Tea sandwiches are one of the classiest snacks you can put out for guests in your home, but many people don’t know how to make them. Tea sandwiches have evolved as they spread across the world with the British Empire. There are many new ways they can be served, and many new types of gatherings where they’re the perfect appetizer.
Below you’ll find the ultimate guide for making tea sandwiches at your next social gathering. Whether you serve them at a football tailgate or you just need a filling treat to serve your friends for an afternoon hangout session, these tea sandwiches will hit the spot.
Making Old-School Tea Sandwiches
Tea sandwiches have been around since they were popularized as a convenient party food by the 4th Earl of Sandwich in England, John Montagu, in the late 1700s.
Making these sandwiches involves layering specific condiments and fillings on high-quality bread cut down to a bite-sized portion. Tea sandwiches are also known as finger sandwiches. They’re designed to be eaten in just a few bites, and the crust on the sandwich is often removed.
What Fillings Are Used in Tea Sandwiches?
The fillings used in tea sandwiches vary depending on what region of the world you’re eating them in. Tea sandwiches at high tea in India are likely to contain condiments such as chutney, whereas many tea sandwiches in the United Kingdom feature fillings such as the following:
- Egg, chicken, tuna, or shrimp salad
- Roast beef and horseradish sauce
- Baked ham and mustard
- Cucumber and cream cheese
- Roasted vegetables and cream cheese
As tea sandwiches spread across the Atlantic to the states, the fillings in them changed slightly to accommodate new flavors and ingredients. Here are a few fillings that are popular in American tea sandwiches:
- Pimento cheese
- Turkey and Swiss cheese
- Chipped beef and cream cheese
- Buffalo chicken and cream cheese
How to Choose a Tea Sandwich Filling
As you can see, there are many different types of fillings that can be used in tea sandwiches depending on your personal preference. Here are a few of the criteria you should look at when you’re trying to figure out what fillings you want to use in your tea sandwiches:
- The filling won’t make the bread soggy: Unlike individual sandwiches made to order, tea sandwiches are served family style on a platter where each person can serve themselves. Tea sandwich fillings can’t be sauces that will wet the bread, or the sandwiches won’t hold up.
- The filling has a binder: Cream cheese is used as a binder in many tea sandwiches because it has a pleasant, neutral flavor and acts as a nice complement to many different tea sandwich fillings. Mayonnaise is also a popular binder in “salad” type tea sandwiches such as egg salad or tuna salad.
If your prospective ingredients have these two qualities, you should be able to put together a filling that will hold up well in a tea sandwich. Even if none of the traditional tea sandwich fillings sound appealing to you, that doesn’t mean you can’t make tea sandwiches you’d enjoy. Try experimenting with different fillings to see which ones work the best for your household.
How Many Tea Sandwiches Should You Make?
A good rule of thumb when you’re making tea sandwiches is to make around four sandwiches per person you’re expecting. This will ensure that everyone has plenty to eat without leaving you with a ton of leftovers.
Tips for Making Tea Sandwiches
Even though tea sandwiches are relatively easy to build, there are a few tips that can make putting together your tea sandwiches a little easier. Here is a quick list of tips that will have you churning out picture-perfect tea sandwiches in no time:
- Make sure your bread is thin. Keeping your filling proportional to your bread is an important part of creating a bite-sized tea sandwich. Removing the crust can help further trim down the bread part of the sandwich to keep things balanced.
- Use a light hand with mayo. Too much mayonnaise can make your tea sandwiches soggy and unappetizing. Use just enough mayo to lightly coat the surface of the bread if you’re dressing sandwiches like roast beef or turkey.
- Don’t add messy ingredients. The whole point of a tea sandwich is to serve a sandwich that is dainty enough to eat with your hands without getting the condiments everywhere.
- Use high-quality ingredients. This is one dish where using the expensive bread, specialty mayo spreads, and top-shelf deli meat is going to be obvious and apparent compared to using a lower grade of ingredients. Spring for the good stuff to create intensely good tea sandwiches.
- Serve an assortment. It’s a good idea to serve several types of tea sandwiches to ensure that there is an option that everyone at your party enjoys. Tea sandwiches are also a good place to serve a vegetarian appetizer since cucumber and cream cheese tea sandwiches are among the most popular versions.
- Don’t forget seasoning and herbs. One of the biggest mistakes amateurs make when building tea sandwiches is forgetting to add enough spices such as salt, pepper, and other seasoning. Fresh chopped herbs such as parsley or chives can also add flavor and much-needed color to tea sandwiches.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the sandwiches to size. Trying to cut tea sandwiches with a dull knife will smash them, ruining the appearance of the sandwich.
Tea sandwiches aren’t a difficult dish to prepare, but they’re a dish where paying extra attention to your ingredients and your assembly method can make the difference between so-so sandwiches and super sandwiches.
Looking for some ideas? Check out my favorite tried and true savory tea sandwich recipes.
Tried and True Tea Sandwich Recipes
If you’re looking for inspiration for your own tea party, take a look at these pages to find just the perfect selection of tea sandwiches for your next gathering:
- Finger Sandwich Recipes
- Savory Tea Party Finger Sandwiches
- Vegetarian Finger Sandwich Recipes
- Vegan Tea Party Menu Ideas
Tea Sandwiches Are the Perfect Appetizer
No matter which filling you prefer, there’s no denying that traditional tea sandwiches are one of the most versatile appetizers you can bring to a social gathering. Just as popular at the family cookout as they are in a high society party, these savory bites can be customized to fit anyone’s taste.
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