There’s nothing wrong with including bread in a balanced diet. In fact, it can be a delicious and nutrient-dense element of any meal.
But if you are trying to limit carbs to manage your blood sugar or following a gluten-free, keto, or paleo diet, you may be searching for ways to replace bread in your diet.
With popular sandwiches like chicken salad, egg salad, roast beef, or club sandwiches available almost anywhere, sometimes low-carb options can be hard to find. Luckily, when it comes to no-bread sandwiches, there are plenty of options to choose from to add a creative flair to your favorite classic.
Let’s take a look at what goes into a no-bread sandwich and some low-carb sandwich alternatives to try!
What to Consider When Building a Healthy Sandwich
Typically, there are at least three elements that make up a traditional sandwich: the bread, filling, and spread.
In a typical sandwich, the outer bread layer is a carb, like bread, a bun, or a tortilla. The filling is usually made up of a source of protein and vegetables. Finally, the spread is usually something creamy such as ketchup, mustard, hummus, or mayonnaise to add flavor.
Before we get into some of the best no-bread alternatives, let’s cover the best fillings and condiments to include in your healthy sandwich.
Sandwiches are a great way to a variety of nutrient-dense foods into your diet. Adding a lean protein source is a great way to make your sandwich more satiating and support a better blood sugar response.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans also suggests that half of each meal is made up of fruits and vegetables, and recommends limiting sodium, added sugars, and saturated fats.
Including a mix of different vegetables (or even fruits) inside your sandwich can help add flavor and also boost the vitamin, mineral, and fiber content of your meal.
With these guidelines in mind, consider filling your sandwich with some of the following options:
- Fatty fish that contains omega-3 fatty acids, like tuna, sardines, or salmon
- Veggies or fruits, like cucumber, apples, tomato, bell peppers, onions, avocado, or lettuce leaves
- Lean proteins such as eggs, sliced turkey, grilled chicken breasts, sliced tofu or tempeh, and turkey burgers
Aside from adding flavor and texture, condiments can also provide nutrients. Consider adding:
- Mustard, which often contains turmeric, a spice that is high in antioxidants.
- Tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds, which may have a positive effect on blood sugar.
- Hummus, a popular dip made from chickpeas, which may decrease your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
- Nut butter, which may lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Kimchi or sauerkraut, two forms of fermented cabbage, which are full of antioxidants and probiotics which may have a positive effect on your gut.
- Red hot sauce made from chili peppers, which may have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.
Consider these Creative Low-Carb Bread Alternatives
No matter what fillings and condiments you choose for your breadless sandwich, there are lots of creative ways to pack all the ingredients together. Here are a few healthy alternatives plus easy no-bread sandwich recipes to try!
Lettuce is a very popular bread alternative, and you may even find romaine lettuce wraps as an option at restaurants as a low-carb option.
Lettuce wraps are easy to hold and low in fat and carbs (but rich in vitamins and minerals), making it an ideal option for recreating a classic sandwich, like a BLT. Bibb lettuce, for example, is rich in vitamin A — a head of it contains 108 percent of your daily recommended value.
Vitamin A is crucial for many functions in your body, including the immune system, your vision, and growth and development. Vitamin A deficiency has even been associated with an increased risk of cancer.
Try these BLT Lettuce Wraps from The Kitchn
Everyone loves a classic club sandwich, and this BLT lettuce wrap recipe are a great way to enjoy the same flavors while making this option suitable for anyone on a keto or gluten-free diet.
- Leaves from one medium head of butter lettuce
- 6 slices bacon (about 6 ounces)
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 medium avocado, diced
You may know that portobello mushrooms can be used as an alternative to meat in a sandwich, but did you know they’re also great substitutes for bread?
Portobello mushrooms are thick and meaty, making them a great option for holding a sandwich together. They’re also full of antioxidants, which protect your cells from damage-causing free radicals, and beta-glucans.
These polysaccharides are found in mushrooms and have been shown to have anti-carcinogenic effects, stimulate the immune system, and may even have a positive effect on blood sugar.
Try These Spinach and Herb Turkey Burgers on Portobello Buns from Eating Well
This low-carb turkey burger recipe is delicious, and a great source of fiber and protein.
- 1 pound lean ground turkey
- 1 cup frozen chopped spinach, squeezed dry
- ⅓ cup Kalamata olives, chopped
- 1 ½ teaspoons lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¾ teaspoon salt, divided
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper, divided
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed
- 4 tablespoons tzatziki
- 1 cup arugula
- 8 (1/4 inch thick) rings red onion
Bell peppers make a great bread alternative for a sandwich. These veggies are firm and hollow, and can even be stuffed with whatever filling you choose. One red bell pepper contains 67 percent of your daily recommended dose of vitamin A, and a whopping 325 percent of your daily recommended vitamin C.
Vitamin C is required for the production of collagen, which is a crucial component of the connective tissue that is important for wound healing. It also supports immune system function and may also play a role in regulating blood sugar and blood pressure.
Bell peppers themselves also contain antioxidants that may have a positive effect on cholesterol.
Try this Bell Pepper Sandwich from The Spruce Eats
This bell pepper sandwich recipe is a great source of protein and fat and is a popular keto-friendly option.
- 1 medium bell pepper
- 1 ½ ounces cream cheese (about 2-3 tablespoons)
- 1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
- 2 ounces thinly sliced ham
- 1 ½ ounces thinly sliced swiss cheese
- ½ small cucumber, about 6 to 8 thin slices
- 2 tablespoons guacamole, or a few slices of avocado
- 1 dash salt, to taste
- 1 dash black pepper, to taste
Cucumbers can add a great, crunchy texture to a no-bread sandwich. Cucumber may have a positive effect on diabetes and cholesterol, and its seeds are known to prevent constipation.
Cucumber contains antioxidants that may protect your cells from free radical damage. It even has a soothing effect against skin irritations and sunburn, and may prevent swelling.
Try these Cucumber Sandwich Subs from Wholesome Yum
These hollowed cucumber sandwiches are a great way to boost your intake of vitamins, minerals, and fiber while adding to your daily fluid intake. They’re also incredibly easy to toss together if you’re on the go.
- 2 large cucumbers
- 8 teaspoons mayonnaise
- 2 medium roma tomatoes, sliced
- 4 leaves lettuce
- 4 oz turkey slices
- 4 slices provolone cheese
Sweet potatoes are a flavorful and nutrient-dense substitute for bread. If you’re following a gluten-free diet or not limiting your carbohydrate intake, sweet potatoes are a great option to replace toast or bread in an open-faced sandwich.
One medium-sized sweet potato contains a whopping 438 percent of your daily recommended dose of vitamin A, and 3.8 grams of fiber. They’re also brimming with antioxidants that may help prevent chronic illnesses like cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Try This Sweet Potato Toast with Avocado from Julie’s Lifestyle
This tempeh and sweet potato toast is a great source of fiber, vitamins, and plant-based protein that’s even suitable for vegans (without the egg).
- 1 large sweet potato
- 1 ripe avocado, sliced
- 1 package tempeh (or 2 eggs)
- Extra-virgin coconut or olive oil
- Black pepper and salt
- Smoked paprika and turmeric (optional)
- 2 large handfuls kale or spinach (optional)
Collard greens are closely related to cabbage, and their thick leaves are ideal for wraps. Aside from being high in vitamins A and C, one cup of collard greens also contains 30 percent of your daily recommended fiber intake.
Try These Vegan Collard Green Wraps from Feasting at Home
These vegan collard green wraps are high in plant-based protein, and are a great source many other healthy nutrients. You can even mix up the veggies you toss into the wrap to add additional vitamins and fiber to your meal.
- 4 extra-large collard green leaves
- 1 ½ cups hummus
- 1 cup baked tofu
- 1–2 avocados
- ½ –1 cup grated carrots (or shredded cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, etc.)
- ½–1 cup grated beets
- 1 cup greens (watercress, arugula, spinach)
- Fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley, basil, mint (optional)
A thick and sturdy slice of grilled or baked eggplant is another nutritious bread or bun substitute. Eggplant is high in fiber—one eggplant contains 14 grams. This vegetable is also a great source of potassium, a mineral that benefits your kidneys, heart, and nervous system. It may also counter the effects of sodium on your blood pressure.
A 2021 review of scientific evidence even found that the antioxidants in eggplant may have a positive effect on metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
Try These Baked Eggplant Sandwiches from The Iron You
These baked eggplant sandwiches are full of flavor and even have a similar firm texture that can mimic bread. Add some extra slices of turkey or chicken inside for a boost of protein to balance out these eggplant sliders.
- 1 medium eggplant
- 3 ½ ounces provolone cheese or sharp cheddar, sliced
- Handful of sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
- 4 tablespoons almond meal
- 4 tablespoons Parmesan-Reggiano cheese, grated
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
- Ground pepper to taste
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