil a while ago, but my plant is filling out again, so I might just do this. Beautiful photos, by the way. Also, found you on Twitter! @Three_Mommy


  20. you’re right! it does look wonderful… maybe it’s because I’m hungry, but your photos are simply… delicious! Cheers and congratulations!

  21. wow! never thought of basil as a substitute for lettuce, will definitely try it. great post!

  22. I will definitely try this out! I have two basil plants in my garden and I use it mostly for pizza.

    I’ll do without the mayo and mustard tho. Thanks for this delicious tip! Photos are wonderful too.

  23. Basil on anything rocks. Just had a tomato mozzarella (caprese) tonight without it…. :( that’s all

  24. I’m absolutely starving right now and this looks delicious! (tries to gnaw on laptop screen…) I love it!



  25. Awesome images and great idea! Will get some Basil tomorrow for my lunch. Thanks

  26. great pics in your blog. i’m definitely going to have to try that. i’m thinking it might be great with a chicken salad or hot turkey sandwich too. congrats on being FP.

  27. Pingback: Basil- in sandwiches! (via Channeling Contessa) « razVv

  28. Da Italiana approvo la sostituzione insalata/basilico, hai ragione, il suo profumo rende speciale qualsiasi panino, proverò. Ciao :-)

  29. Goodness, that sandwich looks delicious! I’m a huge fan of basil and use it in my panini sandwiches all the time.

    Another gem for sandwiches is pickled ginger. People always look at me like I’m odd when I say this, but it gives such a nice little zing if you like the flavor of ginger.

  30. Well hello! I’m always looking for different ways of incorporating basil in food (since I have three pots of it in my garden) so using it instead of lettuce is a great idea!
    The other day I chopped up some and mixed it with my scrambled eggs. That’s a pretty good combination too!
    Love the photos :)

  31. Yum! My favorite is dark bread (rye maybe) with lots of butter, avocado slices, emmental cheese, pine nuts, black pepper and layer of basil leaves. Enjoy!

  32. You have given me a good idea, I have got some basil plants in my garden. Will try out your recepie tomorrow… yum yum

  33. Thanks for posting on this. It reminded me of Basil the rat in Fawlty Towers, and that led me to think that not everything works on a sandwich.
    “In 1849, hungry gold miners crossing the Nevada desert noticed some glistening balls of a candy-like substance on a cliff, licked or ate the balls, and discovered them to be sweet-tasting, but then they developed nausea. Eventually it was realized that the balls were hardened deposits made by small rodents, called packrats … Not being toilet trained, the rats urinate in their nests, and sugar and other substances crystallize from their urine as it dries out … In effect, the hungry gold miners were eating dried rat urine laced with rat feces and rat garbage.”

    - Collapse by Jared Diamond

  34. I’ve had a basil plant on my kitchen window-sill for weeks now and hardly used it. Thank you for the reminder and the new ideas - will definitely try them out, especially after seeing your beautiful, mouth-watering photographs!

    Many thanks! :o)

  35. what a great idea! basil’s in sandwiches? never think of that as i always ate the same old fashion of sandwiches every morning…thanks for sharing and congrats for gettin into freshly pressed!

  36. This is refreshing and the photos are amazing and appetizing! I was actually going to do a blog entry about dill. A little dill goes such a long way as it is very very aromatic :) Very nice, love Basil, love Contessa :)

  37. I agree, there is nothing like fresh basil! I would have to add cilantro and mint to that list though, but basil as a lettuce substitute is a great idea. I have also had a few great cocktails with basil as well. Very nice photos by the way!

  38. Recently, I took an adult-ed class, Cooking with Basil. We sampled basil ice cream, mmmm. Basil is so good in & on anything! I want a sandwich right now.

  39. what a great idea and the sandwiches sound marvelous. i’ve used basil in my smoothies bur not in sandwiches. thanks for the idea!

  40. basil tomato and mozzorella pannini or sandwich <3 I love basil! Love this post!

  41. Dee

    My mouth is watering. This gourmet-made-at-home sandwich sounds divine. I’m used to basil being present in meals - the italian in me - but this is a new one!!


  42. Really weird and unusual….but I’ll try to follow your way. Who knows the sandwiches may taste more scrumptious than before?

  43. Couldn’t agree with you more! I am a big sandwich connoisseur and you hit the nail right on the head. Basil gives a certain elegance to a sandwich.

  44. Good find! Basil is my fave of the herbs, coriander is a good one too - works in everything I think. Try making your own basil pesto (you don’t need MASSES of basil unlike people say). Pesto and cheddar on bread is lush. Also try out basil in a roasted pepper salad, with capers and feta cheese. mmmm!

  45. Delicious idea. . .next time I have some basil around I will try it!

  46. If you want to really blow the doors off, a place here serves Basil Brie and Bacon waffles. Yes, use the syrup too! It rounds everything out beautifully!

  47. Now that looks interesting. Gonna give it a try! Thanks. Cheryl

  48. Julie

    mmmm…craving a sandwich!

  49. Basil! Brilliant! I always think of it as a seasoning, but replacing lettuce with it sounds like such a good idea.
    and ps: your sandwhich-photography skills aren’t too bad either 😀

  50. Mel

    I like to add fresh Basil leaves to pineapple juice and put it through the blender, its incredibly refreshing and so unique!

  51. Sounds absolutely delicious. Now… for the next level; add capers to the mix or perhaps add a spritz of olive oil if you favor the Greek Isles. Now we’re cooking. Congrats on freshly pressed and Bon Appetit!.

  52. I got this recipe from a vegetarian cookbook and I will admit that it sounded odd but it is fantastic if you like basil:

    1 slice of cinnamon raisin bread spread with fig preserves, goat cheese and basil leaves and topped with another slice of bread. Grill as you would a traditional grilled cheese sandwich. It is wonderful :)

  53. This sandwich looks so yummy! I am sure basil gives it that special something! My all favorite sandwich is a “Caprese Sandwich” from our local Italian Baker - alternating slices of fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, salt, pepper, touch of olive oil and fresh basil leaves on a bakery fresh soft roll.
    The bread looks awesome! Is it home made?

  54. I adore basil. I once had a tiny potted basil plant I tended to and grew on my windowsill. When we went on vacation, we gave the plant to some friends who had just moved to a new house. Sadly, we never saw nor heard of the basil plant again, much to my despair (I really loved that delicious plant!). I love the taste of basil; I could eat all the time. :-)

  55. This sounds absolutely delicious. Taking sandwiches to another level. With Manchego cheese too? Incredible. You have inspired me to hit the 24 hr market…. In need of a delicious healthy gourmet sandwich.

  56. I love basil and the smell of it just makes me hungry. I definitely need to try it with this sandwich, especially since it has my favorite lunch meat in it! Not to mention manchego cheese. I love the name of your blog. My 16 year-old daughter loves to watch the Food Network and has become quite a good cook. Barefoot Contessa is one of her favorite shows. We always laugh at how much butter is used in her recipies. My daughter recently made her lemon bars, which were fantastic. The recipe called for a pound of butter. Some recipes use the measurement equivalent of 1 cup, but not Ina! Congrats on being FP.

  57. great idea for yummies! i’m looking for new stuff to eat that’s better for me health-wise- thanks :)

  58. yes please and thank you :) LOVE basil in sandwiches!

  59. Sounds so light & refreshing! I’ll have to try that next time & pair it with my fav tropical drink… ;D

  60. Wow! I really love basil - it is a fantastic mediterranean taste. Try sandwiches with basil pesto, the original italian version!

  61. Sounds yum! And we have basil growing on the windowsill. Must try it in a sandwich!

  62. Growing your own basil (and herbs)? 😉 Great blog, you have some nice writing there.


  63. lomoadventurer

    why have i never thought of basil on my sandwich?!!! this is a must do from hereon. :-)

  64. I’ve taken such a liking to basil lately. I normally only have it atop pastas or tomato-based soups (or even paired with a sneaky chunk of parmesan or pecorino).

    I’m such a sucker for ham sandwiches though, disregarding the healthy implications I could honestly live off them, so I may have to start bringing in some basil!

  65. One Toasted Black Forest Ham and Manchego Sandwich, on sourdough rye, to go please…Oh, and extra Basil…

    God Bless You


  66. That sandwich sounds DELISH! I have all of the ingredients and i’m SO going to be trying that later on today! Thanks for this!!!

  67. Now I finally have a use for that
    huge Bazil bush in my yard - I
    so need to try that! It may not
    be everone’s thing - but I’ve long
    been doing the same with cilantro.

  68. This is such a great idea! I will definitely have to do this.

  69. Fresh basil is heavenly! The scent the taste… Yum
    Great ideas, yotaki beautywalk

  70. I would love to try basil in some sort of creamy soup. Maybe like a basil-spinach concoction. I really enjoy eating green soup. Makes me feel like The Hulk. Not sure why, I’m sure the hulk eats plenty of stuff that’s not green… Hmmm.

    • Mmmm a soup sounds wonderful! Never thought of that, I’ll have to try it.

  71. livingpieces

    This looks great! I think I might try it this week!

  72. I grew up eating basil, I love it. My grandmother had it in her garden and the smell reminds me of home with her. We would put in in our salad as well. Tomatoes, garlic some basil and olive oil and fresh Italian bread. I cant have the bread any more but it still tastes great on gluten free bread. Congrats on being pressed. :)

  73. Bunny Eats Design

    I love eating basil too. Pesto goes in just about any sandwich, so it makes sense that basil, which is the main ingredient of pesto could compliment most sandwiches well.

  74. You make me sad that it’s already September and there’s not much time left to have garden grown basil.

    You might like my blog article about Dr. Oz and foods.

    Great article!


  75. What a creative outlet for the everyday herb! Great recipe; sandwiches never get tiring! And the pictures were so lifelike, I almost reached forward to grab a sandwich.

  76. I’ve limited basil to soups and salads but I will give this a try. Great photos.

  77. Baby spinach on our sammies - your bread looks fantastic. When all’s said and done, it’s the crusty, hearty bread that makes a good sammie great.

  78. Basil would go great in a sandwich with the oven roasted tomatoes I made last night. Yum! Thanks for the idea!

  79. This sandwich looks amazing. Makes me want to camp out and wait for the farmers market to open so that I can buy provisions. Mmmmmm.

  80. Looks like a really tasty sandwich! I can’t cook at all, but about the only thing I can do is make sandwiches and make soup… out of a can. 😉

  81. The sandwich gods are laughing at me, and it’s not one of those ‘oh how cute, the simple mortal’ laughs. It’s more like “IN YOUR FACE! HAHA!” etc.

    I just got done ranting about dull sandwiches for lunch. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me then, that I would stumble onto this. Lo and behold there’s no dullness in sight!

    Thank you, even if I do partially blame you for any sandwich god wrath that befalls me once I timidly attempt to inch my way back into their good graces.

  82. Just discovered your wonderful blog…it is quite delightful! Basil in Sandwiches…sounds great, will try it since I have so much of it growing in my garden! Thank you…

  83. Zoe

    Love this post! Just had a grilled gouda and red pepper sandwich… basil would have been fabulous.
    Thanks for the “sweet” idea!

  84. Love what I’m seeing. Pics are great and I’ve gone through your older posts. YOUR WRITING STYLE IS GREAT- personal and GREAT. Just love your blog.
    Sirri from Cameroon, Africa.

  85. I may not be able to comment much about using basil in sandwishes because here in Cameroon, our range of foodstuff and spices are different from what you’ve got in your country. A regular sandwish here is only made up of two slices of bread filled in with mashed sardine fish mixed with butter. Hard to see more complex sandwishes.
    But you’ve inspired me. I’m going to look more vigilantly for the unusual homemade sandwish, and will start posting recipés from m corner of the world.
    Hope you check in and leave a comment.

  86. Well… I’m italian.
    Sorry but for us it’s like saying that the earth is round!
    It is strange that it is surprising for someone :)

    have a great meal!

    • Ha, I’m sure it is! I think pesto on sandwiches is common, but using actual basil leaves on something other than a caprese style sandwich is a novel idea in the states.

      • Pesto on sandwiches? We never do that! I’ll try.
        But I imagine that fresh basil is better.
        Do you know that you could do pesto using walnuts?
        It’s cheaper than the kind with pine nuts.

        Sorry for my english!

        saluti dall’Italia 😉

  87. Lovely. That’s like edible art. And I just home-grew some basil, so I’ll be sure to try your recipes and do some food photography as well :) Thanks for sharing and congrats for FP!

  88. Absolutely love Basil in a sandwich! Most people think to make a pesto for the spread but using the most simpliest form is the best!! Congrats on FP!

  89. Ooh I love basil and it’s so good in sandwiches! Brings me back to my grandparents basil garden when I was a kid. Love the smell of fresh basil!

  90. Delicious and healthy! I love basil in and on everything!
    Enjoy. 😛

  91. This sounds SO delicious! I love basil, and keep a plant in my kitchen, but aside from pasta sauce, bruschetta and chicken, I never know what to do with it! Can’t wait to try out your recipe :)

  92. Basil is the BEST herb. It just seems to bring out the flavour of everything. Great blog.

  93. What a great idea! I buy my basil from a little corner produce market and always have a ton left over. This will definately be my solution next time I find myself in that predicament. :-)

  94. mmm my mom has been doing this for years : ) poor thing- now that i’m off to school and the boys won’t eat her ‘fancy food’ she never makes stuff like this.

  95. The pictures of your sandwiches look so yummy!

    I love basil too.

  96. Pingback: Bacon Basil Tomato and Cheese | lotzoflove

  97. You inspired be to build an amazing sandwich for lunch today! I posted about it in my blog and sent others back to yours. Thanks!

  98. though basil is a staple in our house, i have a serious habit of killing the basil plant…..


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  101. You should be a professional food advertisers cause these pictures make my mouth water. Yum.

  102. I use tons of fresh basil when I make lasagna and it gives just the right amount of kick. So delicious!

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